Building My Professional Learning Network
Course 5; Blog Post 5 – Community Engagement and Involvement
How to Build a PLN by Accident
To be completely honest this blog post assignment gave me a lot of anxiety at the start of the course. I wasn’t sure that I had done a very good job of building a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Mostly, because I still cannot wrap my head around Instagram and Twitter as teaching resources. I fully realize that they can be amazing resources, but social media can be very bad for my mental health. For the most part, I have sworn it off. I would check my Facebook account a few times a week to see updates about family and friends since I live so far away. My younger friends are slowly pushing me onto Instagram but often I forget to check it. So as I thought about building my PLN, I was a bit overwhelmed. After some reflection though, I realized I actually already have a decent learning network. I have worked in so many schools and locations now, that I have a large community of teachers and educational professionals that I can reach out to for support. Many of them I would consider my friends, but they are also amazing teachers who are always available to bounce ideas off of or to offer suggestions. In all honesty, I think 90% of my friends are teachers, but I think that is pretty common in the world of expat teaching.
The challenge with a PLN that is mainly friends who also happen to be education professionals is that between communications about professional topics there are private conversations. Additionally, my professional conversations are often trickled through in-person or live call conversations. So they are not easily captured for blogging purposes. In order, to share snippets of my professional learning conversations with the COETAIL community, I decided to focus on sharing examples of conversations that were mainly professional. My main communication forums were Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and emails.
COETAIL Corhot #13
Perhaps the biggest change within my PLN related to my COETAIL experience was from the cohort community. I have worked with Brandon Inman in both rounds of our group projects and I have always really enjoyed reading his blog posts. He is a funny and smart guy who I really enjoy chatting with, so we began to communicate more on WhatsApp. He is able to give me suggestions for working in China, and I can give him suggestions for working in IB. Adding Brandon to my PLN and friendship circle has been one of my favorite things about COETAIL.
In addition to my communications with Brandon, I have also stayed in touch with the other members of our group project for course 4, Micheal Juntke, and Civen Ho. Michael and Civen are both working in China as well, so it was great to speak to them about how they are handling the Covid spike restrictions and changes to schedules as we were moved to online teaching. We have had live Zoom calls to check in on each other and share course 5 experiences. We also maintain communications on our WhatsApp group chat.
Organizing Buddy Classes
Outside of my cohort members, my experience with COETAIL has improved my PLN through the implementation of international buddy classes. Prior to COETAIL, I had occasionally, thought about having a buddy class for my students, kind of an international penpals system, but I never carried it through. However, as I developed my unit for the course 5 project, I really wanted to include an aspect of the ISTE standards of 1.6 – Creative Communicator, and 1.7- Global collaborator. That’s when I knew for sure that a buddy class would help my students to grow.
To find my buddy classes, I reached out on some PYP Teachers forums on Facebook. I heard back from so many teachers who wanted to connect. In the end, with time differences and schedules I was able to connect with some fourth-grade classes at Binus School in Indonesia and Gems Modern Academy in India. These classes were just finishing up their units on Energy and were excited to share their learning with us. Since their units were already done, the teachers were able to offer me support and suggestions for our unit, and their students were “experts” for my students to learn from. I shared communications with the teachers on FB messenger and through emails. My students shared communications through live Zoom or TEAMS calls.
Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Oh My!
Beyond the communications directly related to my work with COETAIL, I have continued to grow my PLN in the past year. Since my first reflective post about my professional network, I have continued to join teaching groups on FB. While these groups don’t always include lengthy communication back and forth between myself and a specific person, they do offer a lot of support and are a great source of ideas and knowledge.
Additionally, I have recently started working on my graduate degree. In that time, I have expanded my PLN further to include teachers in my current program and other teachers who are pursuing their studies while working full time. We are able to support each other in a lot of ways. Sometimes we give each other feedback on assignments, we offer suggestions when we don’t understand how to approach a task, or we can be a shoulder to cry on when the workload feels overwhelming.
I think that the most important thing I learned this year about building and maintaining a PLN is that variety is important. I still have my friends who are teachers, who support me both personally and professionally, but now I also have a group of people who are just a few clicks away for even more ideas and support. Connecting with teachers around the globe has made all the difference this past year. Their ideas and suggestions have inspired and motivated me to try new things, and their support in difficult times has kept me going and propelled me to advance my own professional and learning goals.