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The Value of Connection

 The following blog post grew out of comments NCTE member Michael Rifenburg shared during the online conversation you can view below. The conversation was hosted by the Connected Learning Alliance last week and recapped our work on events around the theme of Collaboration and Capacity Building during Connected Educators Month.

Spring semester 2014.

I am sitting in a circle with twelve senior Writing & Publication majors. It is my second semester as an assistant professor at the University of North Georgia. This time last year, I was hurriedly finishing my dissertation, filling out form after form in preparation for a May graduation, and on the job market.

Now here I am: a tenure-track professor tasked with teaching a senior capstone class. I had given the students a brief in-class writing prompt, a question about the audience for the final paper they were drafting. While they wrote, my eyes scanned the room. I felt out of place.

Lost. Disconnected.

As a grad student at the University of Oklahoma, I had been fortunate to have a tight group of friends. Through the shared experience of the graduate school gauntlet, we bonded. We commiserated over capricious professors, read each other’s work, navigated teaching obstacles. All together.

But sitting in that room with the undergrads, I felt like I had lost that togetherness. I didn’t feel connected to my colleagues, some of whom were more than three decades older than I am, and I no longer was having impromptu hallway chats with fellow grad students.

Why my involvement in Connected Educators Month?

Because I needed to reignite a flickering connection to other educators.
Because I was going through a challenging transition from an R1 to a teaching university (I blogged more about this transition detail here).
Because my students needed an educator who was (digitally) connected.
Because my students needed an educator.
Because of my students.

Traveling the trail of the teaching professor leads one through highs and lows. To make one’s way along this trail, one needs to connect with others. These connections can be digital via the wide-variety of twitter hashtags or face-to-face at conferences. Whatever forms this connection takes, it needs to happen.

Because of our students.


 

Check out these links to explore more ideas about the power of community and collaboration: