PLNs.

I’ve been using Twitter since the summer of 2008. Not many of my friends used it, but I was determined that it was going to be awesome and better than any other social media out there. Flash forward about five years and here it is, 2013, and everyone and their mom is on Twitter.

Well, my mom isn’t on Twitter, but…my dad and brother are. Amendment to previous statement: Everyone and someone else they’re related to is on Twitter.

So it was only a few months ago, around when school was starting, when I talked to my tech savvy friend Tim about how I wanted to get connected with more educators. His advice? Twitter.

Tim rocks because he basically set up my PLN, pubbing me all over Twitter to his educator contacts. My number of followers rose (as did my number of those who I started following), and the vast amount of support from these other educators was tremendously encouraging!

Now, I’ve always loved Twitter — the 140 character quips are just too amusing. But, now I don’t only love Twitter for its jokes and witticisms, but also for legitimate support in my teaching career.

I love my third grade team at Parkwood — I’ve mentioned them so many times before because they are such vital assets to my sanity. Our PLC (for my non-teacher friends, that means “Professional Learning Community,” otherwise known simply as my grade level team) meetings are normally very productive, and we all work well together. The way we plan for our weeks is pretty simple: each of us takes a different subject to plan. One of us does math for the week, one does reading, and one does science/social studies, depending on what we’re covering at the moment. I am honored to say that I get the privilege of planning science/social studies, and I have loved every minute of it! This system is great because of a few reasons: (1) we all trust each other to plan solid lessons, (2) since each of us plans a subject for the week, our lessons are all pretty streamlined, which keeps us on pace with the district, and (3) it lightens our workload significantly throughout the week.

Planning science/social studies, though it has been incredibly fun and rewarding, has also given me its fair share of challenges, too. Because science/social studies aren’t “tested” subjects like literacy and math (though science is becoming more prominent), there simply isn’t as much out there for me to use when planning. Note: I am not saying there is nothing out there — just saying that the resources for reading/writing/math are far greater, at least in my first-year opinion.

I’m currently planning out social studies lessons for local history. Our third graders will learn more about Durham, and I couldn’t be happier to plan lessons that are so incredibly relevant for my kids! Our team is in the midst of working out kinks for a walking tour of Downtown Durham, and we’re working closely with the librarian to do a culminating research project about people, places, and events of Durham’s history. We’re going to make a timeline of Durham for our classroom and write paragraphs to compile a class book about Durham. Needless to say, I am thrilled about this!

Here’s where my friend Tim’s advice about using Twitter comes in: whenever I need an idea or any kind of help with virtually anything teacher related, I can ALWAYS find a response from my PLN.

My PLN, or Personal Learning Network, has been one of the most helpful things to me this year as a first-year teacher. As a first-year teacher, many of you know that you come into the game with little to no resources. You have the stuff from student teaching and your School of Education classes, and maybe a few helpful links from other teacher friends or professors, but that’s about it. You don’t have tests made, you don’t have projects completely planned out, sometimes you don’t even really know your curriculum!

In about September, I started participating in the New Teacher Chat (#ntchat) on Twitter. This hour on Wednesday evenings is dedicated to new teachers and answering our questions so we can get input from others. This has been an awesome resource for me because it reminds me regularly how I am never alone in my struggles with things like behavior and planning and balancing my personal life with my teacher life. We’re in this together, friends!

As my PLN continues to grow, I continue to find it more and more helpful. I personally love collaborating and getting ideas from any and everyone, and this online medium has been beyond beneficial. Seriously, whenever I need an idea for a read aloud or if I need resources for teaching about local history, there never ceases to be someone responding, trying to help me out in my first-year teaching endeavors. Though I haven’t met these people in person and I haven’t sat down with them around a conference room table, I still find these PLN “meetings” to be some of the richest educational conversations I’ve yet to have.

It’s a beautiful thing when I can rely on both my PLC and my PLN to get me through this year in third grade. I came in with only a semester of third grade under my belt, and I feel so much more prepared to take on 2013 in my classroom.

I cannot thank you enough for your continued support!

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