What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching?
My PLN consists of a few people I actually know: several foreign language teachers that I went to college with, the teacher from whom I took Spanish in high school, the other teachers in my district (of course), and one high school friend who is also a Spanish teacher. The last and I share lots of ideas, and she comes up with the greatest games that I love to steal and use in my class.
My PLN also consists of a great many people on Twitter, especially #langchat participants, as well as several blogs that I follow (and a list of several more that I want to check out, but simply haven’t had the time for yet). Additionally, I use Edmodo in class and have joined their community of world language teachers. And we can’t forget – lots of anonymous language teachers pin great things on Pinterest every day! I may not know these people personally, but I sure do appreciate what they do!
What does my PLN do for my teaching? Well, in the last year, it has totally changed the way I teach, which is what prompted me to start this blog in the first place. It is also a source of a great many wonderful ideas and answers to tough questions. If I need a resource, I simply have to add #langchat to my tweet, and within a few hours, I’ll have at least a few suggestions. The Edmodo community works similarly, or I can tag my “real life” language teachers in a Facebook post and get some excellent feedback or ideas from them. Every week, I look forward to langchat on Thursday night. I haven’t been adding much to the conversation just yet, but I always come away with something, whether it be an awesome idea or resource for class, or a new understanding of an area where I’m lacking and some thoughts about how to tackle the challenge.
My PLN is a major source of ideas and resources for class, but that’s not all it does. Since I am the only world language teacher in my district, my PLN reminds me that I’m not alone. I’m one of an awesome group of people who want to help our students learn that the value of learning a language goes beyond getting an honors diploma or looking good on college applications. I’m not the only one who’s taking on the crazy challenge of throwing away textbooks and grammar in favor of stories, games, and real use of language in the classroom. My PLN provides an opportunity for me to ask questions, give advice, and a catalyst for growth. I’ve learned things in the last 6 or 8 months with the help of my PLN that I’m sure would otherwise have taken me many frustrating years to figure out.
Teachers are always saying “Don’t reinvent the wheel” and that’s definitely what my PLN allows me not to do. Of course, I definitely have to figure some things out on my own and work through issues for myself, but that doesn’t mean I have to do it alone. I can get great advice from excellent teachers with more experience than me. I can bounce ideas off of people and have them tell me “I like that!” or “Tell me more about why you’re doing that.” or “I tried that and it didn’t work.” or even “Yeah, that doesn’t sound like such a good idea…”
My PLN has changed and is continuing to change the way I teach, the way I see myself as a teacher, the way I interact with my students, and even the way I view education. It’s why this blog has lasted as long as it has, and finding and expanding my PLN was the sole reason I joined Twitter. I don’t even what to think where I would be without all these excellent people who are willing to make time to share their knowledge with the rest of us.