In honor of Connected Educators Month, we’re celebrating what Connected Educators are doing throughout the world. If you’d like to share your story, send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My connected educator story starts with abruptly losing my job in the summer of 2010. I had just finished my first year working at a charter school in west Philadelphia. I was teaching English, but also started to pursue some other work within the school. Mainly, I developed a job description for a technology integration specialist. This position would help assist with our 1:1 laptop program and was to be added the following school year as a part time position that I would oversee. Additionally, I worked with a colleague of mine to bring two AP courses to our school. Students would now have the opportunity to AP English Language and AP Art History. My colleague and I attended the AP conference in DC and came back excited and ready to start teaching our respective courses.
The final piece that I had been working on was an Edcamp spinoff called NTcamp, which stood for new teacher camp. The idea came fresh off of the first Edcamp Philly that I attended and I designated my school in West Philadelphia to host. The date was July 24th and I had educators from all over the map show up. Shannon Miller flew in from Iowa; Jerry Blumengarten flew in from Florida; Steve Anderson flew in from North Carolina; and Tom Whitby cruised down the pike from NY. It was truly a connected experience that derived from making great connections on Twitter and through several #edchats.
With all of this in the works and the Edcamp nearly 5 days away, I was called in to meet with the CEO of the school and found out that despite all of my efforts, no negative evaluation, and a signed commitment letter to return in the fall, I was being let go. I later found out that three other colleagues, including our principal, encountered the same fate. We never received a valid reason for our dismissal. Before I left this gut wrenching meeting, I asked if I could still host the Edcamp. The answer was yes.
That day I went home, went for a run, and tried to process my thoughts. I called friends, family, and lawyers. Eventually I sat down at my computer and started to write a blog post. I shared that I had lost my job unexpectedly and that I was available for work. I read it a few times over to ensure that the tone was right and that I wasn’t leaving anything out. The next morning I woke up, still jobless, and I published the post and shared it on Twitter. Within a few hours I had several retweets on the post along with direct messages and comments. Many comments and messages simply offered some “cheer up” sentiments, while others shared job postings all over the country and abroad.
I eventually received a comment from then high school principal Patrick Larkin saying that there were some upcoming opportunities at Burlington High School. While this was an exciting opportunity, I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave Philadelphia behind. I visited Burlington in mid-August and got a tour of the school and met some of the tech staff. While there was an immediate opening to teach computer science, I had to pass because I didn’t feel comfortable teaching that subject.
Patrick elaborated on an upcoming plan to move the high school towards a 1:1 device program in the fall of 2011. The device was yet to be determined, but he also shared there would be technology integration specialist positions added to support this initiative.
Patrick and I stayed connected throughout the course of the year via Twitter, conferences, and I even skyped in for a professional development day at Burlington High School on Google docs. That spring, I interviewed and got the job as a technology integration specialist at Burlington High School. In June, I packed up my house in Ardmore, PA, attended one final Phillies game, and landed in Boston on the day the Bruins held a parade in celebration of their Stanley Cup championship.
In recent years I have learned from educators such as George Couros and Joe Mazza that we not only need to connect and share the good times, but also share the tough times in our lives. Part of what makes this on-demand community of learners and educators so valuable is that aside from the technology and the classroom we are all real people with real problems. And, we all genuinely care about each other and only wish the best.
Being a connected educator is not about follows, likes or retweets; it doesn’t require keynote speaking opportunities or awards; it’s simply about sharing our highs, lows, and in-betweens with each other. Whether we share online or offline doesn’t matter. The point is that we continue sharing the real moments that make us who we are and develop those connections we make.