On August 11, 2021 we hosted an interactive webinar with Dr. Matthew X. Joseph (@MatthewXJoseph) about his book, “Power of Connections: Connecting Educators, Cultivating Professional Learning Networks, and Redefining Educator Collaboration.” To write this book, Dr. Joseph drew upon his professional and scholastic experiences. He was a principal for ten years, a district leader for five years, and has a PhD in Educational Leadership.
The main theme of the webinar was, “Be unapologetically you.” Being unapologetically you means courageously and passionately sharing your unique gifts with others. We all have something special to bring to the education industry, and by sharing our experiences and gifts with others, we can cultivate connections with other educators across the world.
Through the use of breakout rooms, participants were split into small groups where they explored questions like, “Why is it important to learn outside of your zip code?” And, “By creating intentional relationships with others, how might we expand our web and grow more of our talents?” And, “What makes you unique?”
Dr. Joseph also taught us about the importance of having a Professional Learning Network (PLN). PLNs are groups of educators who share similar values, passions, and areas of expertise. While the connections are ever-changing, the purpose remains the same: to share and learn together.
For those who are beginning to build their PLN, Dr. Joseph shared four tips to help you get started:
1. Believe in yourself
When you first meet people, spend about 10 minutes talking about yourself. What are your skills, hobbies, interests? Then, give others the space to do the same. At times it can feel uncomfortable talking about ourselves for that long, but remember you have unique gifts to share with others.
2. Get excited
When you join a PLN, get excited about it! Not only are you part of a community where you can share your gifts, you’re able to learn and benefit from the gifts of others. If there is a lack of excitement, it can lead to feeling like the experiences you are having aren’t purposeful.
3. Be the doctor
Just as doctors ask tons of questions to their patients to get to know then, channel your inner doctor and ask a lot of questions when you join a PLN. Ask the members of the PLN about their job, interests, hobbies, or whatever keeps the conversation going. The more you know about the members of your PLN, the more you’ll get out of it.
4. Bring joy
Having a negative attitude when you join a new group of people is hard. PLNs are a place where you can fill your cup and help others fill theirs. It’s so much easier to feel fulfilled and like you’re getting something out of your interactions when you start from a place of joy.
Dr. Joseph also used the acronym POWER to share the five crucial components PLNs need to develop a strong foundation.
P – Purposeful
When PLNs have a purpose, e.g. learning SEL strategies to implement in your classroom, it moves away from a “just because” activity to an impactful activity.
O – Opportunity
When selecting which PLN to participate in, look for opportunities that fit your needs and interests.
W – Win-Win
Members within a PLN need to work together towards mutually beneficial outcomes.
E – Engage
PLNs are not sit-and-get opportunities – they are opportunities to jump in and engage with other members.
R – Risk-Taking
Successful educators are calculated risk-takers. Try something new, even if it means you could fail. You’ll learn something new with any outcome.
No matter where you are at on your PLN journey — from thinking about joining a PLN, to being part of a PLN for several years — Dr. Joseph’s webinar is a great reminder to be unapologetically you when building or participating in PLNs. Watch the full webinar below.