Do You Have to Be Connected to Be A Great Teacher?

This morning I read the great post Excuses, Excuses…Will a Child’s Future Wait written by Tom Whitford, a man I am lucky enough to call friend.  As I read it and nodded all the way through it, I kept thinking how right Tom was, and yet, when we discuss people not telling us they have time for social media, or time to learn about new technology, we also have to look at how many people don’t see these things as a necessity to being a great teacher.

In fact, the whole notion of being a great teacher, administrator, or whichever role one plays in education seems to be split between two large camps.  There are those that believe that as long as they deliver relevant content every day, cover the standards, get through what they need (even artfully so) that then they are doing their job.  That is what makes them a great educator.  Then there are those that believe that to be a great educator, one must be connected through something (social media, local group whatever), should be researching new ideas, and should definitely be implementing those.  Then one can be a great educator.

Those are two very different camps to be in.  One sees no need for outside connections and the other sees the creative urgency in having them.  One does not find the time necessary to make connections because it is not deemed essential to being a great teacher.  Whereas the other wholeheartedly believes in the necessity of these connections and thus takes the time to do so.  I wonder if the unconnected educator can be just as great as the connected one, I tend to lean toward a resounding yes because of what I see on a daily basis; plenty of “unconnected” educators that are still phenomenal teachers.  And yet, I wish they were connected because so many of them have great things to share.

So when I come across people that do not understand why I tweet, blog, or connect with other that I may never meet, I often wonder how they get inspired.  I know where I draw my inspiration from; my students, my family, and my PLN.  Where do those that do not have a PLN get theirs? I know I cannot convince them of the power of dedicating time to connecting, sharing, reflecting in a an open forum until they deem it important enough to dedicate their time.  And that is an entirely different mindset to cultivate, so how do we do that?

17 thoughts on “Do You Have to Be Connected to Be A Great Teacher?

  1. Pernille, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I also want to thank you for calling me a friend. You are absolutely one of mine, not to mention an educator I truly respect. I have been reading yours for a while now and I am now seeing the importance of commenting on posts. That feedback is very inspiring and crucial to the reflection process. Which brings me to my thought on your post.I agree that there are strong teachers that have not connected yet via social media, but think how strong we all could become if they did. I don't think it is use of Social Media that makes you a strong teacher, I just believe it has the potential to make you stronger. I know it did for me. If we are truly educators, shouldn't we be about educating everyone? I would hope that the masters in our field would see it as their duty to help raise the level of knowledge and expertise of us all. No, you don't have to use social media to be a good or great teacher, but it may help you get there, and if you are already a great teacher, please consider helping others improve their craft.

  2. I realized — just this past weekend — that I had been giving teachers a much too easy "out" when connecting.When asked "how do you have time for all this", I would respond "well, I am single, no husband, kids, etc." and heads would nod.And I realized…..I was giving them an excuse.So no longer, when people ask "how do you have time" — will I quip that quick response.Instead I will say — "we all have the same 24 hours. it is important to me to expand my learning opportunities beyond what I know. Just as I make time to eat, to watch TV, to read, to work, to drive, to exercise…..I make time to learn, from others….and then to share what I know as well. It is no longer a "do I have time" but "how can I not make time" to better myself and in that better my classroom?"Just my thoughtsJen

  3. I have do not understand how educators who are not connected (digitally or otherwise) can hope to make sense of the rapid changes taking place in education, technology, and society. The only hope we have of doing this as we live in revolutionary times is by engaging others, learning what they are seeing, challenging each other, etc. We need each other!These connections are not optional. They are a professional responsibility. We can not hope to have a chance of best meeting our student's needs if we are not actively engaged in these conversations.

  4. Thank you for this post. I wholeheartedly believe in the value of being connected, and am seeing the benefits of it personally and with connected colleagues every day. I do need to be more understanding of those who do not considering using social media for professional development, growth, resources, and so much more to be a priority. But I wonder if they can continue to skip it in our world today. I'm not going to give them excuses any longer.

  5. Good morning from Hong Kong,I really enjoyed reading your post and as a father of four, three of whom are 10 year old triplets, I often wonder what others are doing to not have the time to be connected and learning.I do know that 10 years ago I was still a great teacher (I like to think)…the difference is that because I am learning from, and being inspired by others every single day I am a better educator…and that is why I take the time out of my busy life… because I want to be the best I can.I would like to think that we are inspired firstly by the wonderful children we work with…the learning from being connected comes a very close second?Thank you again for a thought provoking post!

