Lifelong learning applies to teachers, too. Reflecting on her practice and connecting to other educators helped this middle school science teacher fuel her students’ love of learning.

I’m curious by nature and want to do the best job I can in whatever work I do. In essence, I’m a lifelong learner. With the rise and spread of social media and the Internet, I’ve also become a connected educator — a teacher who exploits the connectivity of the global network to become better at helping students learn.

As a teacher, my work is driven by two kinds of interaction: what I do daily in my classroom with students and what I discuss and learn from my colleagues, locally and globally. Each of these drivers informs the other, producing a synergistic effect that keeps me excited about my job.

After two decades of teaching, I’ve reached a place where this push and pull between my teaching and my inquiry about teaching is constant. Sometimes this churn can leave me feeling like a foreigner in my own school and district. Most of my colleagues respect my professionalism, but many don’t have the same burn to test out new ideas or develop an online personal learning network.

It’s my drive to connect to other lifelong learners that first fueled my search for teachers outside my district. Thanks to social media networks, I’ve found several. And here’s the interesting thing: I need both kinds of teacher colleagues: the solid practitioners I work with every day who keep me grounded and my online collaborators who help me explore the “what ifs.”

Solid, traditional teaching practice

For years, I taught the assigned content, followed the curriculum maps, and proceeded at the prescribed pacing. In our learning model, we concentrated on decoding text structure, answered the questions in the textbook, and did the labs that went with every section and unit. I encouraged class discussion, and we used interactive science notebooks to work on scientific discourse.

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