Connecting with other educators is probably the best way to grow yourself as an educator. I’m not just talking about meeting with other educators, but connecting with them. When we are in a staff meeting or enrolled in a class or workshop, we are usually just meeting. When we sit around a table and discuss an agenda, we are usually just meeting. However, connecting has a deeper value to us. Think about the last time you attended professional development where the others there smiled when you entered the room or the last time you had a casual, yet intriguing conversation with a fellow educator?
Where do you connect?
Connect through Social Media. Twitter and Facebook allow for some wonderful community conversations and connections. I love chatting and sharing with my online PLN (Professional Learning Network)! They are always there (24/7/365), always supportive and always open to ideas and conversations. Teachers in these communities connect in a professional, yet personal way.
The Inspired Classroom has a growing Facebook community you should join! The group is called “Inspiring Teachers” and is open to any educator who wants to share arts integrated, STEAM, SEAL or any other great idea or challenge they have. Remember, a good community doesn’t just share the great ideas, but also asks for advice too. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/inspiringteachers/ to join!
Twitter chats are a great way to connect and get ideas around a centralized idea or concept in a short amount of time. It’s like attending a focused workshop online. I’ve had the honor of hosting a few Twitter chats over the years. Back in 2012 I co-moderated a special chat event with @creativityassoc and @aep_arts where we worked to define arts integration in 25 words or less. More recently, I was invited to host a chat through
#K12ArtChat about the important of utilizing SEAL strategies in our teaching. I always look forward to some great connections and conversation among like-minded professionals at these chats!
Connect in Person. One of the best ways to connect with other teachers is in casual, personal interactions. AKA – hanging out! I love it when my team of teachers decide to go out to lunch on a district PD day. Sometimes we even make a date to do dinner and drinks. Human connections – that’s what it’s all about. And that makes working together all the more comfortable and natural.
Put two or more teachers together and you have an unending conversation about a myriad of topics. I’ve been caught chatting it up with a teacher I was sitting next to at a manicurist’s shop, a principal on the sidelines of a football field and my kids’ teachers countless times at drop off or pick up for school activities. I always enjoy having real conversations with other educators! I’m not talking about “complaint sessions” (or whatever you may call them), but real chatter about what it is we do.
Connect in Arts-Based Professional Development. It is always amazing how many connections are made among teachers during arts-based PD. There’s a real difference in how teachers interact with one another at these workshops. In courses I’ve taken and those I have given, there seems to be a much deeper level of connectivity. I feel this is true for two reasons.
1. Arts integrated PD makes you go through the creative process. When students (in this case the teachers are the students) get their hands dirty and are forced to create (and revise and reflect and make decisions and share), they naturally start to develop a deeper connection with one another. The teachers work through challenges (some small, some personal, some really hard) next to others who are also working through the process. This provides for a need to be supportive and encouraging to one another and creates great connections.
2. We share a common bond in knowing the power of the arts. When you have had an experience yourself with how the arts have helped you develop as a person, you know the great potential it can have with your students. In great arts-infused PD, teachers are encouraged to share those stories. When teachers share those moments when the arts have touch their lives (and in a couple cases in how the arts have been absent from them), people come closer together.
The PD I am most looking forward to is always the Teacher Art Retreat! At each retreat, teachers come together to create art, make music, share ideas and connect in many ways. Every year, summer and winter, the retreats are amazing! We work together to create and discuss the best arts integration practices. And the best part about these retreats are the connections we make time after time.
When we throw ourselves into situations where we are truly connecting with other professionals, we come out better teachers! Whether that be online or in person, we need that.
You have really stoked some serious thinking and brought some very positive ideas. I was thinking about “Arts Infused PD” as a way of bridging or correcting the opinion of arts integration as an “add on” vs. a purpose in education. I have been saying for years that my district is in desperate need of PD for not only the arts educators, but more importantly, an offering to bring ALL educators together to experience and understand the “Power” of the arts as you have stated it. I think the fear that we talk about and comfort level in other core curriculum educators is only reinforced when they are not given the opportunity to collaborate. It is so much easier for district administrators who have little or no arts influence in their lives to simply avoid integration. Part of my thinking toward a step toward a solution to the ignorance in arts integration is to first teach those who are in charge. They need to be trained in all aspects of education and the value of STEAM vs STEM. If they are given courses at that CAGS or Doctoral level where they must explore implementation, perhaps it could change the face of education.
Secondly, like kids, we are products of our environments. Over time, the norm is set and until the cycle is broken at the root level, growth cannot occur. I personally love to play, but too often get caught up in the minutiae of daily tasks and requirements. Playing together as educators brings new light and refreshment. How can we begin to create more PD that is directed toward collaboration with art forms being integrated in our own personal interaction. I am starving for this. I would love to do drumming with our faculty, as much as they would balk and run! I would love to have them create a lesson with our Fine Arts teachers leading one or two PD sessions per year. Inclusion is not relegated to our students alone.
Just saying. Thanks for your ideas!!
I can tell you are craving this kind of time for your colleagues! I know the feeling. 🙂 If I can ever be any help, please let me know. I’ve done some workshops for schools (that were voluntary, but well attended) where we explore some art forms in creative and non-threatening ways. And there was success. By success, I mean smiles, lots of smiles. It’s only when teachers have that experience themselves (like you said) that they begin to understand WHY their students need it too!
EXACTLY! Let’s talk about this. I think I could get my admin on board with one. Nothing ventured…. at some point, it has to stick!