15 Lessons Learned for the 2020-21 School Year: #4 Lean on Colleagues & Professional Networks

Here’s my team. This was the day we went back into school to pack up our classrooms for the summer and now beyond.

If you’ve read the prior posts in this series, you’ll have probably noticed that I mention my fifth grade team quite a bit. Every single day, I think about how fortunate I am to work with a cohesive, collaborative, and supportive team. Not only are we teaching colleagues, but also we are close friends. We have the kind of friendship that feels like we’ve known each other forever. But, we’ve only been together as a team for four years (with a one year necessary grade level move and then move back). We’re the kind of grade level partners who have very different personalities and teaching styles, but who share the same exact educational values and philosophies. My team, Katie and Laura, are not only are my biggest cheerleaders, but also they’re the first people to push back on some of my ideas and challenge me to consider thinking about things in a different way. I appreciate them immensely. I wish everyone could have a Katie and Laura to work with. During our shelter in place, we talked on the phone or Zoomed daily. We laughed, cried, and problem solved together. I could not have done it without them.

This post is a little different than the first three posts in the series…

Mistakes I Made in the Spring of 2020 Something to Celebrate from the Spring of 2020

See what I did there? One of the things I can look back on about the spring of 2020 and wholeheartedly celebrate is that I heavily relied on my entire school team and they heavily relied on me. We all really worked well together, and we will continue to do so once school starts up again. In my post coming up on August 6th, I plan to share a little bit about how Katie, Laura, and I are planning to work as a grade level team to make the most of distance learning for our students. I’m really looking forward to sharing some of our ideas!

I do have to say, not only am I fortunate to have Katie and Laura, but I am incredibly lucky to have my entire school. My principal, teaching peers, and all of our support staff really leaned on each other, learned from each other, and wholeheartedly supported each other in this incredibly difficult work last spring. I am fortunate to be lead by a thoughtful principal and to work on such a supportive and open teaching staff. Last spring was hard. It would have been much more difficult without Katie, Laura, and the entire team of staff members at my school.

What I’ll Do Moving Forward As the School Year Begins What You Can Do if You’re on Your Own

See what I did there again? In talking with other colleagues from across the country, I fully recognize that not everyone has a collaborative or cohesive teaching team or supportive school leadership to lean on. I would have been lost this past spring without my team. But, I also have other networks in education who I seek out for support from as well. Educators need support and camaraderie right now more than ever before. Going it alone is terribly lonely and difficult- I know, I’ve been there in the past. So, if you do not have a Katie and Laura like I do, or even if you do and are looking to expand your professional network during these isolating times, you might consider one of these other options.

  • Join a professional network. I’ve been a member of NCTE (The National Council of Teachers of English) for seven years now. Throughout our shelter in place, NCTE has offered numerous online member gatherings, webinars, social hours, and so much more (learn more about NCTE’s events here). Plus, NCTE has many different caucuses, assemblies, and affiliate groups around different interests and missions in education. NCTE has been as much of a support to me as Laura and Katie have been. I’ve made so many professional connections and friendships over the years through NCTE. If you’re not a member yet, I cannot recommend membership enough! If you’re looking for support, you’ll find it with NCTE. Plus, the annual convention is my favorite weekend each year. It takes place every November, and is virtual this year (obviously).
  • Join a Twitter Chat. Twitter is much more than a hot bed of celebrity musings and government blunders. Believe it or not, I actually met my coauthor of To Know and Nurture a Reader, Kari Yates, in a Twitter chat- the G2Great Twitter chat to be exact! Eventually, we met in person- at one of the NCTE annual conventions no less! But, our writing partnership and friendship started online in a Twitter chat. So, I’m proof that the potential for creating valuable professional connections online is alive and very real. A Twitter chat is just what it sounds like- it’s a chat on Twitter around a common topic. Anyone with a Twitter account can join a Twitter chat (click here to learn how to get started with Twitter if it is new to you or here if you have a Twitter account, but need help using it). In addition to meeting my coauthor on a Twitter chat, I have learned a great deal about literacy education that I might not have learned otherwise. If Twitter chats are new to you, you can learn the ins and outs with this step by step resource or with this video. As a literacy teacher, there are three chats in particular that I highly recommend:

    #TCRWP chat led by the minds at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Wednesdays, 4:30pst

    #G2Great chat led by Dr. Mary Howard & team, Thursdays, 5:30pst. The #G2Great chat archives can be found here.

    #NCTEchat (of course!) led by different members of NCTE the third Sunday of each month, 5:00pst. An archive of NCTE chats can be found here.

    You can also seek out other educational chats by consulting this list. It’s a massive list! So, no matter your educational interest, there is a chat for you.

Until we can sit around the table to chat, laugh, and plan again in person, we’ll have phone calls, text messages, FaceTimes, and Zooms. When that won’t work out or if it’s not possible one day, I’ll have those extended professional networks that I’ve created for myself- especially through my membership with NCTE and connecting with other educators through Twitter. These are trying times for educators- probably the most trying we’ll ever experience. I think I can safely say that. It’s not the time to go it alone. It’s ok to lean on others right now. We all need each other more than ever before. And, if you aren’t sure where to start. Feel free to reach out. I’m here for you!

Post #5 is coming up tomorrow! Tomorrow’s writing will discuss the importance making time for family and friends once the school year starts.

All posts in this blog series will be housed here: 15 lessons learned for the 2020-21 School Year, July 20-August 7th Click on the follow this blog link to have the posts delivered to your inbox each day, or check back tomorrow!






One response to “15 Lessons Learned for the 2020-21 School Year: #4 Lean on Colleagues & Professional Networks”

  1. 15 Lessons Learned for the 2020-21 School Year: A Blog Series | Christina Nosek Literacy Avatar

    […] Lesson #4: Lean on Colleagues & Professional Networks, 7/23/20 […]


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