Next Gen Navigator
Posted on 2020-09-24
The Benefits of Joining a Community of Learners
The last six months have brought teachers incredible challenges. I’ve been inspired by the countless stories of teachers attending to a spectrum of needs for students and families that goes beyond the content of a grade or subject. How do they do it? How have they found strength, new ideas, and new approaches when so many things about teaching and learning have changed amidst COVID-19? They became part of learning communities, and when they couldn’t find communities to join, they created them.
This issue is about the great ideas and the support that comes from being part of a community of learners. I found my first professional community in 2013. I sought to connect with and learn from others who were passionate about the same things I was passionate about.
At first, I “lurked.” I listened to others’ conversations and took ideas back to my classroom. Community members encouraged me to share my experience implementing these ideas in my classroom: How did they work in practice? What were my successes and challenges?
Since then, I try to share something with my communities—even if it’s something small—every day. Deciding what to share requires careful reflection and distillation (deciding what I can contribute from my experience that can serve other teachers and their students well in different contexts) and fuels my learning in a way that nothing else can.
The school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic positioned me as a novice in many critical ways. I was only familiar with a few digital tools for remote learning. I had not considered ways to support families with adults working and children learning from home. Like many others, I turned to my communities for ideas. I hope you find inspiration in the educator stories shared in this issue and consider reaching out to find a community of idea sharing, critical-friend feedback, and emotional support.
Teachers are the epitome of lifelong learners. I am honored and appreciative that I get to work beside them. I think you will find that these communities will assist you in navigating not just this moment in time, but also your whole professional career.
We are offering some suggestions for communities to join in this issue. We also encourage you to share about the communities that support you and are ready to welcome new members.
Next Gen Navigator Guest Editor
Tricia Shelton worked with Kentucky students for 22 years as a middle school and high school science teacher and teacher leader. Shelton is a 2014 NSTA Distinguished Teaching Award winner for her contributions to and demonstrated excellence in science teaching. She joined the NSTA staff as Director of Professional Learning and Standards Implementation in June 2017, supporting educators and students across the county as they work to integrate contemporary research in science education into classroom teaching and learning.
Veteran science educator Wanda Rodriguez shares how she found support for teaching online interactive science all around her through like-minded community groups. By sharing ideas, experiences, and hopes for the future, Rodriguez is learning how to “keep the boat afloat and navigate the waters together.” Read more.
California STEM teacher Andy de Serière provides tips for building a STEM community. While challenging, de Serière notes, “Your greatest reward could be the human connections you will make through building community.” Read more.
New York chemistry teacher Sarah English discusses why now more than ever, educators need the tools to learn how to join or build learning communities that provide positive emotional-support structures while also serving as content resource providers and sounding boards. Read more.
Note: The Next Gen Navigator is a monthly e-newsletter from NSTA delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction. Click here to sign up to receive the Navigator every month.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.