Some language teachers are the only one or one of a few in their building. Other language teachers have a department to rely on, but may be in a different place in their professional development than their colleagues. I have a great colleague who I talk to every day and in years past I planned with a colleague on a regular basis. Whatever your situation, we can all benefit from building relationships with other language teachers. I am going to address building relationships outside of your own district by joining your state’s professional development organization, forming a professional learning group and creating an online presence.
I hope you have already joined your state’s professional development organization. In Massachusetts ours is Massachusetts Foreign Language Association and like most of them nationally, we have a newsletter, online site, workshops and annual conference. Over the years of attending the annual conference, I have come to know other language teachers who I have interacted with outside of the conference from time to time.
But for me the best thing to happen was that I joined the board of directors last year. Serving on the board, volunteering at the conference and presenting at the conference have put me in touch with dynamic teachers across the state. You can volunteer and present at the annual conference without joining the board yet consider applying to get to know other language teachers and administrators.
It is important to realize that sometimes you need to take the first step to bring people together instead of waiting for others to contact you. Be confident. Even those teachers who in your eyes may be stronger or further on the journey most likely would appreciate joining a professional learning group. My experience was that all I had to do was ask and a group of talented educators was happy to come together once every two months to discuss new strategies, articles, adopting a standards-based grading system and discuss chapters of a useful book. In my group there is a French teacher who presents nationally, a department head and other teachers like me who are still finding their way.
If you are reading this blog, you are seeing me model a strategy that I would advise to other teachers, create an online presence. There is an online community who is out there gathering ideas from blogs. I have only 23 followers. Some of my posts have been read by over three hundred people, but not all. The most popular are the ones that are ready-to-use ideas. I am not bothered that my circle isn’t large as I am continuing to build it. The easiest way to start an online presence is on Twitter. I retweet authentic documents that can be useful in instruction and on occasion take a picture of something my students produced and post it. I also use Twitter to encourage others to read my latest blog posts. I have only two hundred followers, so I use hashtags to widen my audience, like #langchat, #fle and #authres. Online relationships have served me well. I have asked for help on Twitter and received it. I even had a teacher I never met revise my presentation for a conference. There is a Facebook page called Musique Mercredi where I have received new ideas and activities as well as posted some of my own. I may never meet in person any of the members of my online community, but relationships with them have been valuable.
We are social beings and learn great things from others. I encourage you to build relationships with other language teachers.