How to Build Your PLN This Summer

June 6, 2017 No Comments

How to Build Your PLN This Summer

June 6, 2017 No Comments

Like most teachers, I am heavily involved in my students and classroom.  I am constantly looking for engaging lessons, rigorous curriculum, the next best behavior system.  Most teachers spend their summers working to add to their mental file cabinet with these types of knowledge.  And while I’ll agree that these activities are important, I’d also be willing to bet that you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck by building your PLN.

Most people in education have heard of a PLC (Professional Learning Community), which is a usually a site-based community of learners with the same or similar goals.  The term PLN, or Professional Learning Network, is a little more elusive.  A PLN is a community of learners that transcends all the barriers you might normally experience while networking.  Your PLN is much broader and might include teachers from your school and district, but also those across the state and across the country.

Why should you grow your PLN?

  1. They are like-minded but offer different perspectives on topics you’re interested in.
  2. They are a system of support.  Got a question?  Ask and your PLN answers.
  3. They are cheerleaders for your work.
  4. They know people you don’t know and can help you make things happen.  The key here is the word network.
  5. They can provide real-time conversation, or slower, on-going conversation. (Think Twitter or Voxer.)
  6. They are passionate and inspiring.
  7. They motivate you.
I could go on forever, really.

I really started building my PLN when I joined Twitter and started using it for educational purposes about 2 years ago.  Since then, my PLN has blossomed.  Here are some tips for building your professional learning network this summer.

Introduce yourself to new people in your building.  If your school is anything like most schools, you stick to your team and similar grade levels.  Kindergarten teachers talking to fifth-grade teachers?  Uh-uh.  Math people mingling with the ELA folks?  Forget it.  The notion that these people have nothing in common with you is ridiculous.  If anything, you share a love for students and a passion for education.  That’s enough.  More than likely, you’ve seen someone in the building that seems like they have it – you know, that thing the students love, even if you’re not sure what it is.  Talk to that person.  Introduce yourself.  Ask them if they want to meet up for lunch or coffee over the summer to talk about how to bridge the gaps in your school or work on a project you might both be interested in.  You can also take this same approach to district professional developments that you attend.  Introduce yourself!

Attend a teacher-led professional development.  It’s not that we don’t like administrators, but we all know that they have a different mindset.  Find a good professional development session that is lead by teachers and is designed for teachers.  An unconference or EdCamp is a great place to start.  If you’ve never heard of an EdCamp, it’s a teacher-led unconference where participants sign up to lead sessions throughout the day.  It is very organic and is based on the idea that there are no experts, only learners.  You can learn more about EdCamps at  If you’re in the Louisville area, check out EdCampJCPS on August 1st at Moore Middle and High School.  If you’re in Kentucky or anywhere near, EdCampKY is August 26th at Bardstown Middle School in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Get on Twitter.  If you do nothing else to build your PLN this summer, at least get on Twitter.  It’s super easy and free to set up an account.  Start following some people in your district, state, and across the nation.  Twitter will also suggest a list of people for you to follow.  You can do a Google search for the best people to follow in your state on Twitter and get lots of ideas that way.  For example, here’s a list of Kentucky educators to follow. Just by following some great people, you’ll get lots of inspiration.  Following hashtags (such as #edchat or #edtech) is another great way to get inspiration, find like-minded folks, and build your PLN.  Let me be one of the first people you follow on Twitter.

Participate in a Twitter Chat.  It’s one thing to follow people on Twitter, but it’s another to interact with them.  This is where you’ll get the most of your Twitter experience, hands down.  Check out the list of education chats here. Try to start with a grade level, content area, state, or district chat.  For example, as a third-grade teacher, I sometimes participate in #3rdChat.  Some of my other favorites are #learnlap, #tlap, #sunchat, #jcpschat, and #kyedchat.  You can start by just following them and gain more courage to participate over time.  My friend Kelsey did an amazing post about how to participate in a Twitter chat!  You can check it out here.

It’s not hard to grow your PLN, but it does take some work!  I hope you’ve got a few ideas about how to get started.  Let me know how it goes!

