When I speak about Twitter to other educators, to try to convince them to see it as an amazing tool for professional development, I often say it has been transformational in my life. Am I being dramatic with these choice of words?
No, not at all.
Twitter has become the ways and means to discover other passionate educators, opportunities, and ideas. Twitter first introduced me to the Two Writing Teachers and the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Twitter pointed the way to Margaret Simon and #DigiLitSunday. Today, both #SOL17 and #DigitLitSunday come together for this post.
Digital literacy provides connection and community. We find this in the SOLSC, where so many of us educators are blogging this month. Could I write for 31 days in a notebook and be changed? I'm not sure- I've never done that. I've taken the SOLSC challenge twice before, successfully, to blog for 31 days and share my thoughts digitally, in a community of writers who can comment. This has changed me. The SOLSC pushes me to live like a writer, to slow down, notice, share, and be part of a community of educators who value writing. The comments have validated my writing and given me confidence in my voice. Beyond the personal benefits of writing, there are benefits to being part of an international digital community of educators who write. Walls come down when we share our lives with each other. (I'm a big fan of walls coming down.)
This is my third year taking part in the challenge. While I've previously reflected mostly about how the writing changes me, this year I'm thinking about how reading other people's Slices changes me too. The Slices I've read this year have been in turns, funny, creative, poignant, moving, a pleasure. With each blog post read, I know a slice more about the writer- likely things I would never have learned about these people. A brother lost. A passion for playing the piano. What it feels like to be a teacher of color. To be questioned if you are worthy for the job you were hired for, based on your race. A teacher celebrating her mother's influence on her professionally and personally. Literal window shopping. And more....
Today, on #DigiLitSunday, as I write my fifth SOLSC post, I celebrate the notion that blogging in a community grows you as a writer and a reader...and as a human being. Yesterday, I was a participant in a Long Island Writing Project workshop entitled "Voice and the Voiceless", facilitated by Vicki Alessi and held on site at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. Vicki has traveled to Europe with other educators to learn first-hand about concentration camps and the history of the Holocaust. She challenged us to think past the outrageous number of 6 million Jews killed and think of the individual stories. We read poems about the shoes taken from those killed and saw a video featuring a very young child's shoe, a child killed in the Holocaust. We had time to explore the museum and focus on the people and their stories.
I still don't really have the words for this experience, for the feelings I felt. But my connection between that workshop and this post is stories. Telling our stories and bearing witness to other's stories is something we can all do. As a third grade teacher, giving my students a platform to share their stories digitally, through the Classroom SOLSC, allows them to also hear stories from students around the world. We are more alike than different. Knowing someone's story makes it awfully hard to see them as "the other" or "evil"- makes it less okay to strip someone of rights and human decency.
Slicing my life has helped me develop as a writer, which makes me a better teacher of writing. It has helped me live more reflectively, which makes me a better person. Slicing my life in a community of educators has given me another place to call home, an online family to care about and support. It has encouraged me to create this for my students- to help them be bloggers, to give them the chance to read and comment on posts from kids like them and unlike them.
The goal of all of this is to be a literate person who cares about the world and others in it. To use writing as a means of expression and connection. Doing this digitally makes the world smaller and more personal, and I can't think of anything more important right now than caring for and about each other- no matter what race, creed, religion, gender, culture, socioeconomic status....
Writing our stories, reading other's stories, giving this gift to our students...it's what we can do. it's what we must do.