Your PLN: Fuel for an Empty Tank

This last week I found myself flat out-of-breath. No, I didn’t run a marathon, take on a Spartan Challenge, or even ride my bike to work. I just found myself exhausted from the stress that comes with spring when you teach or lead a school. While I’m huffing, puffing, and in need of some rest, there will be no break for me. There is just too much important work, and I know that our school family at Union Valley Elementary is counting on me. Plus, spring break was just a couple weeks ago! Isn’t funny how spring break can actually leave us more worn out than how we felt pre-spring break? Despite that, rest doesn’t energize me. What really puts gas in my tank and pushes me past fatigue and doubt is my Professional Learning Network.

I’m talking about the Twitter tribe I connect with daily, #leadupchat. This group fills my tank every time we connect on Twitter and Voxer. In addition, to this group, my PLN right here in Buhler Schools synergizes me to shake stress and exhaustion. This group, my #313teach crew, helps me revisit the WHY of what we do as educators, and when the purpose of what we do becomes clear, that’s when I’m fully rejuvenated and ready to ride. I needed my PLN this week to put fuel back in my tank and help me remember that…

What We Do Matters…Forever
What I’ve learned year after year watching, talking, and deeply connecting with fellow educators is this….what we do matters. When we teach or lead a school, we make an impact, an immeasurable and lasting impact. I consider education a service, maybe the greatest service one can provide. Isn’t it invigorating to know that as a an educator the service you provide can be remembered for a lifetime? Think about it. How many teachers, education service-providers, will you fondly remember for your entire life? My guess is several. Will you remember your Internet or cell phone service provider for a lifetime? No, you won’t. You will remember that teacher, coach or principal that believed in you, invested in you, and helped you realize a dream. I remember mine. Huge shout-out here to Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Bolton, Coach Zeyen, and Coach Porter. We’ve talked about this a LOT recently as colleagues in USD 313, as well as in my #leadupchat Voxer group. Knowing that our kids will remember us–forever–puts fuel back in my tank.

What We Do is Messy But Beautiful 
Teaching and leading are messy jobs, and the stress of spring makes our work even messier. The mess of our work is darn-near defeating because there is no clear map for tangible success. That leadership truth really gets to me at times because I work hard to set goals, develop clear action plans, and monitor progress all along the way. However, when we really think about it, the mess and the murky map for success make sense considering what we’re working with. Our raw material is the human spirit! We cannot predict or measure the impact we have on one’s spirit, especially that of a child. However, we can guarantee this: What we do transcends what everyone else feels successful about…more money, higher status, exclusive privileges. Our measure of success can’t be found on a bank statement or reflected with a country club membership. Our success is measured by the young lives we guide, influence, and transform. Have you ever experienced a moment with a child when his/her life’s trajectory took off and at that moment you knew that he/she was going to make it? I know you have. Moments like that are richer than any CEO’s bonus package. Embrace those moments and share them with your PLN; stories like that put fuel back in our tanks.

What We Do is a Lifestyle Not a Job
I was recently talking to a non-teacher friend of mine who shared this sentiment…”I hate my job with every fiber of my being.” Have I had bad days as a principal or teacher? Absolutely! However, after 12 years in education, I’ve never been more passionate about what we do as teachers or school leaders and I’ve never been more connected as a learner. Twitter, Voxer, texting with my PLN isn’t a part of my job. It’s a part of my lifestyle. I actually have better days professionally and personally from the ideas, inspiration, support, and synergy I experience on a daily basis with my PLN. Yes, I like summer vacation, spring break, and take a sigh of relief when the bell rings at the end of my day and say to myself, “Whew. I made it again.” Nevertheless, my professional learning journey never stops. Think of your non-educator friends. Is their work a passion or a job? Is their work an event that consumes a large part of their day or a lifestyle that leads to professional and personal improvement? Those of us who have PLNs are blessed with professional learning lifestyles. Who needs a job when you have that?

My PLN…#leadupchat and #313teach….I needed you this week. Thank you for the perspective, passion and synergy. With you, I’m refreshed, refocused, and ready to relaunch as a leader!

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