|Dr. Paul Dordal (blog)
Over the last five years I have immersed myself in the “Twitterverse” and slowly built up my Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN). Twitter quickly became a way for me to connect with other educators, and specifically educational leaders. In fact, Twitter became a way for me to escape the silo and sense of isolation I was experiencing while working as a Lead Learner at Cantiague Elementary. Yes, I was surrounded by a group of incredible kids, passionate educators and amazing families but I was the only “administrator” in the building and I was looking for an opportunity to learn, grow and be inspired by others in my position!
Well, Twitter quickly became the space where I learned, connected with other likeminded educators and shared my thinking. In fact, I learned more through my connections on Twitter in a matter of months than I had learned in years of attending workshops, conferences and grad courses. The thing about Twitter that really hooked me is its functioning as a Virtual Community of Practice where tens of thousands of educators are openly sharing ideas, problems of practice and resources because most barriers had been removed (the glory of a digital platform). There is a sense of fluidity on Twitter where a person could be a novice at one moment when the topic is unfamiliar to them and then a moment later becomes the expert in “the room” because of their experiences and knowledge with a different topic/subject.
|Rod Sullivan (site)
Twitter has provided me access to so many likeminded educators that I quickly realized that I could learn about almost any topic in a matter of minutes by reaching out to specific members of my PLN. Whether I wanted to learn more about school culture or wanted to better understand how we could implement sustainable PD or figure out how to use the Google Suite to enhance my workflow, I went to the likeminded and experienced people in my PLN and immediately had access to ideas and resources that were actionable and impacted my work as an educational leader.
As the months and years of accessing Twitter quickly flew by, I started to notice something happening with certain members of my PLN. While I respect and value the thousands of likeminded educators who inform my practice on a daily basis, I recently realized that there was a specific group that I kept coming back to; a specific group that informed my practice but also sustained me on an emotional level; a specific group that went from professional colleagues to personal friends.
I started to become aware of this phenomenon when I noticed that members of my Twitter PLN started showing up in my Facebook feed and were becoming my “friends” on that platform. While I do have hundreds of friends on FB, it is a space that I generally keep for sharing personal posts, thoughts, celebrations and struggles. As some of my new friends began commenting and reacting to my posts, I noticed we were interacting on a different level. I started to get to know more about my new friends and realized that some of the connections we shared went beyond that likeminded level and deepened because we are like-hearted.
The like-hearted people in my PLN are the people who have gotten to know me as a father, partner, educator and person. They know what makes me laugh, they understand what frustrates me, they recognize what makes me go, “Awe!” and they appreciate what touches my heart. Basically, the like-hearted members of my PLN understand what makes me tick and through their presence in my world, have made it a better place. I can say, with 100% certainty, that my like-hearted friends have shaped who I am as a person today.
Why Do Like-Hearted People Matter?
As I refined my skill set as a leader during my time at Cantiague, and specifically as I explored Twitter, I started to realize that I relied on my heart as much as I relied on my brain. Yes, being logical, thoughtful and responsive are generally my guiding principles as a leader but I am also passionate, emotionally invested and I pour my heart and soul into my work. While the likeminded members of my PLN have helped inform my practice on that logical/rational level, the like-hearted people have not only done that but through our friendships (some of my best friends on the planet) they have also sustained and inspired me on an emotional level. My like-hearted friends have added more sparkle and positivity to my professional world than I could have ever imagined. My like-hearted friends have reminded me that being an educator and working in schools with kids is a calling. In fact, my like-hearted friends have inspired me to dedicate myself to reframing the narrative in public education by spotlighting all the positive things happening in our schools!
You see, our work as educators impacts our whole being – we need to use everything from our brains to our hearts to our bodies in order to do what is best for our kids. And as I think about it, the same is true of our students and their learning; our kids are using every fiber of their being to successfully navigate the day. So when we are “all in” and we pour a 100% of ourselves into our work and learning, who are the people we (us as educators and our students) turn to when we need support? Who are the people we turn to when we need inspiration? Who are the people who support us when we are struggling? Who are the people who make us laugh when we need it the most? Who are the people that get us? Those people are generally the like-hearted people in our worlds.
So, make sure you pause and reflect on your PLN (make sure your colleagues and students pause and reflect on their people around them too) and recognize those like-hearted people who have made your world a better place and have made you a better version of yourself!