It’s 1 am and I am currently in the “business center” of a hotel at a state conference of math teachers. I am presenting tomorrow morning with a colleague on a modified educational structure we used last year. So why am I sitting down writing the first blog entry of a blog instead of going a good night’s sleep? The catalyst was a conversation from earlier tonight.
I’m no regular to these conferences. In fact, I have been to very few in my teaching career, so all of this is a new experience for me. Tonight I took my seat at a table, partaking in friendly educational banter with a group of colleagues and teachers – most whom have been teachers longer than I have been alive. As the conversation meandered from topic to topic, the concept of teacher collaboration had to come up. A smooth talker began a passionate speech extolling the virtues of conferences as an essential medium for teachers to connect and share ideas. The argument went along these lines:
Teachers can (and should) collaborate with colleagues – it is a vital component to education – but colleagues are insulated within one’s specific school system. Teachers can go online to find lessons, but they need contact and discussion to improve upon those lessons. Conferences over the past thirty years have allowed me to build a network of teachers whose opinions I respect and value. At these conferences I have the opportunity to pick and choose ideas I like, and I can use these ideas in the classroom the next day. I can engage presenters in discussions and continue the conversations with them after the conference is over. With the relationships I build with other presenters, we can share and build upon our pedagogy. And as I attend more conferences I continue to grow and learn as a teacher. Only through the 30+ years of conferences have I become the successful teacher I am today.
Now I know this veteran teacher’s argument was somewhat against the idea of the internet as a substitute for conferences, but everything that this educator described sounded like the blogging community that I have spent years following. His argument for the significance of conferences as the only real professional development tool only served to reinforce the notion that (for me) the blogging community is essential for me to be successful in teaching.
So here I am, at an annual conference with 50+ presentations and 600+ attendees. This, along with many other conferences, is the veteran teacher’s elixir – allowing him to gather in improve his teaching. My elixir is the blog-o-sphere. My professional community is bloggers. My growth does not come from the annual planned conferences, but the constant stream of ideas flowing through the internet, the feedback and comments of other qualified teachers, and the online communities that support and help teachers develop professionally. I certainly understand the value in physical conferences, and will continue to attend and present my ideas, but for the other 363 days a year the internet is my continual conference available when time permits, and omnipresent.
But I haven’t written my thoughts or ideas down in years. After all, there are IEP meetings and parent conferences. There are phone calls home and meetings with students. There’s planning tomorrow’s lesson and grading yesterday’s assessment. And there’s a whole life to live outside of teaching. But I cannot allow myself to stagnate through a self-imposed isolation. It would be wrong of me as an educator to not make use of the amazing community that is the internet. Blogging is my professional development, and it is an essential component of my teaching, not to be pushed aside for lack of time, but to have time reserved for it specifically.
In short: Hello again internet.