About twice a month when I lived in the Bay Area I’d hike with my friend Jeff, an English teacher from the East Bay. We’d taught together only briefly, but found during the discussions on our rambling walks that even as we went to different schools, our love of teaching and finding creative ways to work with students brought us closer together than the days our classrooms were next door. Even after I made the move to administration the content of our conversations stayed constant, his passion for the work he was doing with his students helping me stay focused on the most important job at any school: teaching.
This summer’s road trip took me back to familiar haunts, and allowed me a chance to sit in a book lined living room drinking Peet’s coffee and talking about the hands on ways Jeff was teaching a seminar in Nautical Fiction. As he described taping off the size of the dinghy from Crane’s short story “The Open Boat” on a conference table and having four of his sophomores hop aboard, I was reminded how magical face to face conversations about our practice as educators can be.
I love Twitter and the rich bounty of information and inspiration it puts on my computer screen so immediately. Being able to learn from teachers, librarians, and administrators from around the globe is an amazing opportunity that didn’t exist when I was in the classroom. Following educators I admire and reading blogs by folks brighter and more connected than me has become a staple of my professional diet, and…
The reminder my conversation with Jeff provided was that even as I build my online professional learning network, I need to make it a priority to cultivate the face to face connections that can make such a difference.
These unscripted moments, not categorized by hashtags, give something that even the best online interactions don’t. As our talk moved from Crane to Melville to Mattheissen, and then to sustainable local fishing, I recognized that the “fish locally” worldview applied to professional communities too.
Edcamps, ToSAs, and fellow district administrators are my local bay. Sure I enjoy some tasty and nurturing offerings from other oceans, but my professional diet is healthiest when I fish from my metaphorical kayak.
So as I get back from my July road trip, I look to reach out to my colleagues and put as much energy as I put into building my online PLN into filling my own local open boat.