Thank You So Much!

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I was waiting until Christmas to post this post, but then I realized that would not be appropriate at all.  Christmas is a time for giving gifts, but this is a post about heartfelt thanks and is better suited for Thanksgiving.

I wrote the following about a month and a half ago.  It’s the story of how one little response to a comment changed my life.

I’m a new blogger and I started blogging less than a month ago.  The entire concept of a PLN was alien to me and Twitter was a strange new world.  I entered this world because of one man, Jamie Keddie. I was a big fan of his site, TEFL Clips.  It got me using video in the class, something I had never done before.  All it took was the quick link to Savevid that let me download YouTube videos to my laptop.  In my unconnected and computerless classrooms suddenly I could bring in my laptop and do video lessons with my students.  The fact that one person was making all these great lessons and sharing them with teachers was very inspiring.  I started to make my own video lessons.

After using a number of the lessons, I posted a small comment under one of the them on the reasons I liked it.  To my great surprise, I got an email the next day thanking me for my comment and asking some simple questions about how I use video.  I sent him the lessons I had made using his site as inspiration.  Looking back with some chagrin, my lessons were a bit messy with lots of mistakes, but I think I’ve worked most of those out.  The lessons in question are now posted on my lesson plan page for teachers to use in their classes.

Anyway, after that, we emailed back and forth a few times and he informed me about an ELT conference in Istanbul being hosted by Burcu Akyol that he would be attending.  He asked if I knew about it or thought about coming.  I was shocked, an ELT conference in my city?  I didn’t even know these things happened outside the private colleges.  He then directed me to Burcu’s blog and said I should try out something called Twitter.

Well, I got on Twitter and didn’t do much with it for a while.  I looked at Burcu’s blog and followed her blogroll links to others.  I was simply amazed that there were all these people blogging about ELT.  At the time I was working at a terrible school and I’d previously worked at schools where people were professional, but no one was really interested in ELT or developing.  Suddenly there was an entire world of full of people interested in the same things I was.  Not only that, they were actively interested in helping each other become better.  It was amazing!

Soon after, the conference came around and I went to it.  I had never seen something like that in Turkey before (or anywhere else I had worked for that matter).  I didn’t even know that level of professionalism even existed here or that a school would actually pay to develop and train their teachers.  I thought, “Wow, this is what I’ve been looking for.”  I talked to a lot of people at the conference and found it was a mixed bag.  Some people were more into it than others and, to the people who were non-plussed about it, I felt some surprise.  I was thinking, “You don’t know how lucky you are to have a school and director that cares enough to do this.”

But the highlight of the conference for me was finally meeting Jamie Keddie in person.  Here was a person who I knew was passionate about teaching and sharing.  It was a far cry from what I was experiencing in my current teaching environment.  I got to see his plenary, go to one of his workshops, and talk a bit about my experiences with him.  For me, it was a great experience.

Also at that conference I got to meet the drama king himself Ken Wilson and attend one of his workshops.  I hadn’t even known he was a big name in ELT or that there actually were big names in ELT before going to the conference and starting this blog journey.  Ken Wilson gave the best workshop I’ve seen to date and his style has greatly influenced the workshop style I use when training my own teachers now.  On top of Ken, I also got to see plenaries by Gavin Dudeney and Nina Lauder, both of which were fantastic.

After the conference, I was jazzed up.  I wanted to become part of this world and try to connect with other teachers who shared my passion and commitment to teaching.  One thing I really realized after I went to the conference and started looking at a lot of blogs was that many in the field of ELT have mostly taught in environments very unrelated to what I was used to in Turkey.  They simply didn’t face the same challenges or obstacles.  The dynamics in the classrooms were different.

I made my decision right then to start my own blog to try and help out and connect with teachers specifically in Turkey.  I can’t say how successful I’ve been in that as my blog is still quite new and I’ve only had one commenter from Turkey so far, but I’m hopeful for the future.

