The professional development programs offered by most districts can be a somewhat bland, formulaic and often times an irrelevant experience.
Collaboration is one of the most valued features of meeting with other teachers, and projects such as EdCamp have demonstrated how successful this informal style of unconference can be in inspiring and enabling teachers.
5 Innovative ways for teachers to connect with other teachers
Teachers have also begun to rely on useful online tools to connect with common sense advice, camaraderie and support from other teachers.
Let’s take a look at a few good examples.
Launched in 2016, this is an online portal with a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The idea is to connect teachers with teachers through a number of themed blog postings for and by teachers that explore a diverse range of real-life classroom challenges, as well as hot button topics such as equity.
Guest educators are invited to share their experience in the 5-minute PD blogs, and the site also manages a number of ongoing conversations across media using hash tags such as #ObserveMe and #WhyITeach. Teacher2Teacher moderators also curate conversations online, seeding interesting questions to the community and then sharing the “top tips” in a blog post called SlowChat.
The site is very much worth exploring, as it is an easy-to-use, short form site full of inspiration and useful information. Currently the community has over 700 000 teacher-members.
Don’t be put off by the unwieldy, and not very descriptive name: this is a collaboration of teachers for teacher bloggers. The initiative helps teachers master the art of blogging, and assists them to find their voice online and connect with like-minded educators. National Blogging Collaborative offers teachers a wide-range of coaches, all of whom are also practicing educators, who can help teachers bring a unique voice, and professional format to their blogs.
Ning is a site that enables anyone to create their own social network, big or small. It may work for a school- or district-based community, but there are already a number of useful and active Ning educator communities to join.
There is a Ning community dedicated to advancing teaching off of SmartBoards, as well as communities created by the Global Education Conference and The Future of Education community which focuses on hearing and transmitting teacher’s voices through a podcast interview style. Find a decent list of educationally-oriented Ning communities here.
Better known as a way to create digital connections targeting behavioral management issues between students, parents and teachers ClassDojo also has a lesser known community dedicated to teachers — run primarily via the site’s teacher Facebook page.
Teachers describe immense benefits from connecting in this way to access real-world advice and support. The community is characterized by a high degree of engagement, and teachers take time to share self-made or found resources, as well as lesson plans, and lessons learned.
Some teachers who are feeling uninspired, or have begun looking around for other career or academic opportunities report that “upping” rather than lowering their engagement in teaching has made all the difference. Becoming a teacher leader exposes teachers to an entirely new world of teachers, resources and networks, helping them to gain a wider perspective, and share in resolving some of their school or district’s most pressing issues.
Try some of these resources to get started as a teacher leader:
- The Australian Council for Education research has developed a step-by-step program to help teachers organize and improve professional development in their school.
- Meeting and working in small groups can achieve a great deal between teachers. This is a great resource for how to get one up and running.
- Get certified as a teacher leader and join the Teacher Leadership Institute.
Teaching can be a surprisingly isolating experience; despite being surrounded by people all day there is little opportunity to truly share one’s challenges and issues. Beset by ever-changing policies and standards, assessment formats and technologies, many teachers simply don’t make the time to connect informally with colleagues. This however can lead to ever more stress. Try to carve out time in your schedule to meet up with teachers, if only online, to connect with a community that understands your work and can support you.