A strong teacher network, both within and outside of your school, can provide you with inspiration, encouragement, and perspective.
As teachers, we sometimes become trapped in our own little world of the classroom. During planning periods we shut our door to grade papers or call parents. We come in early or stay late planning out lessons for the next day and making copies. What many of us are missing is a collaborative relationship with other teachers who are doing the exact same thing – whether down the hall or across the country. Establishing or being part of a teacher network can lift some of the weight from your shoulders and be a priceless resource as your start your new school year. Check out these ideas on how to expand your teacher network.
1. Get Out of Your Classroom
The fist step to establishing any teacher network is being willing to step out of your classroom and collaborate with others. While it is nice to stay in the safety of your room, this can often lead to you feeling alone and overwhelmed. Teaching is a field where this should not occur! Prop your door open during planning periods and welcome teachers into your room. Some of the best collaborative projects start from a conversation in the hallway. Finding commonalities among the teachers in your hall is a great way to spark partnerships, collaborative projects, and support!
2. Engage with Your PLC
Many of you may have a teacher network already built right in to your school! Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, are a great place to start connecting and truly collaborating with others. Make an effort to keep the meeting on track so that everyone involved leaves feeling that they have gained something. A great way to do this is by utilizing a lesson study model. Here, you work together to create a unit, observe one teacher present a lesson, and then come back to assess the effectiveness of that lesson for the desired outcomes. The process is repeated as tweaks to the unit are made along the way. This will help the observed teacher grow, as well as strengthen the unit and team as a whole.
If your school doesn’t have a Professional Learning Community yet, talk to administrators about starting one. Administrators will be impressed that you showed initiative – and you and your colleagues will benefit immensely from your efforts.
3. Make Friends During Professional Development
While professional development sessions may not always feel like the best use of your time, this is a great opportunity for teacher networking. At your next session, make the effort to sit with someone you don’t know. Start a conversation and really collaborate. If nothing else, you will leave with a new connection that may come in handy in the future. Check out these tips for more ideas on how to get the most out of your next professional development session.
4. Follow Colleagues and Experts on Social Media
Expand your teacher network with the help of social media. If you are like me, Pinterest is one of your favorite places to get lesson ideas. Take this one step further and follow the teachers you get inspiration from. You can also join teacher groups and teacher swaps on Facebook to share ideas and materials. If one doesn’t exist, start one! I am a member of several groups formed to connect teachers within my school, within my graduate program, and even with other science teachers that I met at national conferences. Twitter has also become a popular place to connect with experts and other teachers alike. Social media is a powerful tool to connect teachers across the world. Start by liking our STEM Jobs page on Facebook and following us on Twitter!
5. Join a Professional Organization
One of the best ways to join an established teacher network is to check out a professional teaching organization. There are a variety of organizations out there, focused on your content area, age level taught, and other interests. A simple Google search of what you teach and “organization” is a great place to start. Most professional organizations include a national level, and a state subsidiary that may provide more local connections for you. The perks of joining one of these professional organizations include gaining lesson ideas, resources, professional development opportunities, grant funding, and best of all, conferences. Annual fees range, but you will quickly see that you will get your money’s worth from this valuable teacher network!
Whether it is reaching out to other teachers in your building, in your district, through social media, or on a national level, taking the time to establish a teacher network is worth it. Why go it alone when you can collaborate with others going through the same thing? Try one of these steps before you head back to the classroom this fall and reap the benefits year round.
Alexandra D. Owens
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