For a long time, I felt alone as a teacher. The profession is, by its very nature, very isolating. I have observed other teachers give five full lessons in the past ten years, and I work in a school with few other middle school teachers.
During recent years, I went through some darkness as I drifted away from my original call to be a passionate teacher. I felt like I was no longer called to be a teacher, and I thought that maybe I has chosen the wrong vocation. Out of this pain, I learned to turn to God. After reading Philip Yancey’s book on prayer, I learned how to pray authentically to God. I learned to turn to Him in complete honesty and tell him exactly what I was thinking or wondering about my life. I sometimes said, “God, did I make the wrong choice? Did I blow it? Dear God, I don’t know what to do with my life right now.” Many times, not knowing what to say, I tended to repeat (several dozen times a day), “Dear God, please help me.” Through this period of suffering, I developed a much stronger faith life than I would previously thought possible. I felt connected to God in ways that I had never experienced before. I learned that even if I were to suffer permanently through unresolved issues, God would always be with me.
Recently, however, there has been a major change in my life. I have been introduced to Twitter. I have used it as a means to find other teachers, chat with them, and follow them. It has connected me to hundreds of teachers, and I have formed a Professional Learning Network (PLN), where I talk informally to teachers all across the country. We are all committed to developing student passion and empowerment, and we all do whatever it takes for us to become better teachers.
This “network,” in many ways, has become more than just a “professional network.” I previously had a hard time making real and lasting friendships since I graduated from high school many years ago. I find that I don’t have much in common with many people, and I have drifted apart from my older friends. That has changed since I discovered Twitter. I find that I can share professional insecurities (How can I do a better job teaching vocabulary? How can I improve class discussions?) and receive support instead of judgment. I also find that I am often able to help others, by introducing them to new tools like Socrative or TodaysMeet. There are also many times when Twitter veers away from education into silliness. Sometimes discussions become strings of non sequitors or popular culture quotes (which I usually miss, to the comic benefit of everyone else). In other words, we are becoming not colleagues, but friends.
I am finding that I am not turning to God in the same way as I had before. I still pray several times a day, but not as despairingly as I had before. I believe that it is due to the fact that I am connected to something larger to myself and connected to people who believe in the same mission. As St. Paul writes, “You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”(1 Cor 12:27) When we help and support each other in our mission, we are acting as the body of Christ. This is not to say that all members of my PLN are Catholic, Christian, or even believers of any religion. I know that many of them are not. Nevertheless, we all know that God sometimes does amazing things through atheists, and horrible crimes are sometimes committed by the most devout. Even though some might no longer believe, I believe that God’s love still works through them. They are very, very committed to helping the young men and women in their classroom and for their own children, thereby living out Jesus’ call to care for children. (Mt 19:14)
Because I am much happier and feel the love and support from my PLN, my utterance, “Dear God, please help me” has been transformed into “Thank you, thank you, thank you, God.”
Thank you, God, for my PLN.