Something I enjoy doing on Twitter is tweeting a message to workshop or training course participants when someone puts a call up to say hello and/or mention how Twitter and PLNs have been helpful. I hope that an “American in Seoul” sounds much more exciting and exotic zooming across the internets in such situations than it tends to be in reality. I had hoped to run a similar session on blogging/tweeting/connecting on a recent training course. Below is part of what I might have liked to share with participants.
(Readers might benefit from knowing that the course was held at a certain training center in Daegu, South Korea where I previously worked pretty much full-time. The course is (was?) sort of a “trainer-training-light” course where we focus on skills, knowledge, attitude and awareness needed to help other teachers in their schools.)
Some of y’all know this but some of y’all don’t:
I used to work here, like full time. I was here for most of 2009 and much of 2010. I was working on a wide variety of courses for English teachers. Some were more focused on English language ability and others were more on teaching skills. Now we are focusing on observation/feedback as well as mentoring and helping other teachers which is of course a bit different. Anyway, I have spent a lot of time in this room. I’ve had a lot of great learning in this room (actually more in the big room upstairs) and often have a sense of nostalgia when I am here. I think I learned and developed a lot here as a teacher, trainer and person.
One of the best ( and most interesting and unexpected) outcomes for me was how I met and worked with so many great trainers here and learned so much from them. So, when I left in the summer of 2010 it was a bit sad for me because I valued the professional relationships I’d formed here. It was a big change from working with lots of talented folks to working pretty much on my own. I didn’t actually realize it at the time but my new teaching circumstances in Seoul were quite isolated and isolating. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about teaching and training issues. Looking back, I was spoiled in here in Daegu with all the people to talk to about teaching.
So for a year I was pretty isolated. Then, at a KOTESOL conference and in a presentation by Chuck Sandy about communities and #iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) he suggested joining Twitter. I did. It was like a whole new world! Suddenly I was connected to all these like-minded people from all over. Well, actually “suddenly” might not be the exact correct word. It took a bit of time and effort. It took some time to get to know people and also to find my voice and style. It also took a little while for me not to get annoyed when people answered what I thought were nuanced questions in what seemed like a very matter of fact and black and white way.
I also said I found like-minded people and that is only partially true. Completely like-minded would be pretty boring, no? Everyone sitting around and agreeing and patting each other on the back for how right they are is not really a great opportunity for learning in my view. I guess when I say like-minded I mean people serious about the profession, people committed to development and the field. Some of the best and most interesting interactions I’ve experienced have been with people who have completely different views about teaching, learning and the field in general.
As we know, sometimes foreign teachers in Korea are not famous for their professionalism (whatever that means). I found great people in and out of Korea that are highly committed to the craft of teaching and want to keep improving. It was great to realize that I am not alone and that there are people just as nerdy about TESOL as I am. There are #TESOLgeeks everywhere. And it is not just that they are geeky, they are also smart and fun and caring and kind. I am still amazed at how giving and considerate the community is.
Rather than just go on and on about how great the community is (and I could probably do this for hours) I’d like to share a few quick examples of how joining Twitter and developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) impacted me.
As I said, I worked here in 2009 and 2010. I have come back for a few weeks of work each year and have also presented at Daegu KOTESOL chapter meetings every year (except this year) since then. When I came down here in 2011 it was great. I saw lots of familiar faces at the presentation and had a nice time. My experience in 2012 was actually quite different and even better in some ways. By that time I was on Twitter and “strangers” from all over were wishing me good luck. I was really touched. I couldn’t believe that people I didn’t even know would take the time to wish me well. It was motivating and exciting to know that people in Vietnam and Israel were sending me their support. This gave me a bit of confidence and a lot of a feeling of community. I was quite touched by the short messages of support and encouragement I received.
Another example comes from last year. I went to the JALT (Japan Association for Language Teachers) conference in the fall. One guy I met on Twitter basically insisted (politely of course) that I stay with him and his family before going on to the conference. When I met him it was like meeting and old friend for the first time. This was an experience I will not soon forget.
In addition to the sense of community and the friendships and relationships I have developed I also must add the sheer amount of resources and ideas I have encountered through Twitter. We talked about webinars the other day and I know that was a new word for many of you. So many times by just hanging around on Twitter I have heard of a (FREE) webinar coming up. There are also loads of journals and news articles and blogs and things like this that provide a constant source of development (and yes, distraction). It is a great way to keep up with what is going on in the field.
The surprising thing for me is how no matter what the seemingly small area of interest it is there is always someone thinking and sharing about it. There is something for everyone, it seems. I think that when and if you get involved with Twitter you will be shocked at how universal some of your concerns are. It is easy to think that some concerns are specific just to Korea but in connecting with people from all over from Serbia to Sumatra to Seattle to Seoul teachers share many of the same concerns.
We talk a lot here about colleagues sometimes not being super supportive and how you guys are often overworked and under-appreciated. I get it. I do. I also know that professional development without points attached to it is not really the done thing here in Korea. I know. I also know that sometimes social media has the reputation for being a bit frivolous. I know tweeting in English could be intimidating. With all these things in mind, I would still encourage you to give it a try. Let me know if there is any way I can help or if you have any questions I know that this is not for everyone but I didn’t think it was for me and I have gotten so much out of it! There is a whole world out there waiting for you.
I am @michaelegriffin on Twitter. Please feel free to follow me and please ignore the frequent silliness. Thanks for listening and maybe see you online.
Thanks for listening.
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