In 2011, I wrote a blog about educators being free thinkers. I was struggling at the time against conforming and doing what I thought was right. I went my own way, as I usually do. The results were splendid, thankfully.
I deeply value the freedom to think and make my own choices. I love our country, because I spent much of my childhood in countries where free thought was not allowed. My goal as a teacher and leader was to help my students and teachers become thinkers rather than zombie-like followers. We should be a people who question and push. New ideas and methods appeal to this part of me.
2017 finds me teaching at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, which is an amazing experience. I wondered if I could love my undergrads and grad students as much as I love my middle school and high school students. The answer is "YES!" These future teachers and leaders push me to think deeply about my practice, my beliefs, and my experiences.
This step outside of K-12 has allowed me to look inward and see things I did not see while in the midst of school. Teachers and leaders need outside connections to grow and flourish. We can become so isolated within our classrooms, schools, districts, and states. Even in schools with the strongest collaboration models, we can become stagnant.
When I began in this profession, the only way to communicate with peers outside of my school was by mail or phone. Now we have tons of options! I joined Twitter this past summer as part of a communications course I was teaching. I do not believe in teaching something I do not practice. I used it a little bit and thought it was fun, but really did not invest myself. Then I found Escaping the School Leaders' Dunk Tank by Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter. I read it twice in a week. (Read it). God works in mysterious ways and Rick's life ran straight into mine. He and Rebecca invited me to a chat on Twitter. I found all of these amazing educators, who talk to each other daily! They share ideas, offer solutions, and most of all give a different perspective. Some of the cool authors I have read over the years follow me! WHAT! (Yes, I did a few little gleeful dances. I am a nerd.)
Being a free thinker is a difficult thing if you only ever look at the immediate. By expanding our horizons and seeking the ideas of others, we strengthen our minds and our own practice. The chats over the past few months have inspired me to ask new research questions and to consider new possibilities.
If you are an educator, step outside of your realm. Push yourself to grow. Be a free thinker! Join a TwitterChat. You will meet people from places thousands of miles away. You can ask questions, push back, consider alternatives, and shun the status quo!
As I've said before, if we all rock our little boats together, the ocean will move.
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