When I started teaching in the early 1990s, I lived with my best friend who was also a beginning teacher. We were both eager learners and readers, and professional reading was an important part of our development as teachers. We didn’t have many options for getting our hands on recent publications, and many were too expensive for us, but we were determined to keep learning. So about once every six months or so, we would take a trip to our Professional Learning Mecca, the bookshop at Columbia’s Teacher’s College. We would take an hour long train ride to Grand Central Station. Then the 2 or 3 to Washington Heights, and walk to the corner of Broadway and 120th. It wasn’t a very big place, but we could spend hours there combing through the place to select one book each, or maybe two, depending on the current finances. We found Attwell, Graves, Darling-Hammond, Hayes Jacobs. We treasured those books and they made me feel connected to the current thinking in my profession. Looking back, we were lucky. At least we had that bookshop, (which no longer exists, sadly).
I am still an avid professional reader, just now the process looks vastly different. My Twitter feed is a constant source of interesting articles and blog posts. Yes, there is still a list of writers that I return to regularly, as well as a combination of people whose writing I read when I happen across it. Some reading is from professional organizations, some from experts, some from teachers in the classroom. All are important learning pieces for me. And I get to read other’s thoughts on these ideas, and add my own. So very far from highlighting what I liked in a book, or reading it aloud to my distracted roommate.
Of course I still read books. Most of them are recommended by people in my Twitter feed, some are even written by them. These days, I “Buy now with 1-Click” and have them on my Kindle without even having to rouse the dog sleeping on the couch next to me. And I rarely spend more than 20 USD.
I am more connected than I could ever imagine, to educators in all corners of the world. Part of my work is encouraging other educators to experience and grow from building their own learning networks. It is not always easy to help them embrace this new landscape. Often I think, how lucky we are now.
And, yes, the friend that I shared the book adventure train rides with is still one of my best friends, despite our being separated by oceans for nearly 20 years. Some things never change.
Photo Credit:: Grand Central Station Interior, 1954. Associated Press