From Virtual to Reality

Earlier this week, I attended, and presented at, TeachMeet HIlls out at Gilroy. LOVED IT! This was my fourth TeachMeet, and the second at which I’d presented, but my first since having become more active on Twitter.

I’d attended Domremy College and All Saints Liverpool, Girls TMs last year, and pushed myself way out of my comfort zone to present at Eveleigh in March… but I didn’t know anyone then, and therefore couldn’t embarrass myself too much, could I? At each TM, I loved the energy, the synergy, the dialogue and laughter with people committed to sharing their practice. And mind you, this is always after hours, after some in the general public think we’ve clocked out at 3pm to go home after working half a day.

As some of you may know, I’m in a position where I love the work I do, but am sometimes discouraged by the challenges of doing it… One of my bosses has cheerfully said, “Keep looking for ways to turn those challenges into opportunities!” I am a glass half full kinda girl, so I do keep pushing through, but often after scraping myself off the floor and looking for a new way to approach something – or someone.

Enter Twitter in March… Since the BIG TeachMeet, and then using Twitter for backchannels at a couple of conferences, I was hooked. Vivian Matiello had introduced #ozengchat in the same room where I presented at the big TM, and that became a great way to dip a toe in and meet like-minded educators. Not everyone who participates there is an English teacher, but certainly they are all passionate and dedicated educators who set time aside from their families and leisure to connect, share and support – (every Tuesday night from 8:30 – 9:30).

Over time, I re-tweeted, offered links and support, and entered into a few conversations, I followed more people, and my little network grew. (Not extensively, but comfortably :-)). If you are reading this, you likely already know what I’m about to say, and I found Jeannette James and her brilliant, heartfelt post “With My PLN, I Am” really resonated with me. Same with Daniel Edwards’ post about “The Ten Stages of Twitter”. Out there in the big, wide, virtual Twitterverse are all these dedicated educators who don’t whinge, who don’t complain, who just support, encourage, pass on resources, send a kind word, sympathise, encourage, reflect, and challenge my thinking.

Over the course of the last five months, I’ve found I have more energy, more enthusiasm, can contribute in a more positive manner. I think more broadly, read more professional blogs and literature, and am constantly inspired by the amazing work of others. I don’t feel like I am alone in wanting to improve my own practice, or to see the best opportunities realised for our students…I feel connected, supported, and proud to be part of such a brilliant profession.

Now back to Tuesday night, and the title of this post. When I was young, if the teacher called on me in class, I’d slide under the desk I’d be so embarrassed. But I value pushing myself out of my comfort zone, so plowed ahead.  I had great support from Monique Dalli. I prepared my PK – obsessed over getting it right – tossed and turned, felt sick all day, arrived at Gilroy late, didn’t see signs, wandered around the grounds – and eventually saw the signs at reception. After making my way through the corridors, I snuck into the back of the room where Polly Dunning was presenting (her great post on her experience is here). I tried to sit alone, but was quietly called forward… and here’s where virtual became reality. I felt like I had walked OUT of a cartoon or video game, through some magic bubble, and entered a new space and time… I was sitting next to @karlao_dtn, who was really sweet and humble Karla, and she wasn’t her Simpsonised dp! And next to her, @MalynMawby, and next to her, @Townesy77 for REAL! To my right @ellyconnolly (and a nice guy who seemed quite close to her, who turned out to be her husband Andrew @akwc). And at the front of the room, after months of tweets and support, was @1Moniqued. At the break, I chatted to Malyn (who’s as wise in person as she is online), hugged a bubbling Monique, and introduced myself to, then hugged Matt (@mesterman). Andrew Wharton (@whartonag) even approached ME and was so excited to meet ME in person – who would have thought? I was more nervous than ever going up to present… but shouldn’t have been.  Because everyone there was just there to share practice, and learn from each other; some were Twitter “celebs” (in my newbie experience..), but mainly people were just there to support each other, listen, share and learn. (I’m seriously a bit too old to get so star struck, but then again my experience of an online PLN over the past few months has been an educational lifeline…)

At the TeachEat, I got to talk to Jeannette James (@7MrsJames) who has been a tremendous virtual support in ways she probably doesn’t realise, and Karla, and Simon Harper (@s_harper3 – what a brilliant presentation, Simon – so much time and energy!), Matt, John Goh (@jonqgoh) and Monique. There were others I would have liked to chat to, but there will be other events, I’m sure. I don’t even remember much of what I ate because the conversation was just so good!

I returned to school the next day, floating a bit, and full of optimism and renewed energy to face my challenges, and turn them into opportunities. So if you haven’t been to a TeachMeet, get along to one soon … and if you haven’t experience the great PLN that is Twitter, what are you waiting for? Thanks to everyone who has shared my journey so far – there is truly strength in numbers.

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18 thoughts on “From Virtual to Reality

  1. Dear Denise,
    So lovely to meet you face to face at last and sharing more of our stories over dinner. Teachmeets are amazing. I love hearing learning more about education from those in the classroom. I always learn something new to try. Reflecting with other educators all over Sydney is an added bonus! I appreciate your gratitude here. We are lucky to have twitter as a medium to affirm, connect, challenge and inspire. It must be the “teacher” in me, but I love helping others. If a simple retweet, ping or quote can assist others than that is the least we can do. #payitforward The collegiality of global educators on Twitter never ceases to astound me. And one only needs to join….I am so glad to see more and more teachers joining the conversation via social media.
    @7mrsjames

  2. Hello Denise,

    Your post articulates the power of social media, and especially twitter, for teachers. I have spoken to many teachers, young and old who feel empowered and energerised by the collective wisdom of twitter and teachmeets but have not heard it put so eloquently before. Thank you for putting into words the wonderment, enrichment and the passion that so many teachers have. It is this unconscious willingness to so generously share that creates such a positive atmosphere.

    • Thanks, Greg, for your kind words. I hope post conveys not only the energy and excitement, but the gratitude I feel to those who so willingly connect and share of themselves to support others.

  3. Denise
    It was so lovely to meet you the other night also. Everything you have said here I agree with. Seventy plus educators sharing their practice is both liberating and energising. I am new to twitter and continue to appreciate the new connections I have for my PLN. Jeannette was also instrumental and extremely supportive with my move into twitter after meeting her for coffee with friends from edmodo at the end of term 1.
    It was wonderful to meet you and I look forward to sharing with you in the future.

    • I was in AWE of your presentation – the creativity, humour, skill, and persistence and TIME it took to put it all together… was really lovely to meet you! I don’t know if those who are so critical of teachers and what we do have any idea, when making blanket statements about the dire state of the profession, that there are so many like you and the 70+ and #TMHills, so just so selflessly share their skills and practice for the benefit of others. Ta!

  4. I know exactly what you mean! Even now, I get star-strucked by tweeps who claim to be ordinary and not doing anything special…. as if! We are all ordinary and we are all special and I think it is okay for me to still feel star-struck anyway. 🙂

    It was really good to meet you. You said such wonderful things to me that evening. Thank you again. See you in twitterverse and blogosphere and teachmeets and teacheats (though I missed this one), etc.

  5. So nice to meet you too, Denise! ’twas lovely to be able to spend so much time with such great educators – I’m also feeling revved up and excited after the TeachMeet!

  6. Well I missed out this time, but isn’t it funny we met in real life and we were not friends? And months later we are friends? It sounds quite the opposite to what it is when you meet a person in real life, doesn’t it? You’re an amazing contributor to #ozengchat and I feel privileged to be your friend. Thank you for your enthusiasm and feedback. It exudes all over our chat! I look forward to seeing you again soon!

    • So funny we were in the same room and didn’t realise where the connections would lead. Without your introduction to #ozengchat I wouldn’t have the PLN, or indeed the positive approach, that I have now. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude, but we’ve never even met… Thank you!

  7. Great post, my own PLN development and journey over the last 6 months seems very similar yours, well said. My next step is starting my own blog, I’ll just have to follow you. Thanks
    PS I watched you online last week

    • Thanks, Phillip! I spent months reading and learning from others’ blogs, then started commenting on some… I guess as a warm up, then sussed out from a few tweeps suggestions for getting started… And when I had the experience with my Yr 11s realised that was it. Just feels good to share, and I love the comments and dialogue after a post. I always like it when someone comments back on my comment, so I’ll try to do the same. Adds to community feel and supportive network. Ta!

  8. Awesome post, simply awesome. You capture the enthusiasm of a TeachMeet and the power of Twitter. As more educators and learners become connected, look out education system!

    • Thanks so much, Cameron…I hold you and the way you approach learning in high esteem, so your comments mean a lot. The connections feed me, and that only happens because others like you provide the energy, support and dialogue to keep those connections going. Many thanks!

  9. Pingback: Contemplating life, TM Gilroy, Expanding PLN’s and Taming the rock god « Simon Harper's Blog

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