“It’s funny how my closest friends live states away,” Amy said to me as we crossed the convention center’s atrium during NCTE. I agreed; our group of four, Amy, Shana, Erika, and I, might live in different parts of the US, but we share a unique bond, one that has carried me through both the highs and lows of teaching.
Teaching is an anomaly: for being such a social career, it is also quite isolating. I learned this my first year when I went from sharing a classroom during my yearlong internship to suddenly being by myself at the end of the hall. I found that while my colleagues and I would sit down for lunch everyday, we struggled to find common times to chat about our work or pedagogy outside of professional development days or staff meetings. Despite being within the same building, we’d oftentimes take to the Internet to discuss our plans and work with one another. Over the summer I would receive messages from Jenn about a fantastic new book we could incorporate into our academic English curriculum or recently I received a Pinterest pin from Kristina pointing out a fun way to teach sentence diversification.
Social media has changed the face of my professional learning network. While many of my teacher-friends are at my school, my core group doesn’t just involve those within my state anymore. I have discussed pedagogy with teachers in Canada, talked shop with friends in Washington D.C., and connected with educators across the country. Teaching is no longer the isolated occupation it once was. Over the past two years, these discussions have had a profound effect on my development as a teacher. Many teachers have helped to shape the workshop model within my classroom by being honest about their successes and struggles. My PLN has given me a place to geek out over reading, writing, and discussing literature. And ultimately, this passion online translates into my enthusiasm within the classroom.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I cannot be more thankful to my online peers as well as to those teachers who I have met at conventions and in classes. I am grateful for the relationships I have garnered via social media and e-mail. No teacher should feel alone in this occupation—there are countless resources to uplift and inspire even the most isolated. After all, teaching is an occupation composed of charismatic, committed, and loving individuals who not only see the best in their students but also search for the best in each other.