I think it’s safe to say that if you’re visiting us here at Moving Writers, you’re probably the sort of teacher who enters a new school year with a sense of adventure and possibility. I’m also going to guess that you already seek the positive in your students and offer all sorts of wonderful opportunities to write and read in creative, explorative ways.
Hmm…what do you need me for? Go get after it!
Except, of course, we all need each other pretty quickly as the excitement of week one gives way to the start of challenging work in week two and the fatigue of week 15 and the inevitable discussions about grades and skill gaps at the end of the semester.
So what keeps me sane as I try to keep positivity and joy at the center of my teaching? Craft beer! No! Wait! *Consults notes* EduTwitter! The answer was and is EduTwitter (although if you’re looking, Bell’s has a great Oktoberfest brew…)
Regular readers might know that Hattie Maguire and I love Twitter in the classroom, but I’m talking here about life saving Twitter. Sure, it includes all the great resources that translate into classroom activities and lessons (I’ve already stolen Hattie’s tweeted idea to do a notebook entry about what words would give you away as the author of an anonymous op-ed).
But. EduTwitter is also a life saver because it creates spaces for you to share your victories and setbacks with people struggling with the same challenges, puts you in daily contact with the authors who inspire independent reading choices, keeps us thinking about our practices and choices, and keeps us abreast of opportunities to develop as professionals that we otherwise aren’t likely to go looking for on our own.
I know Twitter can also be an overwhelming forest of voices and hashtags, so allow me to suggest a few lifesavers that I’ve come to rely on.
Find Your Community, Fam!
I’m starting with what has easily become my favorite part of Twitter. Nothing makes me happier than logging in to find that my favorite voices are Doing the Work again (#disrupttexts and #booklove are great starting points!) and hopping in with my own thoughts and reflections in a shared virtual space. The best ones–you’ll have to find the corners of EduTwitter where you fit in and the kids play nice–are a mixture of reassurance and challenge.
Cultivating your own circles of support on Twitter is also nice. Those who follow #movingwriters already know this! But look for more local follows as well. I’m lucky enough to have a superintendent who has discovered the power of a virtual community. Want to see how strong relationships throughout your district can be when you share a supportive virtual space? Search the hashtags #noviwishtree and #novipride on Twitter and see the powerful work my superintendent has done to help us remember to celebrate our successes daily and publicly.
Get with the Specialists!
You don’t always have to read bios before clicking “follow” on Twitter. In most cases, you’ll know right away from the content whether fellow educators and thinkers are going to add anything to your timeline.
But as you start to build your personal feed, I would encourage you to slow down and find out a little bit about who you’re following. If you think about it, we’re all highly specialized in education–and specialized in ways that can change yearly (or monthly!). My wife was a 2nd grade teacher last year but a kindergarten teacher the year before that. Now she’s teaching 1st grade! I started doing MTSS support work two years ago and this year I’m assisting with a brand new writing center where students lead peer conferences with other writers. Twitter has been a lifeline for me in terms of providing useful resources at my fingertips. But it’s been just as helpful by providing support groups of sorts when things don’t go so great and I’m not really sure what to do about it.
If you’re a young and inexperienced teacher who just took over classes with students at the bottom end of the skill gap, take heart! You’re not alone–this is a common (and unfortunate) practice in education. But unlike your predecessors who went through this right of passage, you have the chance to build a supportive community tailored around exactly the sort of work you’ve been tasked with.
Great follows: The authors!
@rainbowrowell has a lovely Twitter presence with lots of updates about her books
@angiecthomas provides excellent perspective about all sorts of issues–her feed is a great addendum to her books in your classroom!
@JasonReynolds83 maintains a regular presence on Twitter discussing the need to engage young people with literature
@johngreen is funny and irreverent and chimes in on politics!
My last Twitter tip is to get yourself connected to larger organizations via Twitter. They can keep you in the loop on all sorts of things. @ncte is an obvious big one–they’re very good about retweeting state level organizations. They’re also wonderful when you need to access the Twitter hive mind (nest mind?) for advice. Tag them on a question and they’ll retweet you to their thousands of followers. There’s no better entry point to such a sea of human resources to be had in education.
Your state level affiliates and other educational organizations are also great follows. @MCTE_MI, my state Council of Teachers of English, for example, is currently searching for various award nominees. We’re surrounded by excellent colleagues every day and yet so many never even know that there are ways to honor their work locally and nationally. Twitter puts such chances at your fingertips.
Got a favorite Twitter person or group that has saved YOUR life more than once? Or just once? Once is a lot when it comes to life saving I guess… Anyway, share them with me on Twitter @ZigThinks ! I’m not a bad follow myself!