When teachers are not connected to meaningful and supportive relationships they often feel isolated. If you teach, you know this to be true. Tending classrooms filled with diverse students leaves a teacher with little time for bathroom breaks and no time for professional growth and engagement. A reality that poorly designed meetings, teaming, and programming—in which a teacher is required to participate at their school—further exacerbates the disenfranchisement and marginalization she feels. All this affects her teaching and the learning of her students.
A growing number of teachers, disconnected within their respective schools, are seeking connections elsewhere, often via social media. Twitter is a popular option. With a few clicks, a teacher equipped with Twitter, can connect with people and events anywhere and everywhere.
Teacher use of Twitter follows a predictable pattern. First she does a tweet, then a like, a retweet, and a follow, next up is a #hashtag chat, followed by a direct message. Nearly every teacher who reaches this point has a Velcro moment.
Understanding the significance of a Velcro moment requires understanding the functionality of Velcro. Its hook-covered strips easily connect with corresponding loop-covered ones. Velcro’s press and pull functionality—complementary, secure, simple—epitomizes connectivity.
A teacher, who, like a Velcro strip, seeks her corresponding workplace relationships but fails to find it, is disconnected. That is why a teacher, ensconced in her Twitter enabled Velcro moment, says, “Even though we have yet to meet, and despite the distance separating us, I know you, and you know me.” The connection she experiences is a match waiting to happen and meant to be. So with each ensuing tweet, like, retweet, and direct-message the teacher’s feelings of disenfranchisement, marginalization, and isolation abate. A Skype session or Google hangout awaits them, as do edCamps, meetUps, and unconferences.
For a previously disconnected teacher, a Velcro moment is exhilarating. The bond she forges in the moment stands in stark contrast to the mind-numbing interactions she often experiences in staff rooms and school hallways. Connecting with people, who validate and inspire the teacher to grow and think anew spurs her to seek more Velcro moments. She finds the relative ease and impermanent flexibility with which she has Velcro moments with other teachers empowering and addictive (in a positive way).
Close physical proximity of teachers is no guarantee of professional growth and engagement and resultant student learning. Extensive evidence supports this statement. The recent experiences of teachers equipped with social media and energized by Velcro moments, point to a way forward to less isolation, better instruction, and higher levels of student learning through connectivity. Blazing a trail may prove to be the single greatest contribution our generation of teachers makes to the field of education.
The profound beauty of the seemingly trivial clicks, tweets, chats, and hangouts is the connections and Velcro moments they afford. It is in those moments that teachers take charge of their lives and the future of education. Let’s learn this lesson.
Note: This is the fourth post in the Learning Lessons series. Please click the follow button on the right side of the blog page to be notified of future posts.