Community

I’m currently working on a presentation about the use of twitter in professional development.  I assume if anybody reads this blog post, they will have found it through twitter.  It’s been a strange journey for me.

About 19 months ago, I had a discussion with my brother who had just joined facebook.  I congratulated him on joining the 21st century.  He was positive about his initial experience of that site, although he did state strongly, ‘I will never write a status update and I will never join twitter’.  We both laughed at the pointlessness of twitter and were perplexed as to why anyone would join such a site.  What a shallow experience when you can only type in 140 characters.  My impression was that it was full of B-list celebrities and sports stars writing inane comments.

Well. here I am 19 months later, and I think I am one of the strongest defenders of twitter that there is.  Is it too strong to say it has been a life changing experience?  That may be extreme but it has certainly changed the direction of my life and career.  I signed up for twitter on a whim, expecting that I would soon leave it to gather cyber dust and deactivate my account within a month.  How wrong I was.  I was just beginning my journey of professional development.  I had just come back to Korea to start my third contract.  All three contracts were at the same school.  In many ways, my early teaching life has followed a familiar path.  I arrived, essentially, as a tourist.  Teaching was a means to an end.  The first year was merely surviving and hoping I would enjoy the job.  I fell in love with teaching quite quickly.  However, at the end of my first year I knew I wanted to stay in the classroom but at the time felt I wanted to go back and do an English Literature degree and teach that rather  than English as a foreign language.

My second year teaching involved me trying to decide what to do.  For many reasons (which are too boring to go into detail about) I decided that my true love was the ELT environment.  The break between my second and third contract allowed to to start my professional development journey.

I’m going to preach(rant) a little now.  I do feel it is a responsibility and obligation to try to improve constantly as teachers.  We not only owe it to ourselves and our pride, but also to the students that we teach.  They trust us, and I feel we need to do the best for them that we can.  As Jenny Johnson said in her blog post from 2009, ‘I have always been disheartened to see how some teachers are happy to go on much as they always have done, doing a reasonable job but not developing to any great extent.’*

Let me be clear.  I am not saying this because I think I am a great teacher and you should all listen to my words of wisdom.  I am saying this precisely because I am an average teacher and feel it is my responsibility to improve.  I have constantly been annoyed by seeing other teachers more interested in drinking 5 nights a week that put five minutes into a little reflection on their teaching.  Nothing wrong with drinking, but it does annoy me when it affects the quality their work.  Having said that, everyone makes their own choices in life, and they are free to approach the job here as they see fit.

After that brief digression, let me get back to how fantastic twitter has been for me.  When I have thought about it over the past few weeks, the one word that kept coming into my mind has been simply. . . community. When I joined twitter I expected competitiveness.  I have seen only willingness to help teachers starting out on this journey.  I expected snobbiness from experienced teachers towards teachers such as myself who are relatively new and don’t have a fraction of their knowledge.  Again, I have received only kindness, help, and have never been made to feel inferior.  When I started this blog, Phil Wade did a guest post to give it a kick start.  Chiew Pang retweeted it to get more traffic.  I’ve also enjoyed the chats with the #KELTchat crew.**  Although I feel my blog is often quite poor compared to the others I’ve read, fellow teachers on twitter have always encouraged me to continue.  If anything, my main hope for this blog is that it is, at the very least, honest.

The community is a fantastic resource, one that I know many others appreciate.  I have discovered blogs, discussion groups, teaching tools, professional organisations etc.  It has been a revelation and an inspiration.  Quite simply, I never believed in an online community until I joined twitter.  I have ‘met’ some of the most open, honest, helpful people you could imagine.  It honestly has restored my faith in people.  I hope my growth as a teacher continues.  I hope I can reach the heights of the fantastic teachers I’ve met there.  I hope to meet some of them in real life and take another step in my professional development.

On this rainy night in Korea, I suppose I want to say thank you to the community, and I hope we are having discussions for many years to come.

*Jenny Johnson (2009) , Ways to continuing professional development—

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/ways-continuing-professional-development

**http://keltchat.wordpress.com/

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Posted on September 16, 2012, in Professional Development, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Hi Barry,

    I would just like to echo every word and sentiment you have written here tonight. I too am a young teacher who has found the community online to not only be supportive, but enriching, motivating, and constructive. It has given my young career a path and given me endless people to count on.

    Your words certainly do come through and the honesty which creates them is fantastic. Keep it up!

    John Pfordresher

    • Thanks John, Sorry for the late reply. It didn’t show up until tonight for some reason. Agree with every word of your comment. I’m excited by the the possibility of developing a strong community that will last for years as we all, hopefully, progress in our careers.

  2. How very touching, Barry. It’s amazing how all those new to Twitter said the same things. And then a year down the line, they say the same things again! The same as each other, not the same as what they said a year back! ;)
    Anyway, great post, Barry. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to look at my Scoop on Twitter – there are loads there you can pick for your presentation: http://www.scoop.it/t/why-twitter-for-teachers
    Cheers,
    Chiew

    • Thanks Chiew. Yes, its great to see new teachers constantly joining twitter and become part of the community. Thanks for the scoop.it link. I will have a close look at it and sure I will find lots of useful information there for the presentation.

  3. I like and agree with a lot of what you said here (except the bit about free will for those who wish to abstain from PD ;-) ). I have had a similar experience as I’m also quite a newbie to the Twitter/PD scene. It never ceases to amaze me how much support, help, and empathy we get from our PLN. I feel very lucky. The responses and retweets of your post just show again and again exactly what kind of community we have. Thank you for being a part of my community. I hope we get the chance to meet at the conference.
    Anne

    • Thank you for the comment and for the retweet. Yes, I am always so gratified at how open and supportive the community is. It gives the confidence to put ideas out there knowing that you will receive support. I’m particularly impressed how the community happily supports new people. There is no sense of exclusive clique. You may be quite a newbie to the twitter/PD scene but you have already made a great impact. I am certainly looking forward to seeing you at the conference.

  4. A wonderful blog post about your experience and perceptions of Twitter. When I joined Twitter, I only used it to make inane comments and post pictures of my food. Nowadays, I don’t post pictures of food but I still make inane comments about teaching. :-)

    Seriously, I enjoy sharing my experiences of teaching and posting tweets about my blog posts. Best of luck with your presentation and please post up your presentation of your talk. It would be great to know how your talk went.

  5. I love seeing Twitter through your eyes! I think it’s one of those things that teachers don’t see the point of before they try it, and can’t imagine doing without after they have. I know that most of the resources I know about have come from Twitter friends. Most of my online friends have come from there, too!

    Thank you for this lovely post. I learned about it, as you might guess, via Twitter :-)

    • Thank you Barbara. Yes, I try to get across to fellow teachers that its only after you try twitter that you realise how valuable it is. I can relate to pretty much every part of your comment. Pretty much 99% of the resources I’m aware of come through twitter. I feel I have made genuine friends there (who also happen to be amazing teachers). I can’t even imagine what my professional development would be like without twitter.

      Thank you once again for the comment. I’m honored, especially as I am planning to mention you in an upcoming presentation. I liked your interview with Chiew in relation to getting online to further PD.

  6. Great post! (Yes i found you through twitter!) I totally agree it is invaluable for sharing good practise and teachers supporting each other :)

    • Thank you for reading and the kind comment. It really is a great experience to constantly come across new people on twitter. We are all interested in being better teachers and I can’t think of any finer company to be in.

  1. Pingback: Reasons for (Korean) English Teachers to Join Twitter « ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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