My first year of teaching I was blessed to work in a middle school where we worked on true interdisciplinary teams. I was the Spanish and Civics teacher on the team and my colleagues taught Math, Science, and English; we all shared the same group of students and had a common prep period. My Apollo team colleagues not only supported me, the brand new teacher straight out of college, but they also taught me the value of a Professional Learning Network (PLN). We used our common prep period to collaborate on a wide variety of issues, but this was years before I was introduce to the DuFours’ work around Professional Learning Communities (PLC). At the time, my naive 21-year-old self had no idea how lucky she was to have a built in PLC handed to her during her first year of teaching.
Since that time, my PLN has evolved from the colleagues at my own site, to the colleagues I met at workshops and conferences within my district and across the country. I am currently working in my fourth district in San Diego and that has been a blessing to my PLN. With each successive move, I have carried with me amazing contacts who continue to challenge my thinking, enhance my practice, and encourage my work. I am a better educator because of the people who are a part of my PLN, near and far.
When it comes to Social Media, Twitter is the main way that I have added people to my PLN. I avoided using Voxer for a long time. But every once in awhile someone I respect would mention a valuable conversation they had through a Voxer chat, and my interest would be piqued. I recently joined a Voxer group associated with the #educoach chat.
One of the common trends I’ve noticed is that many of the participants appear to have jobs where they are very isolated. I don’t mean isolated as in rural versus urban setting. I mean isolated as in they are the sole instructional coach in a building, district, city, or region. There are various positions that have been created without training or support. When I think about these people, a Voxer group dedicated to sharing best practices in coaching makes sense. Not only do you have a built-in PLN to share ideas and ask questions, but you create a support system for yourself across the country.
I am so happy that these folks have found one another and are able to find the support they need and deserve. This leads me to wonder about others… the people who are thrown into a coaching position with no training or support. I believe very strongly that any initiative (such as adding instructional coaching to a system) should be collaboratively planned, based on research and a theory of action, with supports and accountability measurements to check on the progress of said initiative. While it may be time and labor-intensive at the beginning, I guarantee that the time spent up front will save you time in the long run. With proper planning and support, you will have less turnover, less stress, and more productivity. I hope that the coaches out there with less structure and support are able to build their own PLN, to surround themselves with colleagues who can guide and assist their new learning.
Reflective thoughts to ponder:
- Do you use Voxer?
- How do you interact with and grow your PLN?
- Does your school, district, or system have positions that were created without a system of support?