So, I’m ashamed to say that I have finally just now encountered the wonders behind the networking tool they call English Companion Ning. After scanning through several of my classmates’ blogs, I came to realize that in creating the various accounts to incorporate in to my PLN, I completely forgot to create an English Companion Ning account. I had planned on writing a random blog last night to further illustrate my progress thus far, but I quickly found that my attention was instead drawn to the dozens of blog posts created by English teachers of all ages from across the country. In my excitement, I decided to quickly join the network and become a part of this information sharing. As I looked over the discussions in the various groups, I found that I was presented with many of my own questions and decided to begin posting these inquiries. Keep in mind that all of this work was completed around 1 am this morning in continuation with my “night owl” status. By 10 am today, I was notified that I received DOZENS of replies to my questions and requests for advice.
The greatest number of responses came to a question that I posted under the “New Teachers” group. I addressed my concerns that I have as a future teacher with a very young appearance, i.e I look as old as some of the students I am going to be teaching. I’m honestly touched at the immediate and thoughtful responses I have received from those in my field. Teachers have posted advice, encouragement, and, most importantly to me, their own personal experiences and how they successfully dealt with the same problem. This discussion board in this group has proven to be my favorite as it enables me to talk with new or potential teachers who all understand how intimidating teaching can be. They can use their successes and failures in the classroom to help those coming in to the field.
One of the most helpful responses came to me from Florence DeKoven, a 24-year-old teacher from California. She first told me about her own struggles of being mistaken as a student, then posted,
“There is nothing I/we can do about our physical appearance, so I embrace it and use everything to my advantage… Being young (and young looking) also draws your students in because they see that you look young, just like them. It makes you that much more relatable as a teacher!! And they love that… I am sure you CLEARLY show your competence as an educator, and that’s what matters. Just set your ground rules straight with students, and make sure they maintain respect for you as their teacher and nothing else. PROVE to them you have lots to offer as an educator, and that’s what they’ll see in addition to your appearance. :)”
It’s so nice to see that young teachers will take the time to reassure those of us who are new to the field that the small challenges can be overcome. These small words of encouragement have given me a new boost of confidence and have only encouraged my excitement at what lies ahead for me as an English teacher. So thank you Florence :).
Another one of my favorite groups present on this site is the “Teaching Texts” group. In this group teachers just post the title of a book that they wish to cover in their class and other teachers are enabled to post ideas for lesson plans or fun activities on that particular novel. Because I am covering the book and lesson plans for Go Ask Alice in my LLED 420 class, I decided to give it a try and post that title. Though I have only received responses from one individual, Carla Beard, our one-on-one discussion has already helped me expand my ideas for my lessons and even encouraged me to change what age group I wish to teach the novel to. It’s so nice to receive any advice from an established teacher, so her honest assistance, encouragement, and words of wisdom are greatly appreciated. So, props to Carla for taking the time to help me so much!
So, even though my exposure to what is offered by English Companion Ning is minimal, I already have gained great respect for this site and cannot wait to get further immersed and involved in the discussions. The only true downside that I have discovered thus far? When you join a group on the site, you are automatically “following” the group, i.e. you’ll get bombarded by emails informing you every time a new group member joins, anyone creates a discussion, anyone posts a response, pretty much any time anyone breathes while on the site. Solution? After joining a group immediately go to the bottom of the discussion and click on the words “stop following this discussion.” For the sanity of your inbox, you’ll be happy you did.
Now that I’ve got that small “glitch” out of my system, I’m going to list some of the positives of the site in attempt to help others become as obsessed with the site as I am:
1. This is a site specifically for English education teachers only, this is huge because these teachers face the exact same thing you are!
2. The group “New Teachers” is so helpful because you can finally bring up those questions and problems that someone new to the field would be struggling with, and get responses, advice, and personal stories from teacher who went through or who are going through the same problem
3. It enables teachers of any age and experience level share stories and lesson plans that they thought were extremely successful (or big flops!)
4. Finally, you get the kind of interaction between hundreds of teachers that you would never have in a traditional school because of schedule and school size conflicts. This network enables teachers to hold on to that “advisor” idea we have come to focus on while in college.
My discussion boards thus far:
Go Ask Alice
How do you make students want to read?
How do you deal with being a “young-looking” teacher?