As our class was in the middle of transitioning from math to writing, I remarked what a nice job Sonya was doing of getting her materials put away neatly. I declared to the class:
“That’s one of the reasons that Sonya is one of the 5 students that I rely on the most.”
All eyes turned to me immediately.
“In fact, if I could only have one student in my class, it would be Sonya. She is my favorite.”
You could hear hearts drop. All of them.
(Don’t worry. I didn’t really say this to my students.)
If you did this in your classroom, it would make your students highly uncomfortable. Including Sonya.
I trust we all have the sense to never render such insensitivity with our students. It disrupts the unity and camaraderie we strive to build. It destroys collaboration, and instead fosters competition. There is no place for having a teacher’s pet in a learning community.
Unless, your teacher’s pet IS the learning community.
You know, the smartest kid in the classroom. That being, THE classroom.
There are many dynamics in a class, and at any given time, there may be a few students who perform as outliers in a given topic. Gerard may excel at hands-on-equations. Nazir has a vocabulary that dazzles. Maya can turn any writing strategy into heavenly music. Stephanie is the puzzle princess. Faith is the class fashionista. And Bernie is just adept at any sport he tries his hand at.
We throw kudos their way. We celebrate each other’s strengths. We recognize accomplishments and contributions. We do shout-outs, plaudits, and the occasional class wave. But these are inclusionary; celebrations of part of the collective WE. They are not designed to select one member from our learning at the exclusion of the others. These recognitions celebrate the strength and power of our team, rather than whittling us down to singular parts. We don’t identify specific members as being more valuable than others, as if the remaining members of the learning community are mere chaff, readily discarded.
And this is in regards to a learning community we have primarily inherited. In most cases, we didn’t choose any of them.
When I consider my professional learning network (PLN), I have many people that I have chosen to include in my circle. As it pertains to my personally-designed Twitter learning community, I have chosen over 1,200 people to learn from, share with, question, befriend, be held accountable by, encourage, inspire, and do virtual social-media life with.
You could probably classify them in 5 broad groups: Educators, Authors, Runners, Spiritual Adventurers, and Random People that Spark my Soul. Many of the people I follow fit into several of these classifications. Teachers that run. Writers that are spiritually attuned. Random people that spark my writing, my curiosity, or my weird sense of humor.
I chose them. And I am so blessed and honored that many of them reciprocate the relationship. We learn mutually. We encourage mutually. We commiserate. We ponder. We laugh, blog, comment, and think about one another’s contributions when we are away from the virtual world. In my case, I will probably never meet most of the souls I encounter on Twitter.
So who are my favorites?
I could narrow that down easily.
Just the ones I chose.
These are the ones I would I would keep if I had to whittle down my list. These are the ones I would lace up my shoes and run with. These are the ones I would collaborate with to create a new blog post, lesson plan, or service project. These are the ones who share my journey, and allow me to share in theirs.
Now, I could highlight a few, like some friends do on Fridays with their #FF tags. But in doing so, it is not to exclude the others that I follow. It is not to declare some to have more inherent value than others. It is simply to point out that at any given moment, someone functions as an outlier in a given topic. They have recently accomplished, created, intuited, or offered something that has ignited my thinking or stirred my soul. And I want to celebrate that moment with them, and honor them.
Maybe I want to throw kudos to running friends who got out on a cold day a ran in miserable conditions. Or they ran on a treadmill. But the thing is, they RAN. So I’ll give a shout out to @LibraryFanatic, @RunReadMom, @WonderingWinter, @RachelTassler, @PhillipWhitelaw, @bdgr73, @Book_Tasty, @MelWellnitz, @Mr_U79, @RoederLu, @PrincipalSQ, @dr_rtriplet, @knott_michele, @shannonclark7, @southernbelle85,
@DarcyGrimesNC, or @KendraLimback.
What if you want to stretch your soul, and see the heart of child from a different perspective? What if you want to shower the world with kindness like confetti? I’d point you towards @HCPSTinyTech, @JayhawkTN, @edrethink, @Jonharper70bd, @WonderingWinter, and @MuellerHolly.
If you want to be challenged to up your game as an educator, I’d refer you to
@Vroom6 (who also should win some honorable mention for the best name for a Nascar driver, or a name that doubles as onomatopoeia), @AngelaMaiers, @JessLifTeach, @KathyHyla, @Jennifer_Hogan, @JenHoulette, @bbsand, @sandyrotto, @rosy_burke or @RusulAlrubail.
If you want to reflect on your spiritual journey, some of the voices that center me belong to @cvarsalona, @MuellerHolly, @MargaretGSimon, @Mhaseltine, @Teachr4, @JayhawkTN, @esljaana, @JustinStygles, @MaryHill16, and @RamonaBehnke.
Perhaps I’m in a silly, rivalrous banter with my peers who have been brainwashed to root for my AL Central competitors. Then I might toss out some playful barbs with @jenladd, @erik_palmer, @rosy_burke, @sandyrotto, or @MrRiedl. By the way, I don’t recommend following any of them, unless you want to hear them rant about how wonderful their team is, all the while demeaning my White Sox, who are surely superior.
You may want to talk writing, character creation, or how to survive the perils of publishing, with some of the most genuine souls I’ve ever encountered in my PLN. Then I’d recommend @MrBronke, @KateMessner, @gaepol, @ambermcturner, @natalielloyd, @LynMullalyHunt, @wenmass, @mentortexts, or @Jess_Keating. If you’re really blessed, while you talk to Amber, you may have the extra pleasure of getting to know @patmcree, who I’ve found to be about as inspiring and encouraging as they come.
This is just a mere sampling of the genius and brilliance that surrounds me in my self-selected PLN. There are so many more voices that uplift, challenge, and inspire me. They are not my competitors, but my collaborators. Through our connections I am able to become a better teacher, runner, writer, and hopefully, a better person. A better version of myself.
So if you want to ask who is my favorite PLN member, or what 5 PLN friends I would want to hang out with, my answer is simple.
My teacher’s pet is the classroom.
My favorite colleagues ARE my PLN.
Just the ones I chose.