Most teachers by now are part of a professional learning community (PLC) – a community or team of teachers that encourage professional growth and reflection on your teaching practice. You may also be part of a professional learning network of your online colleagues from around the globe.
But have you ever thought about having a personal learning community? I submit that a personal learning community is just as important as your professional learning community. What is it, you ask? Let’s explore.
A personal learning community is focused on your personal development and how it impacts your teaching (either positively or negatively). This is a group of other teachers (but maybe not from your school or your team) that know you, know your heart, and know your intentions to be a teacher that fosters both the academic and personal welfare of the students in your charge.
These teachers understand your plight to come from a place of authenticity and wholeheartedness when you stand in front of your students.
First, let’s back up. Here are the down and dirty basics of wholehearted teaching:
- Teaching is no longer just about imparting content. It’s about teaching students to think and interact with the world and those living in it.
- In order for students to be successful in this environment, they need to know how to collaborate, communicate, innovate, and create.
- And ALL of those skills, my friend, are underpinned by one underlying trait – wholeheartedness. Students MUST know their value (they are worthy), know their limits (be humble), know the importance of taking risks (fail forward), and feel belonging (I am accepted because I accept myself). I call this wholeheartedness (borrowed affectionately from Brene Brown).
- Students need models of wholehearted adults in order to cultivate these traits which will ultimately make them successful. And unfortunately, most adults in our “never enough” culture do not model the above traits.
- So therefore, in order to create the learning environment in which students will gain those skills, we as their teachers MUST be wholehearted.
- Plain and simply, your personal “issues” (perfectionism, control, insecurity, shame, preoccupation with what others think of you, anxiety, comparison, self-doubt etc.) impact your students.
- When we work on ourselves and address these issues, we can be the teacher our students truly need us to be if we are ever going to prepare them for this crazy world.
This is why we need personal learning communities. We need people who can help us work on ourselves so that, ultimately, we can be better teachers!
So who is in yours?
- Who can you turn to on a rough day who will validate without giving in to negativity?
- Who can help you to laugh at yourself and your expectations?
- Who can help you see your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses?
- Who can pull you out of a bad day and move you from a negative moment to positive momentum?
- Who can you really get real with and be vulnerable? Who sees your weaknesses and still understands the intentions of your heart and helps you to move forward?
- Who can help you move from survival mode to thriving mode?
Whoever you are thinking of right now, go write him/her/them a text, email, or hand-written note to thank them for that role that they play!
If you aren’t thinking of anyone, then start looking for that community. Start cultivating those relationships. Find a supportive community of folks that you can walk in this journey with.
I would say they don’t have to be teachers, but having fellow teachers as part of your personal learning community is really nice because they “get it” like others can’t.
If you are looking for a community like this, you may want to get involved in one of coaching groups for teachers. Find a time on my calendar if you are interested to find a group that fits you.
Whether it’s a Teacher Circle or another personal learning community, I hope that you can find and cultivate a group of fellow teachers whom you can get real with so that you can grow in your own wholeheartedness.
Fostering your learning community for your personal growth is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your students and is as important (if not more important) than professional learning and growth.
The impacts of such a group to your life and your teaching will amaze you!!!
~Alison, A Teacher’s Best Friend
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