Have you failed at anything lately? Last year I didn't succeed in one of my major goals. I attempted National Board Certification, but did not pass. OUCH! That was a major blow, and the first time in a few decades that I was unable to attain a professional goal I set for myself. After I had turned in my work, but before I knew the outcome, I attended a conference in Bethesda, MD last summer. I was changed by that conference in unexpected ways.
See all the times I used the word ¨I¨ in that paragraph? I, I, I…..Teaching can be a solitary profession. Even when we are working with other teachers, World Languages teachers can feel alone. Maybe you are the only one in your department, or the only one teaching your language. Maybe you do not see eye-to-eye with your colleagues. There are many reasons why you may feel alone sometimes. For me, it is a tendency to want to do things myself and not to rely on others that sometimes leads me to do things alone. When I was working on NBTC, I was the only teacher in our cadre who was a World Languages teacher. That, plus my natural inclination, led me to try to complete my components mostly on my own. (I hate asking for help.)
Back to that conference. I took two precious summer days, a couple hundred bucks, and my professional BFF and we headed to the CI Liftoff summer conference. It was phenomenal to spend time with two of my favorite CI mentors, Tina Hargaden and Ben Slavic. I learned a lot at that conference, but that is not what this blog post is about. After I came home from the conference the real magic started. I joined a professional group on FaceBook, I started having collaborative relationships with other members of the group, and I started moving forward on projects dear to my heart. Finding the right Professional Learning Community is an important step in professional growth. That does not always happen in your school building.
One day this winter, I found out that I had not achieved NBCT. At the same time, teachers across the country were finding out the same outcome, or deciding that they would join the next round of teachers attempting this certification. This inevitably led to discussions online in several different professional groups to which I belong. The most warm and productive discussions came about with members of the CI community. Another teacher and I were working on the same components and a third member of the community agreed to mentor us. Justin, Kim and I formed a Mastermind.
The idea of a Mastermind has its origins with Napoleon HIll, who conceived of the idea for people in the business word. The group is intended to assist you in overcoming obstacles by harnessing the collective wisdom of a group. In our context, it is a group of like-minded educators meeting at intervals they decide- taking up each other's burdens, sharing ideas and connections, and confronting challenges together. People rave about the effectiveness of these groups, and I can attest to the energy that flows from sessions of our Mastermind.
In our Mastermind group, Kim and I have both found the kind of mutual support, feedback, and encouragement to achieve excellence. I look at the level of work I was able to achieve on my own last year, and I can see tremendous growth when I compare it to the work I am doing this year. Justin is the more experienced member, and the leader of the group. He is able to gently guide our conversations, provide constructive criticism, and cheer us on. I know that in the future I will want to continue this collaborative work and form other Mastermind groups where I can work with other groups on other goals.
Don't let geography, your working conditions, or your mindset stand in your way. You can find the like-minded colleagues you need to help you achieve your goals, reflect more deeply on your practice, and be the cheering section you need. We know that it takes a village to raise a child, and it might just take a Mastermind to raise a teacher.
Where do you look? Check out professional groups on FaceBook. Search for blogs, twitter handles, and accounts on Teachers Pay Teachers. Still struggling? I am happy to help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see if I can put you in touch with the right group of teachers. You can form your own Mastermind and start to see the positivity flow!
- Nissa Quil