Why I Believe Every Educator Should Graduate With a PLN

This is a thank you letter to my PLN. Once again like so many times before I am reminded by the power and beauty of my PLN. I call it my PLN because it is a relationship that has been constructed over time to improve my teaching, my educational perspectives, my outlook on life, and how to be a better person.

My PLN is a group of educators from all over the world who support me and I support them(hence the picture above…does anyone even recognize these anymore?). They are people who I don’t see in person very often and many not at all. Despite not having much face to face communication, I am able to call them friends. Great friends. A support circle to help me through ideas I don’t understand, connections to improve education and the learning of students, support when I need a mental boost, and just a shoulder to lay my head on when I feel deflated, frustrated, confused, not very helpful, and just don’t feel like I have much left to offer.

These past two weeks I have had to call on my PLN several times more than I would like to admit and more than I would like to ask for help. Without a blink of an eye, my PLN pulled through, provided support, did work when their lives were already busy, and helped me help myself and others in need.

When I was sipping my coffee and thinking about how everything has come together the last few weeks I could not help but smile and be eternally grateful for the people I have met, connected, and networked with over the years to have such an amazing group of educators and friends on my side.

This feeling made me think about many things. One thing that is always on my mind is how to build a new school that actually meets the needs of students and educators in a way that just feels right to everyone. While I don’t have that answer……yet, I do know that one thing missing in college prep for educators is requiring them to develop a PLN before they graduate. I do believe that while in college for 4-5 years part of the educator portfolio should be proof that an PLN has been created so they have a support system in place of their own creation when they enter the classroom for the first time. This should be a mandate. With the power of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Voxer, email, and YouTube there is simply zero excuse to not have a PLN constructed and actively engaged before any educator steps foot in the door of their own classroom.

Let me explain why I think this is so important by breaking down my last two weeks.

PLN Support #1: I am helping operate a debate project on the American Revolution. During this process leading up to recording the first speakers this week we had a few classes drop out. It was not a big deal. After a crazy set of circumstances we had another teacher drop and with that left us with over 180 students and 60 teams empty with nobody to debate. I put out a plea asking for any teachers to possibly jump in and help last minute. Within 48 hours I had two teachers who I have never met before or worked with in my life step in and make things happen to allow students to learn, develop their skills, and not be let down. Because of my PLN who read the plea and then went to their schools to connect with other educators we now have a debate of over 800 students pushing their thinking and learning to new levels. We also have educators building their own PLN through this debate sharing resources, teaching ideas, and learning together. Without my PLN, this debate fails and a lot of students lose out on a quality learning opportunity.

PLN Support #2: I have a former student who has created an infographic. The message is a good one and powerful considering it is coming from the perspective of a student. She asked me to help spread the message for her because she wanted it to go beyond her friends and family. So far, in under 24 hours her message has spread far and wide with the help of my PLN. In 12 hours she already had over 2500 impressions on Twitter. The beauty is not in the numbers, but in the fact that these amazing educators and people are helping a student embrace her voice because she has something powerful to say.

Here it is in case you are curious(feel free to share and spread!)

Can u help spread this message for a Ss of mine? @firechloe1 pic.twitter.com/p4iLFnH4v6

— Aaron Maurer (@coffeechugbooks) October 31, 2015

PLN Support #3: Earlier this week it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did! I was a bit in the grumpy pants mode and feeling like nothing would turn out well. I reached to my Voxer group and asked for positive stories happening in their classrooms and schools. With the positive stories shared and some positive messages shared on Facebook, my mindset changed and without any coincidence things started improving. Sometimes we just need a pick me up.

PLN #4: This goes under the radar and is not celebrated enough. The real power of my PLN is that they challenge my thinking. A few phone calls, a few emails, some hangouts, and some other exchanges I have had many of my PLN challenge my thinking. They question my thoughts, they push back, they challenge, they make me really think about what I am saying. This is the power. If everyone agreed 100% of the time we would never learn. These challenges make me go back and think. My wife is the best at this as she always throws important zingers my way. My PLN is open and honest and that is what I appreciate more than anything.

In closing, I think there should a push to make PLN development a requirement of the student teaching portfolio. There should be a push to help every single educator develop a PLN(even the ones who refuse to have anything to do with social media). The payoff is so worth it and every single day I feel like I am saying thank you to someone in my PLN network.

Now, I am off to work with some of my friends who are trying to help me work through some glitches.

What about you? How has your PLN helped you?

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4 thoughts on “Why I Believe Every Educator Should Graduate With a PLN

  1. From your post: “I think there should a push to make PLN development a requirement of the student teaching portfolio.” The word bothering me in this quote is ‘requirement’. Pre-service teachers should self-assess / reflect on their education and their time in schools that the PLN is a no-brainer… Indeed, unless time in the classroom is never the subject of classroom discussion back on campus (shame on college faculty if so), the pre-service students should NOT be ‘required’ to build a PLN – in fact, they should not even need college faculty facilitation.

    As you so carefully demonstrate via your PLN examples, there might be no better tool in a teacher’s tool box. To me, the biggest payoff from Twitter in general and Twitter chats in particular is building that PLN.

    • Great point, and I would agree that the word “requirement” is not the right word. However, I am blown away by how many student teachers come into our building year after year and have zero idea about the power of PLN. When they come to meetings and offer a technology tool like Prezi, we have problems.

      By requirement, I think the shift is not a requirement for students per se, but for the institutions to help them understand how to go about developing a system that works for them. The same holds true for educators already teaching. We need to expand our network. It should not be one more thing, but a network to help work through all the issues we have in education.

  2. Thank you for this post. I am going to share it with my grad Ss – future administrators. A PLN is a great tool to have in the toolbox.