At the end of the school year, I spent a lot of time making sure that I tied up all the loose ends at one position, ensuring that everything was set up for my new role, followed by conferences in Philadelphia and Niagara Falls. Tie all of that into purchasing and moving into my first house, the truth of the matter is that I was spent. Instead of continuously writing and reflecting in my blog, tweeting, reading, I chose to take some time away from connecting online (not a total removal though), and just spent time with my dogs, my family, my friends, finding some awesome new music, trying new things, and catching up on some movies (watch “500 Days of Summer“). I purposely decided not to go anywhere and took the “Al Bundy” vacation, where I just sat on my couch (coupled by many hours reading at Starbucks). I have never been the type to just not do anything; I get too bored. That being said, I needed a break. Heck, I am even trying yoga tomorrow for the first time. #weird
With that being said, the reason I did not take a 100% break from social networking is that in the last two years some of my best friends I have met in that space. With my lessened participation, I truly realized how close I had become with some people all over the world as they would continuously check up on me to see how I was doing and were curious just about my overall well being. It is great to know how meaningful relationships become even if they are started in an online space. I already knew this though as I remember distinctly how so many “strangers” reached out to me approximately a year ago when my first dog Kobe had passed away, but it was just validated over the summer. As much as that was probably one of the toughest days of my life, the idea of how many strangers reached out, cared for and checked on me, was both overwhelming and amazing. I could not thank people enough for their kindness at that time.
Researchers have shown that sharing the same space for even just a few minutes a day with kind and friendly strangers makes us more optimistic, improves our self esteem, makes us feel safer and more connected to our environments, and generally helps us enjoy our lives more. And if we return the favor, we benefit as well: when we give to others, or act cooperatively, the reward centers of the brain light up.
As much as I can thank the strangers in the twittersphere, it is amazing how the space has strengthened my relationships with people that I have known for years. My brother Alec and I have become a lot closer in the last couple of years not only because we connect a lot in the same online spaces, but also due to the fact that I am able to see his life and his family grow. Being so far away, and being an uncle that loves his nephews and nieces, it is amazing that Alec is willing to share their lives in a way where I can see them grow and learn. It is the sharing and growth that I see in his kids in those spaces that shows the strengths and power of things such as electronic portfolios in the learning process.
One of the articles that I read which I found extremely interesting was, “If Twitter was so good, why do so many teachers leave it?“, I asked out loud on Twitter, do people agree with the blog post. One tweet (that I am unable to find) that resonated with me is that, “many do not participate on Twitter because they do not connect with anyone in a meaningful way. Even in that online space, it is all about relationships”. I thought about how that pertained to what I felt and how true that statement was. It also made me realize the importance of relationships being a two way street, and that we have to give as much as we get if we want them to be meaningful, online and offline. They also make things better.
So in the end, my short intermittent Twitter sabbatical reminded me of the importance of not only checking in with myself, but checking in with those people that matter most to me. It wasn’t that I just cut everything off, quit blogging, tweeting, reading, or anything. I just did it less. So many teachers talk about all of the PD that they do over the summer, but sometimes the best professional development in any profession is simply taking a step out and away from what you are doing, and reflecting on why we love our careers (or sometimes why we need to make a change) and checking into ourselves. Sometimes learning is not social and sometimes it is not about what you read, write, or do. It is just sitting back and checking in on what is important. Funny thing is that by kind of checking out of the field of education, I have never been so ready to check back in.
P.S. This is one of my songs that I fell in love with this summer; just thought I would share: