By Jennifer Williams
Each day, there are countless opportunities for teachers to share their voices. And, many do. Through sharing within blog posts, professional development sessions, and discussions on social media forums such as Twitter chats, educators find platforms to connect and learn. For me, Twitter chats are spaces to not only grow as an educator, but they are also places that inspire my voice as an individual. In recent weeks, I was impacted in such a special way by a simple invitation, and I found that a "call to join" can have powerful and long-lasting effects.
The evening started out like many. Getting my own children to bed, tidying up the house, and retreating to my computer to check in on messages before reading. After reviewing emails and reading several shared articles, one Tweet in my notifications particularly stood out.
In a lot of ways, this tweet was similar to many that I send and receive in a day. A notification of a chat or of a relevant post of interest. But, in one distinct way, this message was different.
I always take notice of any messages sent by Carol Varsalona. As a like-minded member of my PLN, Carol is a treasured mentor and voice of positive inspiration.
In this message, Carol was inviting me over to the chat she was in. A personal invitation to join.
Though I received the message well into the chat hour, and though I had not scheduled to allot time that evening to commit myself to chats, and though I was unsure of even the topic, I felt compelled to join. Because, as you see, Carol personally asked me to come. And, this instantly ignited my excitement to be a part of the experience!
That evening it didn’t matter that I jumped into a chat that was well under way or that I was joining in with educators from a different state from my own. I was warmly and instantly welcomed into the group. Immediately, after introducing myself in the chat, I was engaged and a part of the discussion. Feeling a little bit transparent, I decided to respond to a tweet with an openness I don’t typically command in chats. As someone wrote about finding the time to blog, I admitted that this was an area of challenge for me. Within moments, others joined in and shared that this too was an area of struggle for them in their lives. With only minutes left in the chat, our small bonded group, with a newly formed allegiance to make time and commit to each other, pledged to together make time to share our voices through blogging and support each other in the process. In less than a quarter of an hour, we created a community. Over the following days, members of our new community, each part of our named #TribeofBloggers, shared posts and projected their voices—some for the very first time! This all leading up to my post here today.
As I reflected on the impact that one small invitation to join had on me as a teacher and a connected educator, I started to consider moments in the classroom. Do students feel this same way in a classroom? How do students feel a sense of belonging? What small, simple moments can amplify the quiet or silent voices in our schools--the students that are on the fringe and feeling just outside a conversation? Is it an unspoken truth that students are members of a community simply by being part of the classroom or are personal invitations to join needed?
I hope to work a little harder to make all students (and educators) feel included and part of the conversation. By sending out more calls to participate, I will look to ensure that each voice is included and represented. Just as Carol sent a special invitation addressed right to me, it is my goal to send out personal messages to students within a class community and to create contexts that empower voices; helping all to find their own paths of sharing and their own tribes to take on the journey of learning!
This blog post is dedicated to Carol Varsalona, the welcoming educators of #NYEdChat, and to our #TribeofBloggers Ben Dickson, Donald Gately, Angela Stockman, Terry Stoufer, Natalie Krayenvenger, and Sara Holm! Looking forward to our second posts in our series coming up in the next two weeks!