Thursday, September 29, 2011

Friday's Five - My PLN Rocks

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

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In the beginning of my teaching career my growth as a professional was pretty typical.  I learned from experience.  I attended "professional development" sessions that my school district mandated, often wondering why I was being forced to spend six hours listening to someone from a textbook company talk all about how their product was the greatest development in education while never giving me anything useful I can use in my classroom.  Occasionally there would be a discussion with someone in my building that influenced my pedagogy a bit.

In the past few years, though, I feel as though my professional growth has accelerated incredibly due to the cultivation of my PLN.  Some claim that PLN is an acronym for "Personal Learning Network", while others prefer "Professional Learning Network".  I could really care less.  I just know that the network of over a thousand educators on Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, as well as the edubloggers with whom I interact, and the commenters on my own blog posts have become the catalyst which has allowed me to continually become a better teacher.

Here are five reasons why my PLN rocks.

  1. I am continually bombarded with an influx of new ideas.  Every day I learn several new things from the amazing educators with whom I network.  Whether it's web 2.0 tools to use in my classroom, ways to better assess my students, ideas on how to reform public education, or something else, my PLN is an endless source of innovative thinking.
  2. My PLN gives me support when I need it.  Everybody in every profession goes through tough stretches.  Teachers are no different.  When those times arise, it's nice to have a network of educators who can both empathize and offer suggestions on how to handle the situation.  
  3. I'm forced to reflect and evaluate my practices.  As an active member of a PLN it's important to share as well as consume.  Many times others will offer constructive criticism, challenge ideas that I share, or flat out disagree with my opinions.  This forces me to look inward and truly evaluate whether I am doing what's best for my students.  Is there any more powerful professional growth than that which comes from true evaluation of one's practices?
  4. I know people who know more than me.  My PLN is filled with educators who are experts in many different aspects of education.  If I have a question about Project Based Learning, an on-line resource, ways to use videoconferencing in the classroom, conceptual mathematics pedagogy, or any other niche in education, chances are there is someone in my network who is either highly knowledgeable or can put me into contact with someone who is highly knowledgeable about that topic.  This is something that is simply impossible in any one school building or district.  
  5. The amazing things that others are doing in their classrooms inspires me to be great.  We often hear about teachers that do stupid things in newspapers and on TV.  Much less common are the stories of wonderful things that happen all over the world every day in classrooms.  I get to hear those stories.  I get to see the incredible work of students who have been inspired by amazing teachers.  I am assaulted with inspiration on a daily basis.  Each time I see such greatness I am reinvigorated to inspire my students in the same way.  I can honestly say that my own motivation level has risen dramatically since I discovered the power of a PLN.
Now it's your turn.  How does your PLN help you become better at your job?  If you haven't begun to build a network, what's holding you back?  What other resources have you found to network with other professionals?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below and share the post with others via Plurk, Twitter, Google+, or Facebook, so that we can hear their point of view as well.  After all, the more people we have sharing ideas, the more powerful our PLN becomes! 


  1. Thanks, Mike for introducing me to all this good stuff! Yes, PLNs rock!