Six degrees of seperation is an interesting concept. I am sure you all know the game 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where actor Kevin Bacon is connected to any other actor/producer/director through less than 6 people. I feel like Kevin Bacon at times. I have now taught internationally long enough that I have many connections all over the world through friends and friends of friends.The longer I am overseas, the smaller the circle gets. These connections are similar to having a digital footprint because people know me throughout the world. The problem becomes what happens when I want to “reinvent” myself or simply start over in a new environment. At my current school, my wife and I are teachers 7&8 who have come from the same school in Vietnam. The recommendations from these people played a large role in how we got our current job. Speaking to one of these colleagues recently, we realized that not only did we attend the same university, but that we were there at the same time and frequented the same establishments. We most likely bumped into each other and probably know. He will be moving to my grade level team next year, so I guess we are becoming even more connected!
Creating connections is easy for adults as we can use our social media contacts to build networks. What do I do about my students who are 8-9 years old and not able to get onto social media due to the minimum age limits or because of the restrictions put in place by the Chinese government? We have a VPN at school and the school server is in Singapore, but what do we do when kids go home? Not all of them have VPNs at home, which limits their access to the connections we are trying to cultivate in school.
As I have expanded my PLN this year, I have found projects and ideas that I love. Some I have implemented in my classroom already, like thewonderment.com and Outdoor Classroom Day. Others I will add into my teaching next school year like Gridpals and Travelling Tales, as I want to create authentic connections. It is up to teachers to make, improve and use the connections they have to become better teachers. I never realized how easy it was to use something like Twitter to see what is happening “out there in the world.”
It is important for teachers to share with their students how they pursue their own passions and make connections with people of similar interests. My personal struggle is how do I share my passions without sounding too preachy?
I want my students to find their passion and pursue it. Due to the their age, students might not yet have a passion because they are exploring options or haven’t yet found “the one.” I need to explicitly teach my students how to make connections. Reading is a great place to start. How o they connect to the book? Text to self? Text to text? Can they build on these to then create the self to world connections that would help them to make the world a better place? Another way I have done this is through passion projects. I had three passionate students who were very concerned about the trash that is polluting the ocean. They were particularly interested in the Pacific Garbage Patch and hypothesized that the trash they were seeing on the beach was one of the ways this pollution was entering the ocean. Consequently, they organized 2 seperate beach cleanups for our class. During the planning process, they connected with the Service Learning Program in the Secondary School to enlist additional support and resources. Through their combined efforts, they cleared two sections of beach. Much of the rubbish that was collected was either recycled or used as part of another service project, where trash items are remade into jewelry and sold, with the money going to help the local community. They did all the work, I simply sent the emails they wrote. We shared this information with the wider school community through videos they created and were shown at whole school events. This was a powerful project for the students, as they learned what they were capable of. It reinforced what I knew about students, they can do great things if given the chance.
American International School of Mozambique Service Learning Brochure