I’ve always been shy. Public speaking competitions & toastmasters didn’t change that. Put me in front of a group of people and expect me to say something coherent? Good luck. Anxiety rears its ugly head and suddenly my thoughts vanish. I’ve watched people who appear to be at ease while speaking to their peers and have tried to imagine what it’s like to have that confidence, that ‘smoothness’. No matter what methods I try, it doesn’t work. Blotchy skin and crazy heart rate work together as a team to stomp out any attempt to be social.
Ok, so now what? How do I share my thoughts with more than one or two people at a time (the usual size of a group I’m comfortable with)? How do I let people know that I don’t mean to be anti-social, it’s just that chatter isn’t something I’m good at.
Last year, my principal introduced me to Twitter. Hmm… Isn’t that just a bunch of people who couldn’t get enough of their Facebook status updates? People who need to ‘tweet’ what they’re doing every moment of every day? Didn’t seem like something that was that appealing. Especially for a professional!
Thank goodness she understood my hesitation, she smiled and nodded, and proceeded to show me some of the possibilities. 140 characters. ‘OK’. Share resources. ‘Oh, cool’. Look, there are other art teachers out there, see this list? ‘Huh? Really?’ Yes! See this group of ‘artsed’ people here? They get together to chat every now and then. If you want, you can follow them and see what they’re up to. ‘Seriously? I’m the only art teacher in our school, I’ve always hoped to see what other art teachers do!’
Now I’m interested.
The rest seemed to work itself out. I found out how to log in, and after a few more tips, I was hooked. Suddenly a new world opened up for me, and I could converse easily with people who had fresh new ideas and who wanted to share their knowledge. If I happened upon a scheduled chat time, I could follow the hash tag and maybe even take part. No pressure at all.
At about the same time, I began blogging. I’ve always loved keeping a journal, but I never imagined that I could write about my experiences in the classroom. I assumed that what I did in the classroom was something that happened between me and my students. They learned, I taught, end of story. Not quite. As I ventured into my first few blogs, I found new opportunities to share my thoughts. I had the time to reflect on my practice, to consider what I wanted to say, to edit, to plan and think some more. The first time I pressed ‘Publish’ I know there were more than a few butterflies fluttering in my stomach. The feeling that ‘It’s out there! Now everyone will know what I think. Will it be OK?’ …and you know what? It was OK. And people responded! Imagine that. I couldn’t believe that I had a new opportunity to sort out my thoughts in a public way that didn’t involve some sort of pressure (well, aside from taking the plunge to publish).
There have been a few more opportunities to share ideas with other professionals using various platforms such as Ning, Wikis and even Blackboard Collaborate sessions, but it all began by allowing myself to speak.
I’m so grateful for technology. Although there are many ways to approach a class through varied teaching techniques, there has never been a way to share my thoughts as a teacher. My PLN is invaluable to me and the resources that we share are so worthwhile. Chats give us the opportunity to sort out some ideas, while my blog forces me to focus my thoughts and to make an attempt to become a bit more social. Even if it’s not ‘f2f’. 🙂