A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Doug Peterson (AKA @dougpete, AKA yoda <my master>) in Windsor, Ontario. It may have appeared that the purpose of the visit was to ‘Faceoff at Maxwell School”. But the real purpose was to connect face to face with a colleague and friend that has truly impacted my professional growth by inspiring and teaching me to think outside the box and challenge me in so many ways –to be authentic, creative and innovating in my teaching and learning.
My visit with Doug has truly made me reflect about a dichotomy of learning that I have been thinking about and I ask, why has this learning community – this PLN – had such a strong impact on my relationships within my workplace (the brick and mortar workplace)? Have I become more distant and less social and even less collaborative? Does it matter? Is it just that our learning spaces are changing and that I am adapting?
In fact, this is a dichotomy that I struggle with in a profession where collaboration and team work are key ingredients to success. On one hand, my organization tells me who to collaborate with, when to collaborate, how to collaborate and what to collaborate about – but most important – to be there in person. Choice is rarely an option. I admit – this has resulted in disengagement. I wish it hasn’t. But, on the other hand what I have discovered through learning networks is so incredibly empowering. I have become fully engaged and inspired by learners (YOU) and educators (yes, you again) across the world that challenge me and engage me, EVERYDAY to be creative and critical at the same time.
Doug Peterson is a perfect example of a colleague that has helped me improve my practice and yet lives over 400km’s away. In spending these days, (in person) with Doug -as we toured schools and drove across the countryside, Doug explained to me the importance of authenticity,
“We need to use the tools and strategies ourselves first and tell our stories, that’s what makes us connect to our students”.
Perhaps it is this very statement that has caused such a struggle for me– and so I asked Doug, “How do I be fully engaged within buildings that I work in, while also embracing these new digital coaching platforms?” Doug has been a leader, a coach and a mentor and to him, distance or time zones or buildings is not essential when developing supportive learning communities or learning spaces. It is simply about the people and their choices. I am not sure if it really matters whether or not Doug works in my immediate building, or collaborates and coaches from a distance. I am not sure it really matters if my learning and professional development and growth happens in networked environments vs brick and mortar – as long as the learning a growth happens, builds capacity for others, and is sustainable. I wonder how long it will take our organizations to embrace the idea of choice and customization when developing our PLC’s. Who is your Doug Peterson?