I used to joke that The Lutheran Annual is better than any roadside service program. If you are a church worker in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, your car could break down almost anywhere in the United States, and you could probably find another church worker within fifty miles to help you out. Of course, The Lutheran Annual precedes the Internet by decades. Now, in this digital and connected age, how much more powerful is our global network of Lutheran educators?
Whether you are teaching in one of the largest cities in the world or at a rural Lutheran school in a town of a few hundred, the connected age has implications for the Lutheran teacher. You have more connections and resources at your disposal than any time in history. It is just a matter of learning how to use this network. Following are eight ideas to get you started.
Get informed about this global network.
Lutheran education is truly an international phenomenon. In the upcoming month, I am scheduled to travel to Hong Kong, where I will be a keynote speaker for international educators throughout Asia, but I will also get a chance to connect with those working in Hong Kong International School, a school started by the LCMS in the 1960s. From there I am scheduled to stop in Hanoi, Vietnam, to provide some professional development for those serving at Concordia International School of Hanoi, yet another educational ministry of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to Lutheran educators from across the United States at their teacher conferences and through school in-services.
While it is a joy to see these places in person and meet people face-to-face, I realize that is not possible for everyone. Yet, you can still get informed about the global network of Lutheran schools throughout the United States and beyond. It is truly inspiring to realize that we are part of a massive educational ministry that impacts hundreds of thousands of children and families around the world. This is heartening in those moments when you feel alone or isolated in your classroom. Our heavenly Father assures us that we are never alone, that He is with us. For those serving in Lutheran education, He has also granted us the gift of one another.
Perhaps you are the only person teaching a given subject or grade level in your school. That does not need to put you in isolation today. Tap into that global network of Lutheran educators. Use the LCMS Lookup service to find another school and teacher. Now it is time to reach out and introduce yourself. Perhaps you can establish an email exchange, sharing lessons and ideas with someone or several other people who have similar teaching responsibilities to yourself.
Try #LuthEd on Twitter.
Perhaps you are not a Twitter user, but there is one reason to consider getting or using your Twitter account. It happens most Monday nights at 8:00 PM CST, and it is called a Twitter chat. Lutheran educators around the world gather at this time. You can search for hashtag “#LuthEd” on Twitter to see the list of people who are participating. There is a moderator who chooses a topic for the week, opens in prayer, and then shares questions that guide the conversation. It is a great way to share ideas, learn from what others are doing, and deepen your network of fellow Lutheran educators. Even if you can’t make it at that set time, someone usually shares a link on Twitter where you can review the conversation after the fact and glean some of the tips and ideas. This is just one of the Lutheran education Twitter chats. I know that there are others as well. Use that #LuthEd hashtag to find out about them.
Even apart from the weekly gathering, if you have a quick question or want feedback on something, you can also use the #LuthEd hashtag to post that question or idea. You are almost certain to get at least a few replies or ideas. Help is only a Tweet away.
Take advantage of webinars.
Both the Lutheran Education Association (LEA) and LCMS School Ministry host frequent online webinars about topics of interest to those in Lutheran schools. You can learn about best practices on a myriad of topics. Check out the Lutheran School Portal and the LEA Webinar page for more information.
Consider the Concordia University System for online graduate study.
Getting a graduate degree is not the only way to grow as a Lutheran educator, but it works for many people. It gives you structure, accountability, and access to mentors and instructors, and it lets you participate in a rich learning community. Now many of the schools in the Concordia University System offer online or low-residency degrees where you can study from anywhere in the world. While they have students in these programs who are from public schools, other private schools, and Lutheran schools, it is still a great way to grow professionally and build a connection with other Lutheran educators. I’ve personally seen many cases where Lutheran educators meet through online programs at a Concordia and end up collaborating on one or more major school projects, sometimes even when they are thousands of miles apart.
Build a keypal program or other creative class partnership.
There are many web services for teachers to build “keypal” programs (the digital version of a penpal program, with keyboards instead of pens). Yet, don’t overlook your own network of Lutheran schools around the world. With a little online searching, you can find national and international connections that can help create rich and wonderful interactions among Lutheran school classes. I once even participated in a live event where a band at a Lutheran school hundreds of miles away performed for us via Skype. It wasn’t quite like listening to a live band, but it was certainly memorable and meaningful in its own way.
Find the Lutheran education bloggers.
There are now dozens of Lutheran educators who are blogging, sharing insights, experiences, and tips for those in Lutheran education and beyond. Just check out the #LuthEd hashtag for links to some of the Lutheran educator bloggers. Of course, if you are reading this, you’ve already found one great blog to follow for Lutheran educators.
Now that you have started to connect and learn from others, consider when the time is right to start sharing what you are doing on the digital world. Consider creating a blog, a Wiki, a YouTube channel, a Google site, or another public space. While you don’t want to share personally identifiable information about your students, you can use these places to share what you are doing and trying in your school. You might not feel like what you are doing is earth-shattering, but given the tens of thousands of Lutheran educators out there, what you are doing might be just what someone needs.
Once you create a space to share, tell people about it. Tell people in your school and people you know from other schools. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other favorite social media outlets. You don’t need hundreds or thousands of visitors. As long as it was valuable to someone, your sharing was worth it. Sharing is a core part of learning to thrive in a connected world. Putting your ideas online is an active part of service and a great way to connect with like-minded others.