The sociologist Ronald Burt once said, “Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes”. Thanks to Teach For All’s Network Connectors Initiative I am now able to look at many things from different points of view and see the people-idea-opportunity chain in all of its fullness.
From May 2020 to April 2021 I participated in Teach For All’s Network Connectors Initiative. Looking back, I can gladly say that despite all of the challenges that the pandemic caused around the world and the war in my country, it was a wonderful year of professional development, networking, virtual tea chats, fun games and events, and eventually, a great deal of cross-border learning and productive co-creation of international projects.
When I first learned about the initiative, I read the line, "The Network Connectors Initiative is a one-year voluntary commitment," and I said to myself, “Yes, absolutely. I will dive into deep cross-border learning, make connections, enjoy one year of interacting with some new and bright folks and get together with them in Spain. Could there be a more advantageous opportunity?” At the time, I was excited about the planned in-person gathering, and could never have imagined that an entirely virtual program would be so effective, developmental, and fun. I didn’t know that I would find myself in a truly vibrant and diverse global community of 51 alumni from Teach For All network partners in 23 countries, or that I would feel like I was rising, like the soap bubbles I watched swell as I inflated them as a child. What a feeling!
To say that I am a networking person would be a massive understatement. For me there are no strangers, there are only friends whom I haven't yet had the opportunity to meet in person. Saying this, I want to emphasize how much I strive to get involved in networking events and programs. I absolutely adore networking and the Network Connectors Initiative did suggest and provide me with all I'd expected. My biggest takeaway, however, is that for the first time in my life I was not merely a participant, a "consumer," of a program, but also a designer creating opportunities for others.
As part of my role as a Network Connector, I co-designed Global Circles, a sub-initiative focused on emotional care that connects second-year teachers and alumni from across the Teach For All network through a four-month workshop that included four online calls and four offline sessions. I helped our “baby” become real, and it became a success with 27 fellows from seven different network countries — Brazil, Ghana, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Armenia, and Nepal — coming together. Even now, while writing about this, I feel like I’m at the top of a mountain. Now my stance is of a proud Network Connector who also wants to promote the first-ever international project I designed.
I can't explain how wonderful has been to be part of Global Circles this year. @TeachForAll network is full of incredible professionals capable of making a difference. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to meet these talented people who are so comitted to education ❤️ pic.twitter.com/YUycCRJHyv— Carla Carmona (@CarlaCaTA9) May 17, 2021
It was another pleasure to periodically gather with other Network Connectors and talk about our common interests. We leveraged the huge potential and resources of the Teach For All network to ensure our local communities and peers are aware of and have access to learning opportunities, and also to respond to their requests and needs through 1:1 coaching conversations. I was invited by fellow Connectors to join some online gatherings as a guest speaker, including Teach For Nigeria's Teacher-Leaders' gathering and a Connectivity Session for the incoming cohort of Lead For Ghana fellows. I myself invited some of my brilliant Network Connector colleagues to a Zoom call with Teach For Armenia alumni representatives to support the organization in its current regionalization process through which three decentralized regions are being formed.
As an alumnus and a staff member of Teach For Armenia I was energized by the idea of connecting my peers to the global network, and vice versa, solidifying Teach For All in my country. Being a Network Connector has also helped me to grow in my own role as coach and Senior Leadership Development Manager. I now feel more confident while ensuring the emotional well-being of the teacher-leaders I work with. Through the many discussions about the importance of supporting teacher well-being and emotional competencies with other Network Connectors, I came to realize that nobody is a superhero, and rather than focusing on things that aren’t under their control, I can help the educators I work with to concentrate on what they can control or influence.
I truly believe that with my participation I helped this very pioneering cohort of the Network Connectors Initiative to succeed, and that I supported and promoted Teach For All’s global connectivity. My hope is that the initiative will continue to grow and become permanent — helping our local communities to become interconnected — and that many others will grow individually and collectively through this incredible program.