We begin our final episode in January 2018. I’ve Gone Through The Motions, gotten my Wakeup Call, and become Connected. But the most dynamic part of my journey was still yet to come.
In the new calendar year, I was again feeling a little detached. The slew of students in my classes were more difficult to deal with; several had no interest in school at all and plenty were being either disruptive or openly defiant during lessons. I still felt supported by my Twitter friends and at least some of my colleagues, but I felt as if I had hit some sort of wall in my teaching.
I was listening to an episode of PodcastPD with my Twitter friend Chris Nesi (@mrnesi) one afternoon on my drive home from school. Chris’ guest that day was a chap named Rich Czyz (@RACzyz), who had written a book on professional development called The Four O’Clock Faculty. As I listened, I began to understand that there was a deep need at my school (and within my own psyche) to go deeper with my own growth as a teacher. The books I had read, the chats I had participated in, those had been valuable…but I needed more.
I needed a daily, dynamic, personal group of colleagues who would be passionate about education and who would be there to talk about their experiences every single day. I needed a PLN that didn’t meet as words on a screen once a week for an hour, but as a regularly devoted clan of educators who had the same deep-seeded desire to go further that I myself felt. I needed to join a tribe.
MTT 3.0: #4OCFPLN. I had heard about Voxer from someone I met at a Google Certification workshop, but I hadn’t really experimented with it until that month. I found out that a group of teachers was starting a study of The Four O’Clock Faculty on Voxer, although I couldn’t tell you how I actually made my way into the group. Me being an audiophile and one who was dissatisfied with my current online interactions, I decided to give this a shot.
Once I got to know these folks, I realized that there were worlds of progress I needed to make in my thinking about school and teaching. The people in the book study group were uber-passionate: they ate education for breakfast, rubbed it in their hair, drank it on the way to work, snacked on it in the afternoon, dined on it at night, had generous helpings of it for dessert, and probably smoked it, shot it up, or snorted it in the middle of the night. They were full-on devotees; I was a dilettante.
But this group had something more than passion. They had compassion. Listening to them made me feel like there was no great mystery to getting better at teaching. There was no secret formula locked up in some vault somewhere. It was all about listening, reflecting, and implementing. The message wasn’t “We know what is going on, and if you don’t know, we can’t tell you.” It was “None of us completely knows what is going on, and we want to learn what you know about it.”
When we’d all finished reading and discussing the book, we realized that we had not only learned a lot about professional development, we had grown to like each other and the conversations we’d shared. We decided to keep the group going and to create a Voxer PLN, which we christened #4OCFPLN.
MTT 1.0 would have cowered and fled from such a group of educators.
MTT 3.0 remained behind to keep learning.
That decision brought me to where I am, professionally. Every day, I get to talk to brilliant, caring educators from all over the country about our craft, our thoughts, and our lives. #4OCFPLN is not just a group of colleagues, it’s a source of friendship, support, and wisdom. We talk about school, family, pets, books, movies, super-heroes, kids, vacations. And the fact that I get to hear these people’s voices, as opposed to seeing their words in a Twitter chat, means we have that much more human closeness.
What of MTT at this point? I’m not finished with my journey by any means. I don’t have all the answers, and I doubt I ever will. I’m still learning about what relationships with students mean, what the value of homework is, what role the students ought to have in voice and choice in the classroom. And a hundred other things.
And I will keep journeying. I will work, sweat, rage, think, reflect, smile, laugh, encourage, and love, this year and every year, and my companions will be there doing the exact same things and sharing their journeys right alongside me.
I can’t tell you what MTT 3.5 will look like yet. But he’ll be better.