Getting connected is vital for educators, but it isn’t
the end goal. It’s a means of achieving a larger mission: empowering students to
become lifelong learners and innovative
To do that, educators first need to become a bit more selfish, said Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, who wrote the book
that inspired Connected Educator
“We’re an unselfish lot,” she said. “We constantly sacrifice our needs and
desires for others because it’s for the kids, right? If we’re going to serve the
kids, we’ve got to make time for educators to talk to one another.”
She offered the following insights on how educators can
help reach the end goal by first investing in
— and in each other:
1. Rethink how we “do” school.
“What inhibits deep learning, collaboration and
conversation, I think, unfortunately, is the culture of
. It’s the way people are siloed in
classrooms and kept busy all day with very few breaks. There aren’t built-in
times to sit down and have meaningful conversations. When teachers talk to each
other, they’re usually frustrated and blowing off steam.
“It’s the culture of the way we do school that makes it almost impossible to
get into each other’s classrooms and watch what each other are doing and have
conversations about what works and why. More often than not, a professional learning
network is something that’s done to teachers — it’s not about building their
2. Provide support for younger
“Culturally, education is a profession that eats its own in that we take our
youngest, least-experienced teachers and bring them into schools and give them
the toughest kids nobody else wants, the least amount of resources and the
crappiest furniture, and we say, ‘We’re glad you chose teaching as a
profession.’ They’re so burned
out, so tired, so overwhelmed. There are so many kids, so much to cover and
so little time that teachers are bringing things home to do.
“To have a meaningful conversation at school is a difficult thing to do.
Getting online and having a spontaneous conversation is really first time many
of them have had a deep professional conversation about teaching and learning
outside of college prep programs. That’s wrong. We’ve got to change that.”
3. Help teachers self-actualize.
“To bring value to my local community of practice, I have to have personal
value. One of the real powerhouses about connected learning is I can connect
with people who are very different than me, who maybe live in different culture,
state or country with different values and beliefs. We can have conversation
around a common, nonthreatening thing, and I’m going to grow as a person.
“Like Tennyson says, we’re part of all that we’ve met. We’re enriching,
growing, improving our efficacy, self-actualizing. Enabling teachers to invest
in their own professional learning will in the end allow student achievement to
skyrocket. When they’re fulfilled, teachers have something to bring to the table
to share with their colleagues and their students.”
Educators often say the students come first. Yet without
fulfilled, self-actualized teachers, how can we expect to produce fulfilled,