Luckily, at the time I made my decision, I had a two week break in between jobs.  I had thankfully completed my contract at the wasteland of my last school and had gotten a job at what I believe to be one of the top 3 schools in Turkey.  I poured hours and hours into setting up the blog.  Using Burcu’s blog as a guide, I got my own wordpress blog and really started digging into all the people on her blogroll and started following the twitter contact lists she had so nicely posted for people.  At the same time, I started commenting a lot on others’ blogs and getting into a ton of wonderful discussions.  I realized that Jamie wasn’t an anomaly and that most people that ran blogs engaged in dialogues with their readers.  In fact, people even commented on the comments and got into great big discussions.  On one of Karenne’s posts she even said I had good ideas and thanked me for stopping by.  How cool was that?  I had never been told before that my ideas had any value, at least by anyone with experience that wasn’t a new teacher.

I posted a new blog post every week and to my utter amazement people actually found it and linked to it in their blog.  These two people were Alex Case and Karenne Sylvester, both people whose blogs I was amazed by and who were quite famous in the blogosphere from what I gathered.  I simply couldn’t believe it.  Google hadn’t even found my blog yet (it still hasn’t for some reason unbeknown to me) and yet they had obviously found my blog, liked it, and mentioned me on their own blogs.

My other surprise was when I got a comment from someone who wasn’t a co-worker.  It was from Darren Elliot.  I was only 3 posts in and another person had found my blog and even taken the time to comment on it.  I was quite honored that these three people had taken the time to stop by, link to me, and/or comment.  It meant that all the time and effort I had put in wasn’t for nothing.  I thought it would be months before people even noticed my blog and here I already had visitors, and famous ones at that.

Well, I was quite pleased with the way things were going.  I kept posting every week and then, yesterday morning, I posted my Keepin It Real lesson idea.  We had a work party last night and when I came back home with my wife, I of course went to check my email as I usually do.  In my inbox I found 4 comments waiting for approval on my blog.  They were from Karenne, Alex, Darren, and Jeremy Day.  I was so happy.  They had come back to my site and they had liked my idea or at least felt it was worth commenting on.  It was a great honor and so here I am, inspired to write this post now.  Thank you all very much for the help, guidance, confidence, and inspiration you have given me.  It’s absolutely amazing that there are such intelligent and caring people out there and that they are not only willing to share their ideas with the world, but to help out the new people on the block as well.  Already in my short time as part of the twitter and blogospheres I have developed so much as a teacher and it is because of you guys.  Thank you so much.

Present Day:  Well, that was a month and a half ago now. Now I have many more members of my PLN.  Some are big names and some aren’t.

There are Larry Ferlazzo, Shelly Terrell, and Ozge Karaoglu that are some kind of sharing gods.  They are always linking to tons of useful stuff on their blogs and on Twitter and generally  just happy to share.  I’m in awe of the amount of time they put in online.

There is Sue Lyon-Jones. who is as far as I know the first person to add me to their blogroll and who provides a site with tons of free resources and a wealth of links on Twitter everyday.

There is Anita Kwiatkowska who is one of the few people I have met in person and has helped my YL teachers out with her blog focused on kids.

There are also my teachers Teresa Hanlon and Thomas Christie.  Teresa is one of the most positive people I know and always always goes that extra mile for her students.  Tom has really creative ideas in his classes and is always willing to share.

There is Andy Hockley who is always good for a laugh, a counterpoint, or some information on reflective teaching practices.

Last but not least, let me not forget Diarmuid Fogarty who is always able to turn a critical eye towards any subject.

There are of course many many more and I couldn’t possibly list everyone here, but please don’t feel I’m forgetting you.

After that night I thought it would be great for some of the people who had helped me out so much to be featured with a guest post on this blog.  I thought I was still too new though and I hadn’t gotten enough of my own material on the site yet, so I wanted to wait a bit.  Now I feel the time has come.  After this week I will be posting some guest posts from some of the people above.  In the short month in a half since that night and in the 3 months since I started blogging I have met so many wonderful people that have helped me develop and grow.  Some I’m in touch with more than others.  Some people I only follow on Twitter while others I meet for coffee.  I value each member of my PLN and appreciate everything you have done.

