In preparation for the next semester, I recently attended a training held by my department.
The training started at 11AM. At 10:59AM, I knew precisely two people in the room: the person who hired me, and the person I had met at 10:45AM when we were the only two people in the room.
By lunch time, I had listened a lot and learned a lot, but I hadn’t actually met anyone else. And there were at least 50 people in the room – assuming I managed to feel un-awkward enough to introduce myself to someone, where would I even start?
Luckily, I wound up next to the woman who hired me at the lunch buffet. We chatted about a couple of things, and then I had the miraculous presence of mind to ask her:
“Who here should I particularly meet?”
Three minutes later, I had met the mentor for the particular class I’m assistant teaching, plus an assistant teacher experienced in that class.
Two minutes after that, she had pulled up up a chair at her table and I was having lunch with them, plus one of the teachers from the expert panel presentation and another experienced ESL teacher.
Did I just… did I just network?
I’m an introvert who really likes people. Or maybe I’m a shy extrovert? Or perhaps I’m just in the middle, with a muddle of characteristics of both?
In any case, certain things that are second-nature to some are elusive revelations to me.
“Networking” doesn’t have to be slimy. It doesn’t have to be about trying to sell something or get something. It’s really not always about using people.
It’s super fun to meet people you share interests with and who you can learn from person-to-person. And it makes sense to ask someone who knows you and knows the network to point you in the right direction.
I overlook that a lot.
I also overlook that to a some extent, I can help connect my students with each other, with resources, with other teachers, with the department, etc.
My role isn’t just managing the classroom. I’m embedded in a network that can be useful to them, and sharing it might have even more of an impact than my obsessively planned-out lesson.