"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
Recently, I co-wrote a blog post with Barry Saide that was published on Peter Dewitt's "Finding Common Ground" column in Education Week. In our post, Barry and I wrote about the power of investing in others, in freely giving of our time and attention to others with whom we interact professionally. Sometimes, these interactions take place in the schools where we spend the bulk of our days; other times, these interactions happen virtually, often with people we have never even met face-to-face. Whatever the situation, I am often reminded of just how much I have been given through these interactions and the need to do whatever I can to return the favor whenever possible. Each time I have made an investment of any kind in the life of a fellow educator, I have done so without thinking about getting anything back in return; however, it seems that each time I have done this, what I have received in return ends up being much greater than what I originally invested.
In thinking about the topic of giving to and investing in others--and, ultimately, writing the piece with Barry--I reflected on the incredible impact my Personal Learning Network (PLN) has had on me since I first made the decision to become connected with other educators via Twitter just over three years ago. The lengths to which people have gone in an effort to support me professionally and personally are beyond belief and a topic to be more fully fleshed out in a post for another day. People who I first connected with simply as one educator reaching out to another in an effort to become a better at what I do have turned into personal lifelong friends who I value dearly. While it is true that I have become a better teacher, learner, and leader because of my PLN, it is also true--and more important--that I have become a better human being because of the relationships formed with many members of my PLN.
Like everyone who has seen their learning and growth increase exponentially after becoming connected with a PLN via Twitter, I can list a hundred or more examples of how some member of my learning network has come to my aid in a time of professional or personal need. My gratitude in each instance has been profound and not something I take for granted. Each time I receive support, advice, and encouragement from a PLN member, it reminds me to pay it forward by looking for ways to invest in others. This is something that Barry Saide and I spoke of when we met in person at EduCon in Philadelphia. To this day, it is the only time we actually met in person and our meeting was a very brief one at that. However, we have kept in contact since then, speaking via phone, Skyping, emailing, and communicating via Twitter. At first glance, you might say we have very little in common: Barry lives in New Jersey; I live over 800 miles away in Chicago. He currently teaches 5th grade; I am an Assistant Superintendent. He is a young man; I am a geezer! What we do have in common, however, is a sincere appreciation for everyone who has taken time to invest in us and our desire, in turn, to pay this investment forward to others in our noble profession of education.
As educators, we are in a giving profession. We invest in the students we serve on a daily basis without giving this a second thought. It is almost as important, however, to invest in our colleagues; the more we do so, the better we each become--and the better it will be for our primary customers: our students. A you spend time this summer reflecting on the school year recently completed, I hope you will take time to think about ways you can invest in your colleagues, whether they work down the hall from you or in another continent; this investment will make a difference in their life--and your own.
3 Worth Reading:
1. The Power of Investing in Others by Kent Ingle
2. Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips by Mark Wagner
3. Effort In = Reward Out by Lyn Hilt