To think, all this started because someone sent me a short email about a comment on their blog.  The little things are so important and none of us should forget the difference we can make in another teacher’s life by doing something so small.  Making other teachers welcome and helping them to start their own PLNs is something we should always think about when we get a comment on our blogs or when someone follows us on Twitter.  We can make a difference :) .

Keep sharing :) :) :) :) :)

29 Comments

  • By Callie Wilkinson, December 18, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

    I can COMPLETELY identify with your story and am always ranting on to people at work about the power of the internet as a means of professional development. In fact, I am preparing a paper on this for a conference next year – who knows, i may even quote from your blog! Fancy that!

  • By admin, December 18, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

    Callie – I know right. I’ve done entire workshops on PLNs and maybe a quarter of the people have gotten on Twitter, started using google reader, or joined a NING. Part of it is a disinterest in technology and another is a lack of experience with its power. I’m slowly working on them :) Feel free to quote whatever you like :)

  • By Diarmuid, December 19, 2009 @ 8:33 am

    Hi Nick – thanks a lot for the mention. You say, “We can make a difference.” Barack Obama says, “Yes, we can.” And, amazingly, he’s a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, so there!

    My teaching has been opened up completely thanks to the debates and the recommendations made by yourself and the others that you mention. There’s a lot of talk these days about how the whole thing is an exercise in narcissism; narcissism is very different, think I, to having something to say and believing/hoping that it might be of interest to others.

    Thank YOU for your contribution to my teaching and my thinking about teaching. It has been most welcome and will hopefully continue for a long time to come.

  • By admin, December 19, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    Diarmuid – I’d have to agree. Sure there is some narcissim, but most of it is a dialogue and we are all learning from it. There have been a number of times now when I start off with one idea and by the end of the discussion I have a million new ways of looking at it. Your comments and blogs posts in particular always make me question my previously held assumptions and really make me think about my current position.

  • By Valentina Dodge, December 19, 2009 @ 9:49 am

    With your permission I’ll be sharing a link to this post with my (ICT) trainees :-) Apart being a very moving piece on your personal experience, it sums up the power and potential of the people behind the tools beautifully, I find. These connections you describe, from one blogger to another, from one smiley face at a conference to another colleague who’s introduced to you at an event are something that I find so inspiring. The mixture of online PLN via blogs/twitters/FB and meeting up in person at conferences adds more to life, EFL and our personal development than hours in staff rooms or ploughing though training books,it is captivating, I agree! It’s the constant exchanges (as you say, “they found my post”) and interactions which enlighten us all on a daily basis.
    Thanks for sharing and looking forward to reading you more,
    Valentina

  • By Malcolm Bellamy, December 19, 2009 @ 10:09 am

    Hi Nick,

    I have just read your entry (via a twitter link from Shelly Terrell, who I agree with you is rather an amazing person). Like yourself I have just started to get into the whole PLN Twitter thing and I have found it a wonderful experience. You are right, there are lots of really passionate, open-minded people out there who are driven byu the power of new technology to change our world and our children’s future.

    Thanks for the links to some of these people who I hadn’t looked into before (I shall certainly do so now).

    The key word is networking and there has never been a time when people can contact each other, share ideas and network together as there is now.

    I look forward to your future entries in the blog.

  • By Karenne Sylvester, December 19, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    Hi ya Nick… you’re fast becoming one of my favorite people and favorite bloggers: you’re about the sharing, about the community (which is what the blogosphere is meant to be) and I love it.

    I have to agree with Diarmuid’s 2nd paragraph (ground-breaking moment, we’re famous for disagreeing) – so thank you for joining the debate and prompting all of us to think some more and take stock (you’ve made me stop and think more than once).
    ;-) K

  • By admin, December 19, 2009 @ 10:52 am

    Valentina – My thoughts exactly. Of course you can share whatever you want. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  • By admin, December 19, 2009 @ 10:54 am

    Malcolm – The world of the PLN is amazing. As a teacher new to this like me, I think you will be constantly surprised at not just what you learn, but the people you meet as well. Thanks for stopping by :)

  • By admin, December 19, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

    Karenne – Thanks for the kind comment :) . I’m glad I was able to bring you and Diarmuid to a point of agreement, lol.

