At the National Writing Project I’m the manager of much of NWP’s presence on the interwebs, and I’ve recently had the privilege and opportunity to work with teachers from around the country who are helping to create, facilitate, and implement some of our summer initiatives. This is the Summer of Making and Connecting and besides getting to observe some pretty amazing work around the country, it’s been refreshing to take a new look at what I do professionally.
The very nature of my job is about making and connecting. I build websites, webpages, videos, and graphics and manage our social media. But what I’ve found fascinating and inspiring about Writing Project teachers—especially this summer—is how they are always questioning and thinking about their teaching practice. In addition to that (and maybe more importantly), how they share that process and the outcomes with others. For now I’m calling this “working out loud” and it’s pushed me to consider how I can better follow their lead to not only improve my own practice, but maybe even help and connect with others along the way.
Sounds great, so what’s the catch?
Collaboration, sharing, growing, and connecting all sound so lovely, so what’s the hang up? In a word: fear. I’ve grown up thinking that in order to get a job, maintain it, and “climb the ladder,” one needs to compete. And competing, for me, doesn’t mean sharing mistakes, which is inevitable with the “working out loud” concept. But yesterday I had the opportunity to watch what turned out to be a pretty amazing webinar that we (NWP) put on via Connectedlearning.tv. One of the guests, Andrew Swilinksi from DIY.org shared something pretty powerful from his experience as a programmer. He shared how as a programmer on a team of programmers, they all had to share their code with each other, and it wasn’t about finding mistakes. It was about working together to produce the best code and in the process, learn from each other. With this common goal and mutual respect, it was really a unifying and community-building experience. I love that.
I’m ready to put my fear aside. I’ve come to believe that “I don’t know” are some of the most powerful words I can say. Every time I’m able to say these words, the answer comes to me. Either through someone else or simply through humility and being open to seeing the solution. Hiding my work or playing it safe by not connecting with others professionally allows my pride to get in the way of growth. This Summer of Making and Connecting has really solidified, for me, that it’s not only okay to try new things and fail, but it’s also okay to share failures (and successes) with others. I learn by doing but I also learn from others. If I want to be a part of and help build a collaborative culture, I need to be willing to work out loud.