In beginning my role as a high school counselor this year, I was faced with the task of building my PLN from scratch; as a teacher, I had a firmly established PLN that I had built up over the years, including being a member of multiple IB Language and Literature Facebook groups, subscribing to various teaching blogs, reaching out to my entire English department (both present and past members), and of course, COETAIL.
I’m now finding that because of the specific nature of my position as an international school counselor, that building a PLN takes a lot more effort. Not only are there fewer people from each school in this role (unlike teaching!), but also the specific challenges that I face counseling in an international setting is so different from the traditional role of a counselor in North America.
I decided that my best opportunity was to reach out to fellow counselors in my NESA region. Apart from organizing conferences in the region, NESA also facilitates something called “#nesachat Twitter Tuesday”
In January, I decided to try it out, especially since the topic, “Mindfulness in Education” related to the nature of my job. I already had a Twitter account that I had started in 2014, but as fellow COETAILer Ryan Lenz reflects on his blog:
I, like 98% of teachers who sign up on Twitter, made one or two posts when I first signed up, followed a few people (mostly friends and fellow teachers who had no idea what they were doing), and gave up within the day, considering Twitter as something for Kim Kardashian and local news stations.
Okay, so I had more than two posts, but still.
Although I didn’t make a lot of ground with my PLN through my participation in this first #nesachat, I DID reacquaint myself with Twitter. I then discovered Tweetdeck, added a few more colleagues, and vowed to keep up my active participation on the subsequent chats, held on February 7th and 28th.
As my confidence, proficiency (and followers) on Twitter slowly grew, I decided to approach the NESA region organizer about the possibility of guest moderating a chat on a topic that was of particular interest to me: the changing landscape of college admissions. My goal with offering to lead this chat was to connect and dialogue with as many colleagues as possible in my region who were in a similar role at their school. Before I knew it, I was scheduled on the roster for March 7th to moderate the #nesachat with my colleague, James Russell.
Here’s a couple of screen shots with some of the highlights from our #nesachat. You can find our full chat via Storify.
In reflecting on my PLN growth over the past few months, I would say that it has been slow and steady. Although I wasn’t able to connect with as many counselors as I had hoped, I did find the opportunity to dialogue and share resources on topics of interest to be rich and meaningful. I’ve connected with a handful of educators in my region at this point through the #nesachats, and hope to connect with even more counselors at The College Board’s Summer Institute for International Counselors that I’m attending this summer. Actively engaging in Twitter and challenging myself through my role as a #nesachat moderator was at times daunting, but extremely rewarding. Although only a number, my Twitter stats (as of March) also reflect this growth over the course of two short months.
I think that in slowly becoming a Twitter convert, I have found a very feasible online channel to continue ed-based discussions once I graduate from COETAIL:)