Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tweet Me, Vox Me, If You Want to Reach Me

"Social media is the ultimate equalizer. 
It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage."
- Amy Jo Martin
I am relatively new to the teaching profession (only two years of full time teaching) and I was already feeling burnt out. With no hesitation, I will be the first to admit it. It's not that I didn't like working with students; that part has always been my highlight. It was more the fact that when I started at my school, I had just turned 22, fresh out of college, single, and a male teacher. Conversely, the majority of the teachers at my school had been teaching for many years, were female, married, and had kids (some of which were my age.) We also differed greatly on instructional methods. Aside from a few key connections, I honestly felt out of place. Here I was starting my career and life, and my colleagues were already established in teaching and life and generally set in their ways of teaching. 
My Twitter handle @Mr_B_Teacher
This post is not meant to slam my colleagues. I have high respect for them and do not wish to discredit their successes. The focal point is that I felt like I was an island in a large sea. I persevered, but honestly, I was exhausted.

One evening, I was texting my longtime friend and fellow educator Jennifer Guido (@missguidoedu.) Sharing many of my frustrations, she asked if I had used Twitter for professional purposes. I had used it to try to raise donations for a fundraiser I did, but not much else. She told me to get on and try it!

Oh. My. Goodness. Did that change things. I was hooked from the moment I jumped into a chat (I believe #tlap was my first.) It didn't matter to others that I was younger and more inexperienced. My opinions were valued and I engaged in lots of great discussions with like minded individuals. I was hooked.
I can firmly say I've hit every stage
For the next week or so, I attended nearly every chat possible: #satchat, #satchatwc, #sunchat, #read4fun, #whatisschool, #sschat, #ecet2, #chatttechchat, #1to1techat, #tlap, #sstlap, #ptchat, #tmchat, #weirded, #BFC530 and many more. It was overwhelming at first, and I have since learned to prioritize and jump into topics that apply best to me.

The great thing about social media is the bonds you can make. While I have not met many (if any) of my followers, I feel like I've known some of them for quite some time. We have been able to connect professionally and personally. 
And so it began...
The first person who really reached out to me was Barry Saide (@barrykid1.) In the #ecet2 chat on Sunday evening, he mentioned his Voxer handle and I jumped on it. We now Vox nearly daily, sometimes including our classes. I greatly value his opinion on many issues and he seems to do the same. When I mentioned casually that I had only been teaching 2 years, he said he was shocked and I handled myself well. This goes to prove the above quote.

Rosy read to my class during her Spring Break
In my school, one of my closest teaching and personal friends is Mrs. Burke. You can imagine my surprise when I found Rosy Burke (@rosy_burke) on Twitter. Although she lacks in the literacy department (she's never read Harry Potter,) she and I have connected through Voxer as well. Our class affectionately calls her Ms. Vox Burke and our respective classes Vox back and forth daily. My class eagerly asks me to check my phone from her class! Apparently some of my mannerisms have made the jump to her class! With Rosy, I have also connected with a number of funny, yet insightful, teachers, including Mari Venturino (@MsVenturino,) Stacy Lindes (@iruntech,) and Greg Bagby (@gregbagby.) I suppose that this long winded post really is #justinsfault.

Another great Twitter/Voxer companion is Connie Hamilton (@conniehamilton.) One day while I
Students created their own polygon bracelets for Connie
was ranting about the irrelevance of some math standards, she challenged me to find the relevance in all standards. She showed me some nonagon bracelets and asked that I share them with my class. They were able to see why they were nonagons and deepened their connection. She has now been deemed "the nonagon lady from Twitter," and continues to provide challenges for my class. Looking forward to her next one!
Tamara Letter (@HCPSTinyTech) is also a frequent Voxer. She, too, lives in Virginia, so she and I have the ability to discuss issues that impact Virginia's education. We see eye-to-eye on many matters and also respectfully agree to disagree on some matters. She also gives me an inside look at the life of an ITRT (my eventual career goal) and keeps the conversation lively!

Mystery Person with Richard's class
Richard Hattal (@hattals) and his class have also made a large impact on my teaching. He also teaches fourth grade, but in Florida. In a chat one evening, we both mentioned that we were teaching about Reconstruction, and decided to do a Google Hangout with our classes to compare and contrast Virginia and Florida's roles in Reconstruction. We expanded this recently to play Mystery Person (Guess Who) with Famous Floridians and Virginians. They may have won the first round, but I have high hopes for my class next time. Richard and I managed to convince another teacher (coincidentally Mr. B also) to join us. Wouldn't it be funny if Mr. B, Mr. Florida B, Mrs. Burke and Ms. Vox Burke all did a Hangout?

Thomas helping out on my digital portfolio
Finally, Thomas Martellone (@TomMartellone) has made a huge impact on my teaching career. While in an informal chat about including QR codes on resumes, he suggested that I create a digital portfolio and include that too. I thought it was a great idea and planned to work on it over the summer. However, I was contacted to interview with a new district and decided to create the digital portfolio on the spot. I reached out to Thomas and he guided me along the process, checking for errors, and providing quality feedback. I appreciated his efforts, even though it was not his duty to help me. He has also agreed to read to my class on his Spring Break this week!

This is not an exhaustive list of my PLN, although it may have been exhausting to read! It was hard to narrow the scope of this post because there are so many great educators out there. I will see something during the day and think to myself, "Oh I have to tell so and so this," or "I bet so and so would like this." Many of my free moments are spent on Twitter connecting with other educators and furthering my abilities. I will boldly say that Twitter/Voxer have revitalized love for my teaching and innovated my instruction. It has given me a voice to share my opinions and ideas and a channel to receive suggestions and ideas. My students have directly (by connecting with other students worldwide) and indirectly benefited from my use of social media and I have grown as a professional. It may seem silly to say that since I have not been in education long, but it has had a huge impact on my career. I appreciate each and every connection I have made on Twitter/Voxer.

What about you, anonymous blog reader? Has social media impacted your profession? Have I had an impact through social media on you and your teaching? I'm always happy to connect with anyone. Share your thoughts below!

4 comments:

  1. Justin! I'm so proud of you and everything you've accomplished since our Y days. So glad Twitter could be a positive outlet and a place to push and challenge you're teaching! You're doing an awesome job. Keep it up!

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    1. Jenn,

      Thank you for your kind words. You have been a driving force in my educational career and I am happy to call you a friend and fellow educator!

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  2. Thank you so much for mentioning me in your blog! Makes me proud, yet at the same time humble to be honored in such a way. As a second year teacher, I too am struggling with who I want to be as teacher. The last three weeks have proven to my fragile psyche that amazing (and educational) things are possible. I look forward to our bright future in the amazing, endless potential of the world of technology! Thanks again for the kind words and it is a pleasure to know you!

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    1. Richard,

      Thanks for your positive feedback. You and your class have positively impacted my students and my growth. I am happy to have you along for the journey, and glad we picked up another member along the way!

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