Disconnected (And Feeling It!)

I have been off twitter for a while—a week? Couple of weeks?  I’m not sure, as I have been busy starting school. . .but even before that, I had sort of checked out–not been getting on as much as I had—perhaps I’ve been “sort of gone” a month. It doesn’t really matter how long it was, I just know I have felt disconnected, and I think that’s why I have been feeling unsettled and a bit grumpy, too. I’m now wondering if I was subconsciously preparing myself to return to school.

I’ve been sharing many good retweets last night and this morning—and gotten several “thank you for the RTs” DMs. When I RT’ed @taniasheko’s “Thanks for making the conversation happen about brainstorming. Please join http://bit.ly/FGNDO”, she then responded with a personal invitation, “Come on in. Have a say.” (I missed it, though, because I went to bed!) @Jackiegerstein said, “Thanks for that re-tweet, Paula! Appreciate it.” I responded with “My pleasure, Jackie, I learn so much from your tweets.” She responded back, “and me from you. I love this mutuality.”

Mutuality . . .connections. . .sharing. . .meeting new folks. . .learning how other schools (or systems) work. . .finding new resources and tools. . .learning to use those tools and resources. . .keeping abreast of world news. . .getting primary source reports of world happenings. . .collaborating across my state, my country and the world. . .being published in a variety of venues. . .being exposed to opposing views and having heated discussions. . . being challenged. . .being offered new opportunities. . .presenting with people I’ve never met. . .supporting folks from across my nation in applications. . .being supported by people as I apply. . .participating in a fast and furious exchange of info and questions. . . The list could probably go on and on. . .

My point is simply that I have grown and changed through the mental stimulation that social networking tools provide me as I engage with other educators, bloggers, thinkers and doers around our world. MY world has grown both larger and smaller at the same time, as I have found commonalities and friends online, and challenged my small town thinking by those interactions.

I went back to my small country school expecting sharing and honest exchanges because I experienced that kind of dialogue all summer. I forgot not everyone has experienced the power of growing through social networking. I forgot not everyone has had exposure to life and the world—and schools—and projects—and intellectually stimulating conversations outside of their own face to face network.

That’s a harsh reality to face, walking into a building wanting to engage in the hard work of educating our kids for the contemporary world they will live in when working with mostly people who use the same methods teachers have used for many decades in America. It’s fine to want to do well by the kids, but we have to first understand what our kids need in this day and time, and we all need to take the time to explore, to talk, to think with others—all over the globe–to figure out how best to prepare our children for THEIR world, not try to perpetuate our old one.

How do you do this in your schools?

(follow up blog coming!)

19 thoughts on “Disconnected (And Feeling It!)

  1. I am not in the classroom but have this same feeling at times. I feel I know so much more because of my connections on Twitter, but then have a discussion or meeting with a group of people who simply don’t “see” outside of their role/job in education. My perspectives have changed – which at times, has changed my priorities. Not everyone appreciates this – nor wants to understand it. But I’m still going to keep learning, sharing, and communicating. I can’t accept anything less for myself – sounds like you can’t either. Thanks for a great post to read this morning.

  2. Paula:
    Thanks for this post. Now that you bring it up, I can see that I have done something of the same. For the past two or three weeks I have spent less time on Twitter despite the fact that I learn SO much every day from my PLN. Maybe I’m just trying to wean myself so that I can make it through the school year without Twitter during the school day (it’s blocked). Whatever the case, I agree that many of my peers don’t seem to be interested in the things that I learn through my PLN nor are they very interested in jumping into social networking for the purpose of building their PLN. It seems to me there is a certain level of disbelief in how much one can learn from educators you’ve never met in person. Despite all this, I will continue to spread the word about my PLN and encourage educators to get onboard with Twitter. Thanks for a great post!

  3. Usually I am eagerly anticipating the start of school, talking to my colleagues and meeting my students. This year I’ve been more apprehensive than usual and your post helped me realize why. I, too, have spent the summer connecting with other like-minded and not-so-like minded people via twitter. I have learned new languages pertaining to technology, education and the intersection between the two, but when I go back to school no one will speak those languages and few will have an idea what I am talking about. I am excited about all I have learned this summer and wish I had at least one colleague to whom I can share this excitement and have them respond in kind.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to what was distressing me.

