Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dispatch While Moving

The new teachers are here. Interviewing right now. (My students are waiting for reports on what they're like.) They're asking for advice, wanting to know what I've picked up out here. The best I'll offer, build your support network. And then expand it.

Other people get by with less, but I've drawn support from across the board. Family and college friends, especially the teachers among them. Teachers at my school and the other TFAers in my state. Local people, be they from a church off the reservation or on the other side of the window at my post office.

The people who have surprised me most with their support are the ones I've found online. I would not have guessed that moving to the middle of the country, I'd connect with teachers all over. I had friends with LiveJournals, but didn't know about the edublogging world until I stumbled upon dy/dan

Ain't that the way it goes? One minute you're trying to remember the name of that site that lets you make big posters out of any-sized picture. The next you're going through archives and blogrolls, stealing lesson ideas along the way.

I immediately started building the connections. Joining conversations in the comments of my favorite blogs and eventually writing here. I discovered this group of people eager to share ideas and experiences. They represent the variety of schools across the country (even the globe). Urban to rural. One-to-one to we have computers? Preservice teachers to retirees. Sometimes it was important for me to remember that not every school is like mine. Other times they remind me that really, kids are kids and we're working toward a common goal.

Last year, I noticed people joining Twitter. I stalked them for months before signing up so I could write back. After sharing so many stories from our classrooms, the connections formed though internet cables begin to feel tangible. Sam Shah summed it up.
Okay, I know that these people aren’t my friends. And that I’m not ever going to meet them in real life, for the most part. But I’ve actually come to care when someone’s kid is angry at them or when someone’s husband was in the hospital.
When I start talking about the online people too much, people say, "But they aren't really your friends." Like Sam, I know there's truth in the statement, and yet when I broke down and joined Facebook the first people to actually ask to be friends (rather than accept invites) are people who I might never meet, oceans and continents being what they are. I have eaten their Christmas cookies and mailed them my mixed CD. If that doesn't qualify you as a friend who helped me face the challenges of teaching, I don't know what does.