I had a lousy day yesterday.
Today was much better even though my leg hurts more.
My PLN helped make it better.
For those who are not teachers, a PLN is a Personal Learning Network. Mine is made up from my colleagues at school and elsewhere in the New York City Department of Education along with a couple of hundred really generous smart teachers I know only through Twitter.
Those Twitter friends really came through for me yesterday by teaching me what I already knew about what to do with that 34-student 8th grade social studies class.
When the class came in at first period today they saw a map of the Missouri Compromise on the interactive whiteboard we finally got to work (well, mostly work) early this morning, the homework for the next two days on chart paper, and heard Ashokan Farewell, a Civil War era song, playing on the speaker I bought for my iPod that I forgot I had.
The class entered in almost stunned silence. I taught a mini-lesson, we had a discussion, they did some group work, and for about 38 of the 45 minutes in the class they were engaged and participating
We still have to work on those group-work skills so we can get through a whole period, but I came away with a totally different feeling than I had when I left work yesterday.
I’m actually sorry they’re going on a field trip tomorrow and will miss our class. I’d really like to go with them and let us see each other in a different light, but since I can’t really walk much I’m staying behind.
As I thought about the difference between yesterday and today I realized that I owed a lot of the improvement to my PLN.
They didn’t teach me anything new; they just helped me remember what I already knew and couldn’t access.
And that’s when it hit me.
I couldn’t access what I know I knew because of stress, frustration, pain and other forms of dismay.
My students have the same difficulties remembering what they know, usually for much the same reasons.
All I needed was a little reminder, some sympathy, and a good dose of encouragement.
Maybe that’s all they need too.