Be a Connected Educator
Sarah Shackelford, Finneytown High School
Publications and Advocacy Chair
For many of us, becoming a connected educator transformed our lives, giving us wide and immediate access to networks of experts and peers invested in improving education practices and willing to share their favorite tools, resources, and strategies.
How do you “connect” professionally? What are you doing personally to enrich and enhance your own expertise in the classroom and to collaborate and share ideas and resources with colleagues? In what ways, outside of your own classroom, are you supporting our professional mission to build a multilingual citizenship capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century?
1. Face-To-Face Connectivity
Connectivity often begins at the state level by joining OFLA and attending OFLA conferences and special workshops. There is nothing better than face-to-face contact for obtaining good up to date professional development, making friends, and beginning to grow networks. In addition, OFLA participation ultimately leads us to broader awareness of the profession itself and the wide varieties of issues to explore in greater depth, the important connections to be made outside of the state of Ohio.
Connectivity “stage 2” of the face-to-face type are the regional conferences that bridge the state and national levels of our profession. In 2013, OFLA hosted the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL) in Columbus, and we are very excited to announce that CSCTFL will return to Ohio in 2016! Mark your calendars now for March 10-12, 2016 and plan to attend CSCTFL 2016 (a joint conference with OFLA) at the Columbus Hilton Downtown! CSCTFL has the intimate size and collegiality of a large state conference, but the scope and variety of a national conference. Known as “the Friendly Conference”, it offers wonderful networking, highest quality professional development, and important perspectives and connections that reach well beyond the borders of our state.
Connectivity “stage 3” of the face-to-face genre is support and attendance of the specific national language conferences (AATF, AATG, AATSP, etc.) and of course ACTFL (the large, national level conference for world language teachers). These conferences are generally rather expensive and can sometimes be a bit intimidating in terms of size alone unless one has first begun participating and making friends at the state and regional levels. (Also note that participation at these levels carries the possibility of potential sponsorships and scholarships to help make attendance at national events more feasible.)
It is a good idea to attend (or at least support via your membership fees and Advisory Council dues) your state and regional conferences and at least one national conference (ACTFL or one of the specific language organization conferences) each year. There is cost and time commitment involved in supporting conferences, but the eventual personal “pay out” far exceeds cost. It is a matter of professional priority. All these conference organizations will continue to advocate for you in your school districts, universities, state capitals, Washington D.C. and elsewhere. And will provide leadership, information, professional development and more whether or not you personally support them…. as long as they are financially able and as long as there are other world language teachers who continue to be generous with sharing their time, involvement, and ideas. Perhaps there will be some years when you will not feel the need for professional support… But what about the other years when you will need support? We have seen an example of this great need for support in 2013-2014 with all the changes in education here in Ohio. Please help ensure that professional organizations stand ready to serve you by continuing to attend and support their conferences. Consider becoming a more active participant also, and give presentations and workshops, or volunteer to work at the conferences.
2. Connectivity via Technology
We also connect with one another via the amazing opportunities afforded us by technology – the listservs (OFLA and FLTEACH), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest , blogs, wiki pages, and more. Once we grow beyond the “lurker” stage of participation in these communities, we begin to broaden our personal learning networks in an incredible way. I can’t believe how much I learn nearly every day from the generosity of educators across the country and around the world. There are numerous helpful articles available for learning how to connect via technology. I urge you to consult these and to begin exploring all the available opportunities. At minimum, please become a “follower “ of the following networks….You will never regret doing so! The more connected you become – via both face to face and technology related means – the better teacher you will be, and the more personally fulfilled you will feel. NOT to connect, on the other hand, probably spells professional doom in this 21st century.
OFLA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ohio-Foreign-Language-Association-OFLA/133772903332973?ref=hl
OFLA Twitter: https://twitter.com/OFLA1
CSCTFL Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CSCTFL
CSCTFL Twitter: https://twitter.com/csctfl
CSCTFL Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/csctfl/
OFLA Listserv: send subscription message to firstname.lastname@example.org
FLTEACH listserv: http://web.cortland.edu/flteach/
Advocacy: watch for OFLA listserv forwards from JNCL-NCLIS ; use Capwiz when alerted to send messages to your congressional representatives and Senators