This post is a long, long overdue thank you to my twitter based PLN (personal learning network) who are also my teaching and writing support network and a constant source of inspiration and new ideas.
I was looking around for a new twist to a tired topic a few weeks ago. I had been staring blankly at a blank screen (repetition intended!) when I realised that inspiration was most definitely not going to come from within. So I reached out for twitter and posted a simple question.
Minutes later I received my first answer. It was from Alice (who was also the inspiration for a past post on weather reports), with a beautiful description of the clouds outside her ninth floor flat. I live on the ninth floor too. I love watching the clouds disappear over the horizon at sunset. It is an amazing experience, a special moment, but I hadn’t thought of it till Alice mentioned it. I’d got caught in a tunnel and my thoughts just weren’t flowing on their own, but as soon as I started getting answers in on twitter so many new directions opened up before me. And each tweet made me want to start a conversation, ask for more details, chip in with similar experiences of my own, go off on interesting tangents. This was exactly what I’d been looking for. Exactly what I wanted to capture.
There were tweets about kids …
and tweets about being a teacher (no surprises there!) …
Tweets about finding beauty in the world around you (like Alice’s clouds) and this one from Cecilia Lemos.
There were also tweets about big experiences, important experiences, life-changing experiences. What they all had in common was that each and every one started a conversation, each one struck a chord and helped me remember amazing experiences of my own, big moments and small moments.
And another strange thing happened. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, or a kind of noticing. You know how when you learn a new word or expression you suddenly start hearing it everywhere? Well the same thing seemed to be happening in tweets and blogs all around me that day.
Cecilia Lemos talked about the “small” (in quotations marks ‘cos I really think they were pretty big) victories in her class. Keiran Donaghy posted a lesson plan based on two beautiful short films both of which celebrate the amazing in the every day. And this took me back to Naomi Epstein’s post about her holiday in Alaska (and her amazingly beautiful photos) and how sometimes the teacher’s wow factor – the teacher’s “sense of awe” is too big, too removed, for the students to be able to identify with. (Please read her post, it expresses the concept so much better than I do!)
All these thoughts, all these experiences went so much further than the momentary block I’d experienced in front of my computer screen. It brought to the surface an incredibly important truth that I’d lost sight of in that writing tunnel. Materials have to talk to the students, they have to offer up stories and images and experiences that strike a chord, that bring the language and the lesson closer. So, thank you everybody. No-one’s story made it into the final lesson, but it was coloured by each and every tweet.
I’m going to try and repeat that tweeting experience in paper, in class as soon as I can – and I’ll be sure to report back on how it went. ( I hope it won’t take quite so long this time!)
[A footnote: I almost forgot to add that calling out to my twitter PLN and getting answers from all over the globe is always an amazing experience :-)]