For the last two years, I was a bit of a classroom hermit.
I didn’t mean to hide in my classroom all the time. It just sort of happened. I found that our staffroom was strangely vacant most of the time, and even at lunchtime, of sixty staff, maybe there would only be about ten people in there. Being inherently lazy, I lost interest in walking to the staffroom. Besides, if I stayed in my classroom, I could eat and Tweet at the same time! I figured that if so few people were eating in the staffroom, I probably wasn’t missing much by not going there to eat. And anyway, no one seemed to be missing me, either.
Aside from that, kids always found a reason to come by my room at lunch. Maybe they wanted to chat with me, or maybe they wanted to practice a dance routine for an upcoming debut. Sometimes, they were practicing their singing, craving a quiet place to read and study, or needing a large area to work on a poster for their school committee. I started to love eating lunch in my room. It was comfortable to do so, and I felt happy knowing that students saw my classroom as a nice place to be on their downtime. I often even had kids in my room when we had coinciding spares. Being in my classroom really helped me develop my relationship with my kids and establish my classroom as a place of trust.
Now that I’m at my new school, lunchtime is not nearly as “free” as it was at the high school. At lunchtime here, the kids are all designated a specific place to eat their lunch according to grade. That means that for the most part, the hallways are completely empty for the first fifteen minutes of lunch. For whatever reason, I’ve continued to hole up in my classroom.
I started getting flack from my colleagues about a week and a half ago about my reclusive tendencies. It was an odd experience, being chastised by my new coworkers for not coming to eat lunch with them. I’d never felt missed like that before. In High School, it seems like a given that everyone is so busy and there are a million clubs and teams and supervision and photocopying and, and, and. You kind of expect not to see each other. But my school this year is small. There are only eleven teachers in total. So when one of us is missing, it’s obvious! I know that it’s important to get out of my shell, make friends, and be available so that I can socialize with the other adults in the building. I definitely want to, so I don’t know why I didn’t think to start with the staffroom.
Along with coming out of my shell at work, I also made a move yesterday to join another community of teachers… on Twitter! My friend, Erin, first introduced me to Twitter two years ago. I mean, I knew of Twitter but I didn’t get what the big deal was. What would I possibly have to say that would take less than a thousand words to say, nevermind 140 characters? I am pretty much the most long-winded person I know, other than my dad. Erin insisted that it was a great PD tool, especially once I learned to incorporate hashtags in my Tweets. She told me about an hourlong, weekly chat that happens on Twitter among ELA teachers, called EngChat. ELA teachers/consultants go on Twitter between 7:00pm-8:00pm EST and use the hashtag #engchat to keep their tweets within one conversation thread. There is usually a host and a topic for the evening’s discussion, and then basically everyone who wants to join in, share, and inquire can! It’s a great way to reach out to others all over the world to discuss curriculum, best practices, new ideas, and to puzzle over continuing issues in education. You learn quickly that you are not alone. You also find some really amazing educators to add to your “Following” list.
Last night, the EngChat was hosted by Kelly Gallagher (@KellyGToGo) an ELA teacher from the US, whose PD sessions I absolutely love attending. In the last ten months, I’ve attended three, two of which were on my own dime in August! He has some fantastic strategies for literacy and for getting students reading more and writing more… and thinking more! I didn’t even really mean to join this EngChat at first; I was just on Twitter when a few of the teachers I follow mentioned that Kelly Gallagher would be hosting the evening’s EngChat, so I thought, “What the hey, I’ll just click on the hashtag and lurk like I sometimes do.” But then I reminded myself that staying inside my little bubble is keeping me from forming important networks, both on and offline. So I jumped in, tweeting my excitement about Kelly Gallagher’s participation.
What followed was a firestorm of typing, scrolling, reading, and willing myself not to pee my pants (my bladder was very full) as I leapt into conversations, started topics of my own, and offered some of my own insights to others. It was great! And I mean, it’s not like it was such a big deal. So I had a conversation on Twitter. But I feel like it was an important experience to have because while I’m not really focusing on ELA as much this year, it is still what I want, and I think that EngChat is a great way for me to get to pick others’ brains about the subject I love while staying on top of trends, strategies, and problems that I might otherwise let myself ignore or forget about as I immerse myself in learning about teaching Social Studies and Science this year. The retweets/favorites, and replies that I got in response to my ideas also reminded me that although I am still a relatively new teacher with a lot to learn, I still also have a lot to offer to the teaching community. I just have to be brave enough to venture outside of my shell, be available, and make friends.
And on that note, it’s time for lunch, and I’m off to the staffroom.
Do any of you get “stuck” in your classroom all the time, too? Do you participate in Twitter conversations like #engchat, #sschat, #ecosys, #edchat, #kinderchat, etc.? How has it changed your view(s) of PD?