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.


sam shah said...

And actually, in many cases, I think the anonymity and distance helps in creating productive - or at least interesting - conversations. You aren't bogged down with the tunnel vision perspectives from people you see every day.

In related news - talking about using strangers to help strangers - I'm about to see how well my homework campaign will turn out. Fingers crossed!

H. said...

What indeed? I agree - while we'll be on opposite sides of the Atlantic, this feels like friendship to me. And I love your CD.

Jackie Ballarini said...

I think my definition of friend and friendship has changed since I began this online journey.

And would I be looking forward to someone moving nearby if I didn't consider them a friend? :-)

Sarah Cannon said...

Aww. Time for another group hug, yeah?

Sam The combination of anonymity and searchable publicness does shift the way I think about the conversations online. I wonder how easily we fall into groupthink in the online groups (where we tend to find people who do share certain base ideas).

I'm excited to follow-up on the homework posts. Once my grandparents and I are all moved...

H. I mean, now I have a reason to visit Norway. Should try to find my first camp counselor now that I'm on Facebook. I don't remember which Scandinavian country she was from 15 years ago... Nor her last name... Hmm, by the time I find her you might have moved again.

JackieTotally bizarre how my definition has shifted! I still haven't figured out how to explain it to other people. Trying to explai to college friends that I was on Twitter (so I could stop stalking ya'll) before I was on Facebook was not worth it.

Back to packing. My grandparents movers arrive in a half hour. We've set up internet at the new apartment for my 89-year-old grandmother, but no promises that I'll be around to respond to comments with any sort of immediacy for the next week.

Calculus Dave said...

I also identify with this and have followed a similar trajectory. I'm still not up to actually blogging myself, but commenting for a bit, working my way through, and now tweeting, I've found a group of people whom I really respect and care about.