So, I’ve been thinking about peers, specifically teaching peers. How necessary is it to have others in my building who are thinking about or working on or passionate about the same part of teaching and learning that I am? Do I need to be part of a choir or am I ok with being a soloist?
Now, I think it is only fair to say that, I cannot in fact sing AT ALL. However, I think the analogy still works. You can switch it to sports and think about the need for a team if that works better for you. In any case, you get the idea. It’s also only fair to say that I think everyone I work with has some part of teaching and learning that he or she is really interested in and actively working and learning about. I do NOT want to suggest that lots of folks are sitting back and coasting. They aren’t.
The question here is: can we all be passionate about different things or do we need to have some choirs or teams so that people can both feel supported by peers and feel part of a beneficial learning community?
In some ways conferences and workshops offer a chance to self-select the choir we want. When I go to a workshop, conference, or unconference, that feeling of being with others interested in “my thing” is a big part of the value of the day. I don’t have to come away with 50 new ideas or 20 new lessons to feel the time was valuable. Often if I get a few good ideas and get reminded of a bunch more that I knew, but had let slip to some remote-parking-lot in my brain it gives me a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for what I do everyday. Throw in enough food and not being physically uncomfortable (don’t you hate when places over air condition?) and I’m more than willing to consider the day success. And, I don’t think it’s that I have very low standards for these things. I don’t. Any time I am at a conference I am missing something else-either being with my class or my personal kids. It’s not as if am not rolling in spare time.
One of the things that turns a good conference into a great one for me is the addition of feeling part of the choir, if only for that day. (Well, that and a really good dessert option.) There are some things that interest me as a teacher for which I have a choir at my school. I know to whom I can go talk to about a certain topic to share ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate with generally. There are other topics where I don’t feel as much like I have that group actually around me. Conferences and Twitter help me create a virtual choir. For me, sometimes it’s the choir I need more than a shiny new idea or strategy. I find it invigorating to be with a group of people who are all interested in the same thing I am. The energy I get is proof that 1+1 can be greater than 2. Even though I get lots of ideas from my students and I genuinely like to be around them, I like adults too. I like to talk to them, to pick their brains for ideas, to share what I am doing with them, and to feel that sense of common purpose.
So it turns out, I like to be in the choir. I don’t need to be with them all the time; it can be a virtual group. But sometimes, I need to hear and feel the power of all those voices and know that mine fits in, however off-key it might be.