Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Power of Networking, and Serendipity

Let me start by saying that last week I turned 40. The "Big Four Oh".  Over the Hill (as my teenage daughters like to say).  But if 40 is the new 20, let me get to 50 in a hurry, because I would NEVER want to go back to 20....or 30 for that matter.  It is certainly true that in many ways, age is just a number, HOWEVER, along with all our visible badges of honor (read:  crows feet and frown lines) comes experience that can't be bought, downloaded, or absorbed through the skin.  No, experience is a product of living life, and being willing to FAIL (First Attempt In Learning)...repeatedly.

I attended a professional development conference this morning sponsored by LECNY -- Language Educators of Central New York.  LECNY is the local chapter of our state organization NYSAFLT (New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers).  The format was something they called "Quick Takes" -- eleven 15-minute presentations on a variety of topics relevant to foreign language teachers.

The first presenter was Rose DiGennaro -- one of my former student teachers.  I thought I might burst when she credited me with teaching her some of what she was sharing with what have become OUR colleagues.  That was a first for me, and it sure felt good.  It's amazing the pride and satisfaction that comes from seeing first hand that you have had a part -- however small -- in helping someone to grow into an accomplished professional.

I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my "Tweeps" face to face. I've often envied other of my Tweeps who have had the opportunity to meet members of their digital PLN at in-person conferences, but this was my first such opportunity.  It was definitely as cool as I imagined.  Audrey Misiano and I realized a few months ago that we taught in districts not too far apart.  She almost had an opportunity to observe one of the teams in my school, but it didn't work out.  She was another presenter at this morning's conference, and she rocked!  It was her first experience as a presenter, and she had mentioned beforehand that she was very nervous.  I was far from alone in offering her words of encouragement.  It was a magic moment when she stopped feeling like a presenter, and slipped back into her role as teacher.  She was a natural, and it was wonderful to hear her share with our local colleagues some of the ideas and sentiments that I recognized from some of the Twitter chats in which I've participated with Audrey.

The highlight of my day, however, was related to a former student of mine, Alyshia Wilcox.  We've kept in touch since she graduated from high school, and now she is one test shy of being a New York state certified French teacher.  There are few greater honors for a teacher than to have a student follow in your footsteps and become a teacher in your content area.  She contacted me last week to let me know she had completed her Master's Degree, and was moving back to the area.  I invited her to the conference, and she was able to attend.  She has her first interview for a teaching position on Wednesday, and was looking for some tips.

I left the conference feeling truly like I had made a difference, however small, in the professional lives of three people.  What a great feeling, and too often out of our reach as teachers who can often feel isolated and underappreciated.

But the best was yet to come.

I was shopping with my turning-13-tomorrow daughter, and ran into a former guidance counselor from my school who I hadn't seen in about a decade.  Talk about kismet, she is currently working in personnel in the district where Alyshia is interviewing on Wednesday.  All I can say is, WOW.

So, the moral of the story, is to wear your "Badges of Honor" proudly, enjoy the wisdom that your life's experiences have granted you, and never underestimate the power of networking...and serendipity.

My challenge to you:  (Did you think I forgot?)

Get yourself out there and actively try to make a difference in another aspiring educator's professional life:

  • take on a student teacher
  • mentor a new teacher
  • Retweet one of those "welcome (insert newbie's name here) to Twitter" messages
Share your experience, and good things will come back to you.

Let me know how it goes!


  1. Madame - we had wildly different expectations and skill sets, but you challenged me at every turn and made me me think about what I was doing. You taught me that you can eat with the kids, you can play with the kids, and that you need to talk to the kids. I learned to be conscious of myself and the students in your classroom. I'm still an enormous work in progress. It's pretty cool to say that my language teaching pedigree includes this awesome French teacher Madame Brady :) If I didn't say it before, merci :)

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words. We are all works in progress, or it's time to retire. It was great to see you again. Keep in Tweet! ;)