In truth, I am scared.
I am scared that I'm not doing a good enough job.
I am scared that I've worked for ten years to teach high school students and it ultimately will be meaningless.
I am scared that all of my best ideas were stolen from others or jettisoned at some point along the way.
I am scared that my colleagues judge my class and think that I'm wasting students' time.
That fear is a terrible master. It continually robs me of joy, of excitement, of passion for my job. It pushes me to work harder, do better. be better, because I'm always just one step ahead of failure.
That fear causes me to keep back parts of what I do in my class, worried that if anyone sees them, I'll be exposed as the fraud I am.
That fear mocks me when I get up and tell students that what matters most is working hard and not innate talent. It says that my best isn't good enough, and I just must be stupid.
That fear shuts down my blogging, my tweeting, and even my conversations. It isolates me. Whispers things that my harshest critics have said and reminded me that they really did know better than me, and I am kidding myself to think any differently.
I have spent ten years of my professional career trying to figure out how to make it stop. At several points, I thought that it would be better just to leave the profession, but the fear reminded me that this is the only thing I have really ever done in a professional sense, except for working at Blockbuster Video...and that's hardly a career path. But the fear controlled me for a long time.
But. There is a way to start to drown out that fear-voice: by replacing it with people who really do see you and your practice, with all the rough edges and failures and not-good-enoughs, and love and support you anyway. When those voices start to rise in concert, the fear-voice has less power.
THAT is the power a good PLN has. I have found people to drown out the fear-voice, and who remind me that who I am matters more than what I do. That success isn't measured in innate intelligence, but rather in hard work and determination. It's something I never could have done for myself. And the primary beneficiary? My students.
And while it's true to say that I am a much better teacher today because of my PLN, what is more true is that I am a better teacher because of my friends. The people who pushed into my life and refused to accept my fear narrative. The people who keep reminding me that it's worth it, and that the only failure is to not try.
What does your PLN do for you?