Friday, August 14, 2015

The Power of Connectedness

One of the principals (@ccastelhano) in our district recently asked her staff to choose a word that describes an "A" school. As you can imagine, the staff selected some powerful words: Committed; Dedicated; Persistent; Focused; Zealous; Relational; Consistent. And all who contributed to the conversation had excellent thoughts behind their chosen word. 

I recently finished reading "What Connected Educators Do Differently" by authors: Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker); Dr. Jeffrey Zoul (@Jeff_Zoul); and Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy).

So it's little surprise that the word I chose was Connected. As I read through the book I became more convinced that connected teachers are more effective than non-connected teachers.

That being said, connected doesn't necessarily mean cyberlly (not sure if that's a word) or digitally - although that increases the magnitude exponentially. Teachers who are connected to one another, to their students, to the students' families, and to others who have influence are going to have a big impact on the performance of a school. 

I came up with this graphic to visualize my thinking. And upon first glance, you may wonder why I chose to put myself in the outside and largest circle rather than the inside circle like many relationship circles that you may see out there. My rationale is this, I have to be connected with myself first and foremost. If I am not self-connected, then I don't know what my vision and mission will be. I won't know where my comfort zone is and push out of it. I won't know when I've overextended myself and need to reevaluate my commitments. If I don't have my act together, then any other connection I attempt to make will certainly unravel. 

I chose to put local teachers in the second circle because I have experienced firsthand the the glory and the agony of defeat when a team of teachers collaborates or not. Our students are no dummies, they know when adults are in-sync. They can tell what they can get away with and with whom. I have had the privilege of working with the same group of ladies for the past three years. Not only that, we had the luxury of having our students for both their 7th and 8th grades. We knew those boys and girls and they certainly knew us. And the result of having those connections made us strong, both in our relationships and academics.

I've already blurred the lines between my circles, but I firmly believe that the connections that were forged with my fellow teachers, first, made the relationships with the students and their parents that much stronger. Making ourselves available for communication with parents only secured their believes in our abilities to not only teach their child, but to care for them too. When you have the trust of a parent, the school year goes smoothly. And we know, either from personal experience or know someone who knows what it's like to try to work with a parent that has no trust in what we're doing. 

Finally, I put "others" in my smallest circle. And I don't mean to minimize the affect that "others" can have on our professional growth. In fact, the authors of the book would suggest that "others" (in the form of Personal or Professional Learning Networks) can be our go-to people, when we need encouragement or an idea or a swift kick in the pants. And I agree with that 100%. However, when working with students, I believe that having a strong connection with our peers that are visible on campus makes more of a statement as to what our expectations are for the students and what we are willing to do to get them meeting those expectations.

Finally, imagine if each individual teacher's circle of influence or connectedness began to merge another teacher's set of circles? The effect would only compound. This is what I want for myself, for the peers that I work with on a daily basis, for my students and their families, and for those who are becoming part of my PLN. I am grateful for those who have already influenced me for it has made me the educator that I am today.

Offering my BEST to you!

What are your thoughts on being a connected educator? 
What have you learned about being a connected educator - for better or worse? 
How might you encourage a peer educator to become more connected?

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