We are beings of connection

The social nature of humanity has been the reason for our success as a species for millennia. We realised early on in our existence that living and working together helped us both thrive and survive and move from caves into huts. Then we began grouping those huts together into small villages and started to specialise our skills to benefit not just our immediate family units, but the wider village as a whole.

Our need for connectedness is innate. We humans know instinctively that our very survival depends on our ability to connect with those around us. The Internet now allows us to create connections with people we’ve never even met. The tendrils of our electronic connectedness reach further than our physical beings could ever hope to.

I live in a small town and teach in a small, rural school. As idyllic as this sounds, it can, unfortunately, lead to a disconnect. There are fewer like-minded teachers to bounce ideas off. In a larger school in a larger town you may have two or three people at work you can hook into for ideas; you’ll also have a wider local network of mates and colleagues you can call on. This may not be the case when there are only a few of you working together. This is not to say I don’t gel with the guys at my school – far from it. We are a tightly oiled machine dishing out educational genius all over the shop. My point is, we are all very different teachers with very different ways of doing things.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I found the process of returning to full-time teaching after a few years relieving and Hiluxing to be quite difficult. You really do forget just how all-encompassing the job is when you aren’t embedded within it.

The good kind of funk: George and Bootsy

This, along with a couple of other factors, meant I headed to the inaugural #EdChatNZ conference back in August in what can only be described as a funk. Not a good funk either. No George Clinton; no Bootsy Collins. It was the funk of self-doubt. The funk of self-doubt is a dangerous place to be as a teacher. As this funk envelopes you (which it can from time to time), all other things go out the window. It doesn’t matter how supportive the people around you are, the funk of self-doubt drowns out any positive vibrations that may be sliding your way from colleagues, parents or life partners. It’s not because we teachers are a negative bunch, it’s just because we care so much about the young people in our charge that any misstep we make fills us with guilt – the guilt of having failed our learners.

Having painted the picture of where I was professionally, I headed off on the long journey from Geraldine to Auckland for the #EdChatNZ conference. As I walked in the door of Hobsonville Point Secondary School I saw how vastly different their learning spaces were and started thinking that this weekend might be a little different. Sitting alone in the auditorium awaiting the opening I was quietly looking around for people I thought I might know from Twitter. Then it all kicked off with Danielle (@MissDtheTeacher) played the Lone Nut video and it was then I knew then and there the #EdChatNZ conference was going to be like no other.

As an aside, it’s worth revisiting that very video to remind ourselves…

After two days of making real-life connections with me Twitteratti, taking hundreds of selfies, and many discussions of a pedagogical nature I returned to my South Canterbury hamlet revitalised. The funk of self-doubt had been expunged. I now knew the way I had been thinking, the direction I had been travelling was correct. I had just spent the weekend with a few hundred ‘me’s – a few hundred people heading on the same journey as I had been.

The validation I received from this weekend has been the single most important thing to happen in my teaching career. Aloneness is terrible. Being stuck inside your own head is no fun. Being stuck inside everyone else’s heads – that is absolutely the funnest time you can have.

My Twitter connections are the people I turn to when I need support before heading out of my cave into the wilderness (The last thing I need at this point in my career is to be eaten by a hungry sabre-tooth). It is they who understand precisely what is going on in my brain and how the learners in my class learn. It is they whose ideas I steal vision I use to motivate me in my planning.

As I said at the commencement of this post, we are beings of connection. We crave the company of others. We actively seek out those who are like-minded and those who will compliment us in our activities. If we don’t seek these positive connections we run the risk of falling into a funk of disconnected self-doubt.

The modern world with its interweb, Twitterings and Googletastic linkage allows we teachers to make thousands of connections we would never have made in the past. We are able to validate what we do and how we think in a way that includes teachers and educators from everywhere in the world. It’s, to borrow a phrase from Anne Kenneally (@annekenn), MAGIC!!

Modern teaching, as with modern learning, is about connection and collaboration. Connect and collaborate or you may, as I did, descend into the funkadelic depths of self-doubt.

To conclude, feast your eyes on the mothership for some extremely positive funk:

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