  • By Anita Kwiatkowska, December 19, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

    Oh Nick,
    What a nice story :)
    It’s interesting how so many things you mentioned I could have written about myself.
    Sharing is a beautiful idea but thanking is worth a lot more.
    So thank you :)
    Anita

  • By admin, December 19, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

    Anita – You’re welcome!

  • By Darren Elliott, December 21, 2009 @ 2:47 am

    Cheers Nick! I don’t ALWAYS agree with what you have to say, (although I often do), but it is always worth reading and thinking about.

    Nice to know you!

    Darren

  • By admin, December 21, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    Darren – you are allowed to disagree with me, but it’ll cost ya. Whenever you disagree you will have to put 25 cents in the disagreement jar :)

  • By Jamie Keddie, December 22, 2009 @ 12:26 am

    Hello Nick
    Really enjoyed your posting and very honoured to be mentioned in it. It’s incredible how such a small action can have such impact. This is something that might seem obvious but can easily be forgotten. So I am grateful to you for reminding me at a time when life seems to be getting even busier!
    Look forward to reading more
    Jamie =)

  • By admin, December 22, 2009 @ 6:08 am

    Thanks Jamie :)

  • By Henrick Oprea, December 23, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

    Hi Nick,

    It always strikes me to see that many people who weren’t “big” in ELT have found out they actually do matter, and quite a lot. One of the greatest benefits of twitter, blogs and all that’s out there is that you can create meaningful connections if you do the right thing. Sharing is one of the best things we do online, and we only do it because we’re all willing to become better professionals.

    Lovely post! I could totally relate to it even though I still haven’t had the chance to actually personally meet and talk to any of the wonderful people I’ve met and who are now part of my professional life. It’s like we’re all co-workers in the same place – a rather big place.

    Cheers,

    Henrick

  • By Sue Waters, December 23, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

    Well done with your blogging Nick — you’re doing an excellent job and it’s a great story of how you started.

    I’ve checked and your blog definitely isn’t being indexed by Google. My expertise is working with WordPress MU which is slightly different from a single install of WordPress. But just check in Settings and see if you have a Privacy tab (i.e. Settings > Privacy). If yes, you need to change your Privacy setting to I would like my blog to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Sphere, Technorati) and archivers.

    Otherwise I suggest you chat with Burcu Akyol to see how she made sure her blog is being indexed by Google. Long term you really want Google to index your blog.

  • By admin, December 24, 2009 @ 5:50 am

    Henrick – I have the same feelings. It’s wonderful getting to know everybody. So much creativity and enthusiasm out there. It is like we’re all co-workers, but the difference is perhaps that everyone is working and sharing together. I can’t say the same for all places I’ve worked in any field. The people online are some of the people that care the most and I think it shows in their effort and dedication. I’m so happy to have met all of them.

  • By admin, December 24, 2009 @ 5:51 am

    Thanks a bunch of the advice Sue and thanks for stopping by :)

  • By Janet Bianchini, January 7, 2010 @ 11:18 am

    Congratulations on your blog, Nick. I have really enjoyed looking through your posts. This one in particular perfectly sums up what one act of kindness can do to help in the bigger picture. One simple comment from a fellow-blogger can be life-changing. I can identify with what you have written perfectly as it happened to me too, right at the beginning of my blogging journey.

    I wish you all the best for the future. Have lots of fun with your blog.

    Janet

  • By admin, January 8, 2010 @ 9:35 am

    Thanks for stopping by and the good wishes Janet. I plan to keep having fun with this for a long time to come :)

  • By Marcos Benevides, January 9, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    Well, let me add one more voice from someone who has identified with your experience. I started on Twitter a few months ago, and been blogging less than a month now, but each new day I find I make two or three more really great connections. What a great time to be a teacher!

  • By admin, January 9, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    The number of educators online is constantly growing. I think the new challenge will be in keeping up and not burning out.

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