There are certain times in our lives that we just can't do specific things for ourselves. Eating is something we all must do, but at one time or other, we are unable feed ourselves and need someone else’s help. Being fed as an infant or as an elderly person is something nearly every human being on this earth will go through. Other situations that would prevent us from feeding ourselves include crippling disabilities or physical trauma in our lives. Either way we have to eat to live a healthy life or to live period.
The same can be said with our professional development as an educator. Early on in our development as a student, we all had to be "fed" by the teacher. This can be at any level of school – Kindergarten year, freshman orientation at high school and college, or even the first year on the job. It can also be said in specific situations – first days of class, the beginning of a unit, or the start of a lesson. As educators we fall into the same circumstances. Our professors may have fed us, a mentor teacher may have fed us, and the building principal may have fed us. Sooner or later the phase of being "spoon fed" information has to stop. In order to grow, we have to learn to feed ourselves.
How successful people are from that point on comes down to how strong their personal learning network (PLN) is. How strong is your PLN? If you don't remember what a PLN is, be sure to check out my blog Got PLN? It does an educator good! An educator's development is only as good as the PLN they are involved in. This might leave you thinking a couple of things. How do I know if I'm part of a quality PLN? If I find out that I'm not in a good one, what do I do? These are both good questions and I have some suggestions on how to measure your PLN and what to do if it's not measuring up.
- Is the information coming from my PLN keeping up with the current trends? We have to stay current in education. There is always something new coming out in any business and education isn't and shouldn't be shielded from change.
- What if my PLN isn't currently up on the trending education topics? You don't ditch anyone or anything in the PLN, because you never know when you need the information at some time in your professional life. Plus that would just be rude to listen to people only when you need something from them. This is when you add to your PLN. Your PLN should always have trending sources to insure that you are staying up on the changes in education.
- Spend some time honestly reflecting on yourself. When it comes to development who are you relying on? Are you depending on others to feed the information to you or are you going out to get it? There are two kinds of people in this world: those that have something done to them most of the time and those that are doing something. Don't sit back in your classroom or office and wait on someone to bring you an idea, article, solution, etc. Be the one that does something or at least part of the something within your PLN.
- Is my PLN diverse? Add something that allows you to think differently. I like to get an entrepreneur’s perspective. It gets my mind thinking in an abstract way. I can then come back to my education world and problem solve better. The general rule is if it makes you a better educator, it's a good addition to your PLN. If it's enjoyable but sucks time away from your profession, then don't mess with it until after hours or on weekends.