Burned out and bummed out? It’s okay. Even the most passionate and motivated educators can fall victim to burnout. We’ve all experienced the exhausting feeling of the “daily grind,” “keeping your head down,” or the never ending “spinning our wheels.” Teaching can feel more about being a good cog than acting on your passion of making a difference in the lives of students. How do we get back to making a difference? Well, actually, you still are; you just need to hear it, see it, and feel it.
Tangibly seeing the impact you’re making can be the difference between feeling like you’re wasting time or feeling like you’re changing the world. In part 1, we explored how the creation of clubs, crafts, and contracts can help with seeing short term impacts. In part 2, we dove into how the environment and more specifically a change in the environment around you affects our sense of motivation and energy. In this post we’ll focus on being a part of a community, tribe, or a Professional Learning Network (PLN).
Being a part of a PLN or tribe (read more about a tribe) is energizing and effective only if it’s fun, meaningful, plays to a person’s interests, and is not joined out of obligation. Educators should choose to be a part of a PLN, not assigned to one or pressured into being in one. PLNs represent freedom. Freedom to speak our mind and freedom to seek help and advice from those whom we want to seek help from. Teacher voice and choice inside of a PLN have the same motivational impacts that it has on students.
A PLN in today’s educational context would be defined by most as a voluntary decision to connect with a group of like-minded or like-visioned people via social media (Voxer groups, Twitter chats, Facebook groups, etc) to collaborate, share ideas, and bounce questions. One of the most active, proud, and engaged PLNs out there is the #leadupchat tribe. Although a virtual PLN has transformed the face of collaboration and connectivity amongst those in the teaching profession, face-to-face PLNs can even further increase the relational value inside of our circles.
Simply stated, virtual interactions can’t replace the physical ones. Think back to your most vivid memories or learning experiences. Those experiences happened inside of real, physical, non-digital spaces, where you could experience one’s features, mannerisms, personality, and energy. Through time, even as we increase our connectivity through social media, the most meaningful relationships will continue to be cultivated through personal time spent together. This means creating meetups for your virtual PLNs and intentionally connecting at conferences. This also means you will have to work extra hard at creating these connections if you work in a small school or live in small town.
When you’re a part of a tribe and PLN, there are no initiatives, mandates, or rules. You have access to an energy source of unfiltered autonomy, transparency, connection, and giving. Investing in others and giving of your time for a greater purpose (helping each other learn and grow) spawns positivity and fuels enthusiasm. This energy is transferred to the classroom, and keeps teachers from burning out.