Sunday, September 18, 2011

How My PLN Saved My Life

Whenever I’ve been asked how building an Online Personal/Professional Learning Network has impacted me - my first internal reaction is that they saved my life. In order to explain how, you need some context first:

Born and raised in a high-achieving school district with the strong, mental stick-to-it-ive-ness of my mother. She ran a tight ship and I needed it. I was a teenage pill - self-righteous and wise beyond my years, they said. In order to get through college, I became a crossing guard, a 2nd and 4th grade teacher’s aide, then a writing tutor. All in the district from which I had graduated. I secured a teaching position at my alma mater and as much as I felt I was better than my peers when I was in high school, I did get along with my teachers. I had found a comfortable personal and professional space for me to test my professional boundaries and fearlessly suggest new ideas without fear of (too much) criticism. It was home. As often happens, administrators saw my fearlessness and talents and fostered my skills as a teacher into more leadership positions.

The next thing I knew, I was an English Department Curriculum Leader at a new high school in the district and ultimately felt a need to gain some experience outside of my comfort zone. I applied in neighboring districts and suddenly, after only teaching for five years, I was a Vice Principal at a neighboring high school in another District.

I searched for resources and people with whom I could connect in the same ways I had done in my “home” District. I wanted it. I craved it. I came to need it. Isolated, alienated and confused by too many new systems, I became depressed. I felt impotent. I continued to try to find ways out of my hole, and applying for the Google Teacher Academy seemed like one way to distract myself and maybe feel competent once again. It only took one person to encourage me to apply - I was desperate for any affirmation that I wasn't crazy and I had a voice that someone might want to hear, and I was willing to give my (previously) fruitless attempts at connection one. more. shot.

The rest is history: Facebook, Twitter, the CUE Conference(s), MacWorld, the CUE staff, meeting new people at GWEs, and the superb, unequalled Rock Star Faculty?

It started with one person who believed in my talents. Then it grew to one small group of folk who knew WAY more than I did, and were willing to let me tag along. Then it became a world-wide family. That I love. They are my second family and they saved my life.

So here’s my thank you - whether you know it or not, at some point you said something at just the perfect time - you’ve given me more than I could ever repay:

So...whose life will you save today? 

What are you saying to your colleagues that empowers them or brings them down? 

We all have a story - what is yours and when was the last time you took the time to discover someone else’s? 

Particularly the other people who care so deeply about our future and our children?