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 shareing with my online PLN!  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  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 so 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.

~EMP

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