I started my career as a middle school teacher in North Philadelphia. Like many new teachers, I had a tough first year for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Fortunately, I found a group of veteran teachers and another newbie like myself who truly became my support system. We formed the Friday Night Pedagogical Society. Every week we convened to have deep discussions about standards, instruction, classroom management, politics, assessment…and chicken wings. We shared success stories about things that worked in our classrooms and sometimes vented about decisions and policies that affected our students. But mainly, we were just there for each other.
Over several years pedagogical society grew from a professional support system, or professional learning network, to something very personal. These educators are some of my closest friends still today. One of them is my wife.
When my wife and I left Philadelphia, we were pretty confident that we would never find such a close group of colleagues and friends again.
We were wrong.
Ten years ago, I came to work at Discovery Communications to help start the Discovery Educator Network. The mission was straightforward: connect educators to their most valuable resource, each other. At the time the vision was to help teachers who were using unitedstreaming in California to be able to network and connect with teachers in Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and beyond. Somewhere along the line, as you can read in Scott’s post, the DEN evolved from a professional network into a community. It went beyond just connecting about ways to use digital media in your classroom to looking forward to seeing people at DEN events.
For me though, and I hope many others, this shift from network to community didn’t stop there. In the decade that I have worked for Discovery Education my professional and personal life have become inextricably linked. My colleagues and the educators who are part of the our Discovery Education Community are truly my extended family. Our events, in-person or even virtual, are like family reunions that you actually want to go to.
A little over a month ago, my sister passed away. I cannot express how much support I received from everybody at Discovery Education. My colleagues on the learning communities team turned on a dime and rescheduled our team meeting from California to Pennsylvania just to be closer to my wife and me in case we needed anything.
Our CEO, Bill Goodwyn, reached out directly and has checked indirectly through different members of my team every day since. Team members from all over (California, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Saskatchewan) took time off to be at my sister’s funeral service. I lost exact count, but at this point I’m pretty sure every single member of our Discovery Education team in North America and the UK has sent an email, called or written me a note expressing his/her sympathy. Then there are the educators who are part of the Discovery Education Community. I have been truly lifted up by the number of posts, messages, kind words, and overall support and love they have provided.
Discovery Education is more than just a company with great products and professional development. We’re more than an awesome professional learning community. Discovery Education is a family.
I’m very fortunate and thankful to be part of it. Thank you to everyone in this great extended family who has embraced and tolerated me for these past ten years.