"Babe, there was a shooting at the Mandalay Bay"
Those are the first words that I heard when my boyfriend woke me up. I was still groggy from just having fallen asleep and sat up to have him read the news to me. We stayed up for two more hours texting, Snapchatting, calling, and staying glued to social media to find out what was the fate of our family and friends until my heart was broken and my eyes full of tears.
Waking up the next day was hard. I stayed glued to my phone for most of the day and cried in front of my students. I called my dad grieving as he told me what happened after being at work all night with the rest of our local heroes at Metro. My coworker held me at lunch while I wept not knowing if everyone I loved was okay, knowing my hometown was hurt, and there was nothing I could do about it.
As the week went on, I was still grieving for my hometown. My first love, the place that I will always call my first home, the place that I thought I would never leave, and the place I return to with so much love in my heart.
I saw the true colors of Las Vegas, the 4 hours or longer waits at blood banks, the nurses, doctors, counselors, police officers, firefighters, and more coming in on their day off to help victims and their families, people driving strangers to the hospital, the man who brought crosses for all 58 lives taken too soon, the shelters for those affected saying that they had too many donations, a Healing Garden that was built in days, and the millions of dollars raised in hours. My hometown has never made me more proud yet so heartbroken.
It has been a week and my heart is still heavy for my hometown, I still cry each day. I think about the 58 victims each and every day when I am getting ready in the morning and before bed. I am still stuck on my phone looking to see the people who are making Las Vegas beautiful and the memorials for the victims. It is not easy when you are away from the city that made you who you are.
I couldn't be home to help with the Healing Garden, stand in line for hours to donate blood, drive strangers to the hospital, or visit the Vegas Sign to take a moment of silence. It has been the hardest week I have experienced in a long time.
My heart is broken for the victims and so full of love for my city and those who are doing what I can't. Thank you to everyone who has reached out, donated time, donated money, donated blood, sweat, and tears during this hard time. You are amazing and you are in my thoughts each day. Las Vegas is full of life, full of entertainment, and full of love. Locals and visitors have shown that Vegas is a place of love no matter who you are and I am so thankful for that.
I love you Las Vegas. Always.
"I feel so stuck. Nobody seems to get my ideas or feel my passion for teaching."
If you are like me I am sure you have said this at least five times a day. What is a lone nut to do? I was surrounded by others who were great teachers, but didn't want to change. I was stuck. That was until I found the magic of a PLN (Professional Learning Network) and since then I haven't had to utter those words anymore. I finally feel accepted, understood, and supported by amazing educators.
How can you do it you ask? Easy. Here are the ways that I built my PLN, just take the first step and you will never want to go back!
1. Twitter: Sure, some merely think of Twitter as a website used for those who want to stalk their favorite celebrities' every selfie and food habits, but the site has take a new turn for educators. Using Twitter in an educational setting for the past year has been my best asset. Whenever I have a question, need help with a lesson plan, or need to find the coolest thing to do in my class, Twitter is where I turn.
Once you are on the site, go find some of the educators you look up to (and tweet to them), find companies you use in your school (tweet to them as well), and join an "edchat". There are "edchats" for just about everything in education ranging from state-specific discussions (Like #NVedchat for Nevada educators) to edtech (#edtechchat) and grade-specific. There is bound to be a chat that you can join and learn from.
The golden rule with Twitter is you don't have to follow everyone, only follow those who will help you become a better educator.
Sign up right this second (Seriously, stop reading and go sign up).Don't know where to start? Tweet to me @MsGeekyTeach and I will help you out.
2. Meetups: Meetups are a great way to connect in real life with friends from Twitter, emails, and more. Meetups can be anything from a small meetup like BrewCUE, CoffeeCUE, or EdCamp, to a large conference like ISTE, NCTM or the annual CUE Conference.
Some are free, while some you have to pay for, but I'll tell you this--it’s well worth your money and time if you get to connect with other educators, especially those you otherwise would have never come across.
3. Voxer: Voxer is, simply-put a walkie-talkie application. Why not just text or call, you ask? Well, Voxer allows you to ensure that your question or comment gets the love it deserves. With the Voxer app, you can send text messages, photos, and instant voice messages to individuals and groups.
My PLN, I use this with many other educators to throw an idea around or to get feedback on a failing lesson plan. Since my message is there for them to listen to when they get the chance, I don't have to worry about my message being forgotten about. This also ensures that I will get a thoughtful response once my PLN members get the time to respond.
4. Point: How about sustaining your PLN by sharing articles? Point is a newly discovered favorite Chrome extension of mine. You can share articles with friends, highlight parts of the article that you find interesting, and with the extension you can easily retrieve your favorite reads.
This has changed the way that I read articles, but it's even better for my PLN: I can now share the coolest new edtech findings with all of my edtech friends with one, simple extension. It's like sitting next to another person and chatting about the latest newspaper article!
These are just some of the ways that I stay connected to my PLN. I challenge you to check out new ways to connect, and if you find one, let me know in the comments section below!
NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge's Fifty States Initiative (representing the state of Nevada). Interested in representing edtech in your state? Apply here.
Sara Boucher is a K-5 Technology Teacher who is developing her own set of super geeks and loves what she does.