I’ve been known to say that a big part of my job- arguably the biggest and most significant part- is to make connections.
As a technology teacher, I have the fortunate opportunity to work with PEOPLE and content. With at-the-elbow support, teachers tend to feel more confident about trying new things, and I love that moment when I hear “Okay, I got this!” or, “Thanks, I’ll let you know how it goes next time on my own!”. As with students, educators own their successes and can’t wait to celebrate them. When we work together to make connections between content and curricular expectations, it’s greatly satisfying. When we work together to connect THINKING, and curriculum, and LEARNING too… it’s simply amazing.
A second part of my Connection-Maker role is to ensure that we make connections between people to ensure the learning continues. When I was a first-year teacher in a tiny, private school in Texas, I made an immediate connection with my mentor, Samantha McDiarmid. Together we supported our love of teaching and learning- as she helped me navigate my way through managing a class on my own and a foreign curriculum (and quite honestly, a bit of homesickness too), I helped her remember what it is like to see a profession through beginner’s eyes. At this time she was also writing a paper on “Righteousness” and was struggling to type it out on the computer. I so loved the laughter we shared as we spent hours teaching and learning together; most often the laughter was at our own expense.
Not only did we connect with one another, we connected our passions to the learning. In our own way, we were gradually released from the dependence on the other’s expertise. We created a safe learning environment, our own learning goals, and in time, our own knowledge and skill base. However, it is the personal connection that I come back to again and again.
When we support others in new learning, it is essential that there is some follow through. What I continue to struggle with, is how to support a vast number of people and ensure it’s not a parachute-in and ejection-seat-out type of connection. I alone cannot make the learning continue… so the challenge now becomes, who, what or how can we ensure the learners are not left on their own to flail, or worse, to give up? (I think the answer is in making connections between learners themselves… but as I say, it’s something I’m working on!)
My hope is that I continue to be open to learning in this way and model it for others, in hopes that the connections made deepen our learning experiences. Isn’t that the hope of all educators, to guide students to make connections of their own?