  4. Hi Paula,
    Wonderful post! I agree with so much of what you’ve written here. I, too, work in a small country school and I love what my global PLN does for me. I think we’re doing our students a disservice if we don’t get them ready for the big, wide world out there, even if they are lucky enough to grow up in the safe and friendly environment of a small town.

    Since starting Twitter in June, my professional mindset has been blasted wide open by the resources, connections, interactions, etc. Your list in paragraph 3 of your post sums it up perfectly! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and I hope you don’t mind if I share this post with my colleagues!

  5. Thanks for responding, Natalie. I’m sorry Twitter is blocked for you during the day–it’s not in our district, but finding time during the day might be nigh unto impossible for me this year. Hope your tech folks soon see the value of it being available to you.

    It’s surprising to me how this post has resonated with so many as we return to school.

  6. Wow,
    It was if you were reading my mind and putting it into words for me. I agree with everything you wrote because I have been thinking the exact same thing these past few weeks. I wouldn’t necessarily say I have been unplugged for the past couple of weeks, but mostly I have had “power outages” where I have chosen not to sign in as often.

    Maybe subconsciously I was doing as you said, preparing for the drastic change with fellow (physically present) colleagues. Thanks for your post, it has made me feel like I am not alone. I only wish other educators would just get it and become agents of change!

  7. Hi, Deven,
    Now that we know what’s causing the distress, we need to figure out how to combat it! I tweeted a bit ago about wanting to teach in a school of teachers who are forward thinking, and who have had similar experiences. Wish that were possible.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

  8. Errin, please share with whomever you want. I just loved your language, “professional mindset has been blasted wide open” as that’s how I feel about my last year using social networking tools. Thanks for responding!

  9. Hi Paula

    All I can say is that ‘it’s a small world, isn’t it?’ – and even more so thanks to social networking. Here I am across the Atlantic from you, in northern Europe, and I have gone through very similar feelings and frustrations during our first 2 weeks back at school. I only really started learning about Twitter this past summer, and I have learned so so much. Yet, most of my colleagues at school have never heard of Twitter, and even if they have, think it’s just another distractive online waste of time.
    As to your question: how do we prepare our students for their future lives – at the moment not that well, I would say. We have a small school development ‘tribe’, though, in which we work towards introducing our colleagues to new technology and what we could do with in at schools. It’s a very slow process, and we meet a lot of prejudice and resistance all the time, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
    Thank you for your post! Reassuring to know that I am not alone with my frustrations!

  10. Susan, I like your phrase “power outages” better than my “checked out” as I was still reading when I could, just not participating as actively as I had been. I’m glad, in some ways, this post resonated with so many, as, like you, I find comfort in the fact I am not alone.

    I do however, feel some distress over the fact this post has resonated with so many, as it supports the fact that social networking for professional reasons is the exception rather than the norm now.

    I’m looking forward to when it IS the norm!

  11. This is a perfect example of those connections I spoke of in my post–learning that someone in another country, on another continent has feelings like yours and experiences similar situations! Wish every teacher could realize the power of that AND even more that our kids could have those experiences growing up.

