I would not be a teacher today if it weren't for Professional Learning Communities.
As an alternatively certified teacher, I entered my first classroom teaching English II at a high school with only a couple of years of substitute teaching experience. But I knew I wanted to be an excellent teacher, for the sake of my students, and that I had a LOT to learn in a very short time. So I started talking to every teacher in my building who would listen and provide advice. I picked the brains of my department head, the English teacher down the hall, the librarian, the coach, the foreign language teacher, the 8th grade Language Arts teacher in the middle school building, the secretaries, the principal, and anyone else who I thought might be able to provide a piece of the insight and perspective I knew I lacked.
The following year, I taught 7th grade at a middle school built around the team concept. The teachers on my team and I all had the same lunch period, so we would meet in one of our rooms each day, discuss our triumphs and failures, call parents, and generally support each other. This experience, along with the privilege of working with a special education co-teacher with more than 35 years experience, shaped who I am today as a teacher.
At my current school, my department meets every Monday morning in a PLCs using a schedule our principal devised. Our grade-level teachers meet once per month. We meet in impromptu PLCs during the day, before school, after school — whenever we need to in order to work together, support one another, and enhance the learning of our students.
Without those built-in professional learning communities, I would not have survived as a teacher.
But that's not all. As a former web design and hosting company owner, I am most comfortable learning online. Anything I want to know is just a few keystrokes away. So naturally, I turned to the Internet to find answers I needed to my questions, and answers I didn't know I needed to questions I didn't even know I should have.
During this process of educating myself as a teacher, I discovered #oklaed, and a group of educators who saw potential in me that I didn't even know was there. Educational leaders who had not even met me provided support, encouragement, and the opportunity to use the strengths I have to help others.
I am amazed by this community and privileged to be a part of it.
UPDATE: For more information on developing your own online PLC via Twitter and other social media, sign up for my newsletter. I'll send you a free copy of my ebook The Power of an Online PLC.