As the late great Tom Petty said, “Let’s get to the point.”
Schools are hives of human activity made of up of gazillions of everyday relationships and interactions between students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Ironically though, teachers are often busy isolated individuals as they go through their hectic school day. They rarely have the time to connect with their peers, or leaders, or to share their daily professional experiences in teaching and learning.
Ask any non-teaching spouse or partner about what happens when a teaching spouse/partner gets together with other teachers. The inevitable teacher talk ensues.
The research of Mitchell and Sackney (2016) shows that high capacity schools function as living systems that recognise, and fore-front the human experience of teaching and learning. In other words, the complexities of interactions that occur in the ever changing relationships of teaching and learning are driven from the bottom up, and they define the cultural of a school (p. 858). Principals in these schools encouraged and built on bottom-up momentum by encouraging and providing spaces for teachers to talk and collaborate about their current issues (p.858). Building on this further, Alma Harris'(2010) work looks at the potential of personal learning communities (PLC) to give leaders and teachers the ability to connect, collaborate and communicate (p.202, 204). PLCs allow teachers to build their collective knowledge and improve their approaches to practice (p. 201).
There is clear evidence here that teacher talk that is collaborative and focused on teaching and learning is essential for creating an effective school cultural based in growth and improvement of practice.
We can amplify our practice and collaborative teacher talk through digital sharing and collaboration.
Professional social media networks are in no way a replacement of real world spaces for discussion and collaboration. Digital professional networks are, however, key tools in keeping the conversation going amongst a busy organisation’s members. Digital connections allow for ongoing sharing of the daily experiences of teaching and learning. These micro tidbits of teacher learning and wondering can be leveraged, and built on later in dedicated analogue spaces in real conversations. Digital networks also flatten the walls of classrooms and schools. Social media networks connect teachers and leaders with the the common human experience of being an educator, and allows sharing and amplification of practice and ideas at a global level.
Being a connected educator matters. Whether it’s through digital networks and a global PLN, or a real world PLC in your school building.
Its about community building near and far.
Take the risk. Share your stuff. It will come back to you tenfold.
Harris, A. (2010). Leading system transformation. School Leadership & Management, 30( 3), 197-207.
Mitchell, C., & Sackney, L. (2016). School improvement in high-capacity schools: Educational leadership and living-systems ontology. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44 (5), 853-868.