Much of our work as educators occurs in the classroom, surrounded by students, bringing literature to life, helping young people to find their voices, both as writers and witnesses to the world around them.
But when the bell rings, and the students file out with their binders and backpacks and our classroom is quiet for a moment or two amidst all the hustle and bustle of school life, the other part of our lives as teachers settles in. There is the cup of coffee, the stack of assignments to assess, the lessons to dream up as the solitary work of teaching begins.
Somewhere between the vibrancy and volume of the classroom, and the silence and solitude of the behind-the-scenes life of a teacher, there exists a vital intermediary space. Something that fuels the mind of the thoughtful educator, provokes new directions, helps to untangle knots in our practice, or point the way to new pedagogy.
In this intermediary space between the students and the solitary exits the professional learning life of the educator. This may come in the form of a like-minded colleague or mentor on staff, or a presenter at a professional development session whose words really provoke one’s thinking to grow. Increasingly, this professional learning network (or PLN) is also happening online. Social media sites like Twitter have increasingly become a place to learn from highly engaged educators and commentators, not only from within one’s school board, but also across the province, country and globe.
The English Language Arts Network, or ELAN for short, has been part of this professional learning network for over twenty years for educators of English, Language Arts, and Media in the area of adolescent literacy. ELAN has hosted conferences, expert panels, and guest speakers, sharing resources at gatherings of educators from across Ontario. While face-to-face meetings are vital, and we do hope to continue the tradition, the reality is that professional development budgets across school boards are tighter now, the labour situation more tenuous, and travel across the province is not always feasible. So, snowstorms and labour realities being what they are, we are reconfiguring to hold our party elsewhere, at least for now.
In 2019-2020, ELAN will be hosting a series of Twitter Tuesdays on the second Tuesday of the month, from 7-8 p.m. This, we hope, will create an online space for our community to happen, something beyond the hustle and bustle of the work day classroom, at a time when the marking and planning can be set aside, even if only for an hour. This is a time for the like-minded and the divergent thinkers to come together for an engaged meeting of the minds. A topic and series of questions will be posted a week or so in advance, and on the evening of the chat, we invite you to join us in sharing your answers, but also your questions, observations, and reactions. We hope these Twitter Tuesdays will help to keep the conversation going about new trends in literacy education to refuel and spark new ideas in English and Language Arts teachers for both the public and private aspects of their roles as educators and life-long learners. Join us, won’t you, as we #ELANon.