"Don't be a sheep."
If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I could probably be retired by now. If I had had to give out a nickel for every time I said it myself during the first 13 years of my teaching experience, my bank account would probably reflect a very negative balance (Wait, it does, but that's something to discuss in another post)
The point is, that I am not so sure that this saying still has a place in my world nowadays. If I want to be honest, I know it does not have a place in my world today.
"Do you want to be a leader or a follower?"
What a very difficult question to answer. You see, based on my personal experience over the last 2 years, being a follower turned out to be a pretty good deal.
I joined Twitter in January of 2009. I wasn't really sure what to do with it (I already had Facebook), but that was the "new" thing to try, so I tried it. I followed a few people that had been recommended to me. It was nice. I enjoyed reading about all the different topics, and discovering all these new resources that they were sharing. I was so impressed by how much knowledge they had. Where did they find this stuff? Needless to say, I was way out of my league and there was no way I would ever post a tweet; I was not about to embarrass myself with my lack of knowledge or poor written English skills.Who was I compared to all of them? They knew so much. Yep! Twitter scared the C@#% out of me. But I kept at it. Every day reading, learning and learning more. What I didn't realize is that, with all this influx of resources and ideas, I was in the middle of my own Renaissance, my own rebirth. Some of these tweets made me feel so irritated ("What? Seriously? How can he say that?"), some of them made me feel vindicated ("I knew I was right"), and some inspired me beyond words. Twitter felt good. Irritated, vindicated or inspired, I felt good. I felt good, because for the first time in a long time I was thinking, questioning myself, and coming to my own conclusions just like when I was young. That creative/daring spark that used to characterize me as a "new teacher" was slowly rekindling. "I can do that too." "I bet it would work better if..." Slowly, I wanted to be part of this conversation.
It started with a couple of re-tweets of ideas that were similar to mine. It was an easy way to express myself, put my thoughts out there, without taking a major risk. But soon it wasn't enough. I too had ideas, and I could share them. So what if I was a non-native English speaker; It was only 140 characters. Surely I could handle that. Right? So, little by little, I started tweeting, and posting, and sharing. And wouldn't you know it, the weirdest thing happened? People started to follow me, and ask me questions or advice. Some also really challenged me, and I loved it. I wasn't scared anymore. This conversation felt good. It forced me to face who I was, and what I was about. Talk about finally growing up.
Then came #Edchat. Oh man! How was that for a conversation? A new topic each week; new interactions, new ideas. So many people, so many interesting and inspiring people(and a few goof balls), I was so excited to be part of something like this. It felt like being part of a revolution. But soon it wasn't enough. The conversation was great, and I was talking the talk, but if I wanted to keep going on this "new" path, and truly make the difference that we as educators all secretly hope to make, it was time to walk the walk. It was time to really apply all of this in my every day teaching. Rules and regulations you may ask? Yep, they were there (and still are), but this was a revolution. It was not just about me; it is about all these kids, whose future I am entrusted with. This was about the cause, and when the cause is just, people find the means. And so I did. Starting with parameters that I could control (my website, my projects etc...), slowly moving to convincing other people to join the movement ("Let's do #Edchat together, I'll show you. Don't be afraid"); begging my administration to loosen some rules ("Please let me try this; if it fails we'll stop.")
Add attending quality conferences such as METC 2010, meeting face to face with some of the people whom I had been following (Tweet ups are great, but man, was i kinda "star struck" with some), meeting new people, expanding my "circle of trust" (I mean P.L.N.), letting some of them convince me to become a presenter at future conferences (Happy Hour may be to blame on that one), and then it hit me; things had changed; I had become a leader; a real one this time; the kind that strives to better things for everyone and not just themselves; the kind that takes risks and accepts challenges; the kind that might make an impact after all.
So this is me... Accepting the challenge (write more than 140)... Sharing this experience...Saying thank you to all those who helped me (knowingly or unknowingly) get to where I am right now: a "leader" in my little world, but definitely a "follower" in the big One,