On a car ride to attend a workshop last week, another teacher commented that she is now being made fun of for being a "nerd" since she has embarked on her journey to become a leader in our school community. So we all joked about what makes us "nerds": we engage in Twitter chats, read literature on education topics that are of interest to us, we attend workshops and training and all of these things are adding up to two things. We are nerds and we are more engaged in our jobs. Well, I'll be a nerd any day.
How to Become a Nerd: 3 easy steps
1. Build your PLN. What is a PLN? It is a Personal Learning Network, a PLN gives you the freedom to search for other educators with similar interests and mindsets that you can work with. As a librarian, I felt really isolated until I attend an IASL conference (I'll talk more about this in #3) and found out there were these awesome librarians doing amazing things in their schools. I wanted to be awesome. I wanted my work to be amazing. Who doesn't? So I dusted off the Twitter account I had set up and abandoned a year earlier and followed some inspirational leaders. Over the years my PLN has grown to include teachers I work with every day as well as teachers and leaders I have never met in real life. I find that when I get away from my PLN, I am less satisfied at my job and less creative. When I stay connected, I am inspired and rejuvenated.
2. Attend an #edcamp. Edcamp is a non-conference that takes place for educators. They are free to attend and usually take place on Saturday, so you don't have to get permission to go. The educators who choose to attend edcamp on their own time are truly there to be part of a community of learners. It is a place to share and to guide your own learning. Getting to decide how to fuel your own professional development is liberating. You choose what you want to learn about and what you can share with others. Edcamp is a great place to find people for your PLN (see step 1) and to remember why your job as a learner is so vital to your students.
3. Attend a conference or workshop that is interesting to you. Don't go because your administration thinks you should, find something that speaks to you. Our local AEA (Grant Wood) provides a great deal of workshops that you can check out and find one that is tailored to your learning. Also look for conferences, I really love the IASL (Iowa Association of School Librarians) and ITEC (Iowa Technology Education Connection). Taking these days away from students allows me to refill my bucket and be excited about new ideas.
The important part is taking something from these days to use with students as soon as possible. We definitely don't want the excitement of a workshop to wear off as soon as we go back to work. Pick one thing that you are excited about and figure out how to share that idea with students. Each idea is another tool in our kit that we can use to reach kids. If you are excited about teaching something new, the students will pick up on that excitement.
Want to be a super nerd? Follow an #edchat on Twitter. I like #iaedchat on Sunday nights from 8-9 and #moedchat on Thursdays from 9-10. There are edchats for all different topics. Look at the hashtags that your PLN are using. If you click on the hashtag it will open up in a search and then you can follow that chat as well.
If being a nerd means that I am passionate about my job and love learning new ways to be great for kids, then I am a nerd. I hope you want to be a nerd too!