Long Island Writing Project
By Nicolette James
I strive every day to be just a little bit better than I was the day before. Whether it’s being a bit more grateful, compassionate, or disciplined, it is my daily intention to consciously improve in some aspect of my life. With the summer offering a calmer pace at which to focus on doing that, I always look forward to having the extra time to dedicate to putting bigger plans for growth into place. One of my growth goals this summer is to expand my comfort zone in a realistic way that is applicable to my daily life. I wasn’t thinking bungee jumping or mountain climbing so it was much more difficult than I had imagined to think of practical ways to stretch myself a bit. Serendipitously, my friend Kathleen provided me with a just-in-time suggestion. She recommended that I use Twitter to connect with like-minded educators as I embarked on my summer learning projects..
I have known Kathleen Sokolowski for 15 years. We met through the Long Island Writing Project where we have worked together for many of those years co-facilitating the summer institutes as well as serving on the leadership team. We share similar passions and have had countless conversations about teaching and learning. As kindred spirits, she is someone whose opinion I value very much. She told me of her fairly recent experience with Twitter as a means of connecting with other educators and explained that it has reignited her teaching passion. She shared that experience with me two summers ago, but for some reason when she suggested that I give it a try this summer, the notion stuck.
As a longtime gadget geek and early adopter of all things tech, I'm by no means afraid of using technology. I use it and teach it and embrace it as a means to living a more productive and collaborative life. I'm also a very friendly person, in person, but I tend to be pretty “unsocial” in the cyber world. I have an account on just about every social media platform since their inception, but I rarely, if ever, use them. I just never got into posting what I was having for breakfast, where I went or what I wore last night and snapping a picture in front of the location to prove it. I have always felt that if I had an experience and my own memories of it, along with the folks who were there, that was enough proof for me. I didn't see the need in having other people know about it if they weren't there. After all, why would they care? I am also a firm believer in being fully present wherever I am. For me, that means giving my full and undivided attention to anyone or anything that is before me. By definition, that also means not using my cell phone while someone is speaking to me or while my attention should be focused on the activity at hand. It bothers me that so many people seem unbothered by that. Thus, my growth challenge was born.
Ask me to speak to a room full of people-- Sure! I can do that. Ask me to try an exotic new food. I can do that too. Ask me to walk up to and hug a stranger, I don't think I’d have a problem with that. My comfort zone would still be fully intact and unstretched. But ask me to use my phone while I'm supposed to be listening? GULP. Ask me to send out a tweet about something I'm doing while I’m actually doing it. GASP! You may as well request my first born next. I know. I know. What’s the big deal, right? Well, that is a big deal for me, and so I was presented with the perfect opportunity to do something uncomfortable and perhaps even mind-changing.
I was able to face these scary demons at the Edcamp leadership conference I attended recently. During the session, I looked around at a room full of participants all with cell phones in hand. Everyone was tapping and chatting away. They were all engaging with the members in the room, but it seemed that they were equally engaged with those outside of the room as well in a way that actually contributed to the energy in the workshop. So I decided to take a stab at doing so myself. I tentatively took out my phone and put it on my lap. I left it there for a few minutes and slowly placed it on the desk. I tried not to make eye contact with the presenter so she wouldn’t think that even the last person who had been listening attentively, decided to join the others in being rude. After a few minutes, I picked up my cell and logged into my twitter account. I didn't go crazy, but during the session I sent out a few tweets that captured some of the learning that was taking place. It was the first time I had ever done that. Several moments later a Twitter friend responded and thanked me for sharing the information and said that it had made his day. Knowing that eased some of the tension that I was experiencing. I was glad to be able to share with the key statements and ideas that we were sharing with each other during the session with a wider audience. And the presenter didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, she encouraged everyone to share twitter handles and to tweet pictures of the graphics she displayed on the SmartBoard.
Am I a convert? Do I believe that it's okay to “talk and tweet”? To divide one’s attention between tasks? No, I don't think I'm there yet. I still feel much better about giving my full attention to one activity at a time. Especially if one of them involves people who are physically in front of me. I still feel that it is inherently rude for me to text while others are talking. But I also know that “times are a changing” and perhaps I may have to as well. I don't think I'll ever become a person who shares a picture of a restaurant meal before I devour it, but I certainly plan to share more of what I have learned and how I continue to grow.
LIWP Guest Bloggers
Each month, a LIWP teacher will share some thoughts on teaching, writing, and life! If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please contact Kathy Sokolowski at email@example.com