    I’ve got several online projects going this year–while you’re working with your tribe, I’m approaching moving teachers from a slightly different direction. I’ have no tribe in my school, so I’m getting the kids to talk about the power of online collaboration in hopes the teachers will want to join. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Paula-
    I’m feeling disconnected, too. I feel like I’ve fallen off of the wagon, so to speak. But I have hope. I have felt lonely the past 2-3 weeks because I don’t have the kid relationships or the familiar, even challenging at times, familiar colleagues from my former school. Because of my new job, leaving the familiar school environment and moving around to other schools has been eye-opening, exciting, shocking, promising, and surprising. So what can I do in my new role? Can I get back on the wagon and bring more folks with me? I’m searching for the necessary confidence within myself and hoping that I can influence positively. I am excited about the opportunities that I will have learning from others and then sharing ideas across the county. It is my current landscape or frontier. Recently, I’ve spent time within the closed micro-blogging network… sharing nuggets. Yet another tool to divert folks, or to engage them! I’m still hopeful that the use of experimental tools will hoist people to be even more curious about their global colleagues, their face to face community and to the frontier that our students live. I can only hope that our teachers’ curiosity is equivalent to their students’ curiosity! Paula, you are a real digital pioneer in our organization and your wagon is upfront. You have always been curious. You are in a leading wagon. I’m on your wagon train enjoying the evolving frontier, as well. I believe we have others packing their wagons, truly. I see some preparing for the long exploratory journey. They are curious. Sometimes folks get off the wagon train and stay put for a while. People must do what they need to do before they move on. Can we rush them back on the wagon-train. No. It is hard to be patient. I believe you are merely crossing hard terrain right now. Lead your wagon full of kids, off to broader frontiers, and know that there are some being influenced, excited to start moving again. There are others on the wagon-train with you, sharing and learning as much as possible… Paula, continue on your journey of knowledge, meeting and sharing with other pioneers, appreciating the wild animals along the way, knowing you face many obstacles. Your curiosity and perseverance is important to those following. You’ve proven you can adapt and adjust to your environment. I believe there are outliers along the frontier watching. Forge ahead!

  13. Nice post Paula. 9 months or so ago i listened to your presentation on use of twitter. Didn’t buy it at first but have since dived in fully. We are part of an educational revolution with the use of technology and innovation in the classroom but we have lots more work to do. Ownership is shifting to the students, slowly but surely. We will win. And by winning, i mean the students will win becuase ultimately they will get the benefit of creating and maximizing their own PLNs. Teachers are getting it and it takes pioneers like yourself to continue the fight to see that they do.

  14. Darah,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I think we’re part of a bigger revolution–the social media connectedness has potential to change the world like no other change in communication–it’s has more potential even than the Industrial Revolution to make a difference in how people think about their world, how they interact with it and how they protect or waste it.

    Teachers will be but small cog in this whole change if we don’t act quickly–kids simply have to have opportunities to live in their world, with all of its connectedness. I thank YOU for facilitating that at your level. Would love to be a teacher with you as my principal!

    Let me know your ideas for elementary, and how we can facilitate connections between your kids and others. 🙂


  15. my professional mindset has been blasted. . .what clout those words imply. . what imagery they convey. . and what command they have for those of us who have experienced it. . .

    You, my literary friend, recognize the inherent power of words. . and I thank you for your insight and sharing constantly through Twitter.

    Thanks, Linda, for sharing your knowledge with me earlier in a Skype call. You helped me understand some things about social bookmarking I hadn’t gotten and I appreciate you doing that with someone you’ve never met face to face (until Skype, that is) LOL

  16. Thanks, Christine, for the comment. I’m not in the classroom anymore either, but thinking I may have to go back there and paint pictures for people as to what classroom COULD look like.

    You’re right, I can’t accept a narrow, local view for myself anymore. Now, I just need to figure out how to help others grow beyond their current boundaries. 🙂

  17. Janelle, you are always an inspiration to me, thinking, trying, playing, sharing. . . . and most of all, encouraging. Thanks for the kind words, and feel free to come lean on me, vent, shout, talk, whatever, when that instructional coach job is harder than you ever imagined. . or when you have that glorious moment of having made real difference and causing that Ah-Ha! moment for someone who ill impact kids for years to come.

    It’s THOSE moments–with kids or adults–that give us the strength, the joy, the impetus to carry on–and we both know they come, albeit more slowly than we’d like.

    The fact this blog has touched so many, and made contact with them is testimony to the power of our global, online network…

    Thanks, my friend, for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully and from the heart.

  18. Thank you, Paula, for your thoughtful post. You have said it well for me, also as I, too, for a number of reasons disconnected from twitter and blogs in August. I am just now getting caught up after checking back in this week. After reading all the comments here, I see that I am not the only person who took a break…Well let’s give ourselves a big welcome back and renew our charge to support each other as we strive to teach our students today the skills they will use tomorrow.

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