The following article was written for Connections Newsletter put out by NHSTE (New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education) under the title: Finding the Time, A Personal Reflection.
How did I get here? I wonder that every so often as I find myself writing and checking posts, emails, tweets and DMs late into the night… typing, typing, typing. My desk is a mess and my head needs to clear, but there is still a smile on my face. Why? Because I’m following my professional heart and doing what I’m passionate about. I teach, I learn, I inspire – I’m an educator in the 21st century!
My goal has always been to contribute a layer to the educational world beyond what I hope I’m accomplishing inside my classroom. It’s the desire to ever expand myself as an educational professional as I reach out to other teachers.
It started very small – an idea about music integration that I used in my own classroom where you share listening experiences with your students and then use those experiences to teach, develop and enrich the other areas of your curriculum. I wanted to share these ideas with other teachers – teachers who may or may not be musicians themselves. And so, I put my ideas together in a book entitled Inspired by Listening.
But once the book was published, the real journey began.
I started giving workshops on the topic of music and arts integration and, to keep up with the times, started a rudimentary website. Now, only five years later (what seems like ages in the digital world), I have started something I can’t seem to stop, nor do I want to.
At this point in the game, I am blogging regularly on my updated website (powered by WordPress) The Inspired Classroom, sending out a bi-weekly newsletter, giving workshops and doing consultation work for teachers interested in integrating the arts and technology into their teaching. All through this, it has been important to me to keep myself rooted in my teaching. It is what I love to do and I have no desire to stop.
So how do I? I often wonder that myself. My desk is rarely clean and tidy, more like a collection of piles where I can amazingly find what I need. The excuse that it’s a sign of genius just can’t be put into play here. Rather it’s a sign that there is just so much to keep up with. Great applications, platforms, marketing tools, readings, feeds: it’s a mixture of “Where do I begin?” and “Where do I stop?”
Over the past few months I have started to hone my skills at this digital balancing act. Here are some ways I tame this seeming insanity.
Blog Series Keep me Focused – Close to the beginning of my blogging venture, I discovered the concept of a blog series. This not only gives me focus, but allows me to package my posts for my readers. One month the series was on “Freedom in Structure” another month was “Education in a New Era.” Each month I write about things that are current to my teaching and learning, but it all has a common thread. It is because of this, that I find myself constantly thinking about the series’ theme and therefore am gathering ideas for posts, newsletters and teacher field trips.
Self-Inflicted Schedules and Deadlines – I’ve given myself my own schedule and in the back of my head I picture a multitude of teachers awaiting my muses. Posting three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) is just enough and allows me to take a break from the computer on weekends, if I so choose. The second and fourth Thursdays are for newsletters.
Good Content can be Repackaged – So far, I have been fortunate to come up with new material for nearly every post publishing date, but the sad news of a blogger is that that a post may not be up for more than a few days. So, I build my newsletters around what it is I’m writing about that month. Last month was the Arts Integration series and so I used some of my posts as articles in the newsletter with links back to my website if readers what to “read more.”
My first blog series focused on the use of Norman Rockwell paintings in the classroom. I recently compiled these posts (complete with reproducibles) into an ebook that can be downloaded for free on my website.
Reflection Helps Me to Learn – Through this constant reflection in blogging, I am continuously learning about myself as an educator and learner. I am honing my own skills and developing my own teaching practices. This, in and of itself, has helped me to keep motivated.
Guest Bloggers – Inviting other expert and experienced teachers and educators to join me for a series is so much fun. Not only does it allow me to reconnect with former colleagues, but I can reach out to people I work with and/or meet online through my PLN. This month, I have six people joining me. It is quite exciting! It rounds out my blog, creating a rich collection of perspectives on a topic. (Not to mention, it allows me to take a small break every so often from writing a post.)
When an Opportunity Arrives : Take It! – If I’m asked to try something new, but related to my goals, I say yes! After making sure my two young children are cared for, all else seems to fall into place. When I feed myself with new opportunities (attending a conference such as #ntcamp, giving a workshop in a new district, guest moderating a live chat or writing for NHSTE Connections), I stay motivated.
Colleagues and PLN – In my 12 years of teaching so far, I have come to realize the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people in your workplace (and at home too!) I am fortunate enough to work with some great people at the Cashman Elementary School!
Additionally, I have built a great online PLN (professional/personal learning network) that has both prompted my development as an online entity and acted as a support group (so to speak). This group of people, made up of mostly educators on Twitter, has been a strong force behind my own drive. It is through them that I am constantly challenged and held accountable for the things I post and tweet. I don’t want to let them down, in fact, I want to spur conversation, build relationships and most of all – inspire.
The Bottom Line: I love what I do! Somehow, someway, things get accomplished: students are challenged, posts are written, workshops are scheduled and new ideas are always being explored. And the payoff happens when I get that email from a workshop participant asking for follow-up help, or that Tweet from a respected educator saying other educators should follow me.
Guess it has always been about keeping up and trying new things. What a ride – I am not done yet!
image from lizbergartquilts.com “The Balancing Act”
No stranger to the challenge of the educational balance dance, I am just arriving to the twitter teaching party, where educators meet to collaborate. I’m thrilled be here and beyond excited to participate! Your post is just what the doctor ordered, as my mind is constantly abuzz with ideas, thanks to my ever growing digital PLN. Thanks, Elizabeth. Excited to re-tweet your reflective summary about your online collective experience, thus far.