  6. I think in the 21st century it is our responsibility to be connected. Our students will start to reach out on their own and be connected so we need to be aware of the social media tools out there so we can guide them to be responsible digital citizens. I teach in somewhat of a northern community and Twitter is my PLN because I connect with educators for the connections I can't make up here.

  7. I not making excuses for teachers, but it may be a matter of perspective. Do some see teaching as a profession with all the responsibilities and expectations that go with it? Do others simply see it as a job that lasts 9 hours a day, 5 days a week? Or is it a boring reason like some people are just more efficient at organising their time?I don't have an answer, juts lots of questions.I think the fear issue (as was commented upon on Celia's blog) is relevant. From "I don't know what to do" to "I don't want to be judged by what I say or how I articulate myself in writing".I'm sure I could be way more organised than I am and therefore spend more time on twitter or my own (neglected) professional-reflection blog. I do what I can, experiment with new media on my own and then in class and share it with my students, their parents and colleagues. And every 9-11 weeks I'm not in my classroom so I use that time to catch up.Hence, this comment.

  8. Your post is like a mirror to me – I had never realised that a large portion of why I use social media is inspiration. Sometimes that is inspiration for a new lesson, or a new style of teaching, or sometimes, on a bad day, a reminder of why I *do* love teaching.Thanks for such a reflective post,Rebeccahttp://www.rebecca-davies.net

  9. I connect with other teachers because there are simply so many smart, fresh ideas being shared online. Why wouldn't I?I agree with Jennifer about giving people an "out" about connecting, but we have kids, we have other commitments too. I think one must evolve in order to be great. I've found it easy to change over time with my connections online.In fact, your posts about student blogging totally changed my classroom. All this because of Twitter!

  10. Prior to July 2011 I had no idea what I was missing as a teacher. Becoming a connected educator has completely changed me as an educator. It certainly doesn't mean that I didn't do what i thought was best for my students before becoming connected and I certainly I do agree that there are really great teachers who are not connected at all. But based on my own personal experience it makes me wonder how much better they could be if they were connected and learning and sharing with others. It also makes me wonder what other things I don't know about to continue to improve my teaching. As I've said over and over again, the more I learn, the less I know. I like that. Others may not be as comfortable with that though.

  11. Thank you so much for everyone for reading and commenting. In the end it seems as if the consensus is that you do not have to be connected to be a great educator, but that it is a shame if you are a great teacher and not connected. It also comes down to then getting people connected and how do we do that?

  12. I think Michelle is spot on with her answer. Some (many?) educators are teachers only during the hours they are physically at school. Once they leave school that's it. Their learning, sharing, connecting, and growing starts at the end of the day and ends when the final bell rings. Honestly, most teachers with that mentality probably aren't the best teachers anyway so why would anyone want them to be part of their network? They are typically the teachers who have taught the same way for years and are not open to exploring new ideas. Then there are other teachers out there who go home at night and they continue to think about teaching. They reflect on their day and they have a deep desire to share and talk to other educators about big ideas. They try to do this with their coworkers, but the conversations always come back to complaining about what is wrong with their school. Instead of having deep, meaningful, and professional interactions that reinvigorate them they get sapped of their energy because they are constantly involved in gripe sessions. Imagine the pure joy that is felt when teachers slowly start to discover the world of educators beyond the walls of their school? They begin to discover that thousands of educators are also bloggers. Wow- who knew! They slowly begin to find more and more blogs to read and then they discover something really amazing. The educators who blog are on Twitter. And even though they have laughed at the thought of ever using this ridiculous social network they decide to give it a try. They follow a few people. Then a few more. And then a few more. Eventually they build up enough courage to send a tweet. Once they clear hurdle and are comfortable sending tweets they eventually send a tweet to someone. Then something amazing happens—-they get a tweet sent to THEM! That is one way connected educators are born.

  13. Ms Ripp, I think one of the ways we can help great teachers to become connected is helping them see the value they bring to larger education community and embracing change. I wrote a recent post and began a new blog w/ a five-step plan for doing that. I owe the inspiration and motivation to begin that blog to my wonderful PLN! rachellewooten.wordpress.com

  14. Yes, Tom, you've got it: comments are the ketchup on my fries. It's nice to know that we're not just barking at passing cars. I love it when someone throws a bone and makes that connection.jmarshallrce.blogspot.com

  15. Thanks a lot for sharing this great post of yours with us. In my opinion staying connected is very important so that you can share the thoughts and opinions of the others and vice- versa.

  16. Staying connected is crucial now a days for a Teacher to share and get great ideas. Many new changes taking place in the field of education and for that interaction is necessary.

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