Take care,


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About Me

Hi! My name is Sheryl and I am so thankful you've found your way to the TeacherLadyKY blog! I'm an elementary educator from Louisville, Kentucky who is passionate about building relationships and literacy skills with my students, as well as empowering teachers around me to be leaders and rockstars. I've taught everything from kindergarten to fifth grade and I can't wait to share my experiences with you! Enjoy! Read More


  • Anyone else read two books at once? I keep switching between the two of these. They both started out slower than I wanted, but are starting to pick up.

Brave, Not Perfect is about learning to combat your inner perfectionist and focusing on being brave instead.  It’s a powerful message that more people need to hear and take to heart, myself included.

Everything All At Once is the story of Lottie, whose very famous writer aunt recently passed away, leaving her with 24 letters that includes directions for accomplishing specific tasks. It’s starting to get really good!

#bookstagram #booksofinsta #bookstagrammer #bookstagramit #bravenotperfect #everythingallatonce #teachersofinstagram #summerreading #summerreadinglist #teachersonsummerbreak
  • Did you know that elephants like to give triceratopses piggy nose rides? *Not to scale.

  • Ten years ago, I brought a little hound puppy home from the Kentucky Humane Society after begging my mom for YEARS for a dog. I knew Annabelle was ours the moment she bit my ear.

From there, Annabelle ruled the house. She sat co-pilot in the car. She was the absolute best snuggler. She loved wearing clothes. She could smile bigger than any dog I’ve ever met. 
She was also a mess and a half. She stole food from wherever she could get it. She was jealous - of other dogs, of Justin, of my new nieces. She plopped herself in my lap anytime she could to claim her territory, but when she was mad at me, refused to turn her face to look at me.

She was the leader of the pack, the first of four. 
Today we had to do the hardest thing I, personally, have ever had to do. Having a dog as an adult is way different than having a dog as a kid. My heart is broken into a million pieces. Mama loves you, Belly girl.
  • I took a trip to the library yesterday and gobbled this one up in a couple of hours. I picked it from the shelf on its name alone and it did not fail to disappoint. Audacious is a novel written in verse from the perspective of a girl who has a knack for pushing the boundaries in every way.

It was a beautiful reminder of the beauty - and the chaos - that comes from walking the unknown, just because you felt like it.

#audacious #audaciousbook #bookstagram #bookstagrammers #teachersofinstagram #teachersonsummerbreak #kentuckyteacher #teacherswhoread #youngadultreads #youngadultnovel #youngadultlit #yalit #ya #read #reader #readersofig
  • Summer reading book #2 is finished! This sweet book, the sequel to #therosieproject, failed to hold my attention as well as the first, but was still so perfect. Don is one of my absolute favorite characters, as cringeworthy as he is. I give #therosieeffect 4/5 stars!

Up next on my summer reading list is #bravenotperfect by @reshmasaujani.

#summerreading #summertime #teacherswhoread #teachersonsummerbreak #bookstagram #bookshelf #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #stopteacherguilt
  • Come on, Mom... let’s go do something.

It’s my first official day of summer break. I’ve already slept in, written in my #starttodayjournal and read. What else is there to do?

#dogsofinstagram #dogstagram #puppies #pupsofinstagram #dogs #summer #teachersonsummerbreak #teachersummer
  • These teacher leaders are my PEOPLE. I love doing life and leadership with them.

I don’t know if I love this angle quite as much.

#kentuckyteacher #kentuckyteachers #kyteacherleaders #leadership #wearejcps #jcpsdl #jcpsambassador #jcpsforward
  • I needed to read this today.
I’m often frustrated with what I feel is a lack of progress. I feel stuck. I want to move forward faster. I know there is work to be done and it must be done soon - or every child that leaves our schools and our classrooms will be another that we’ve failed.
We DO have work to do. But small steps create big impacts. I can do a little today and, one day, I’ll see those ripples.
#teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #teachers #theartofcoaching @elena_aguilar_writer #coaching #teacherleadership #teacherleaders
  • Here’s my #toberead stack for the summer. I’ve gotten myself in a great habit of reading every single day - in the morning and at night.  I can’t wait to dig into these! #bookstagram #books #reading

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The TeacherLadyKY blog header and logo were designed by Sheryl, using fonts from A Primary Kind of Life and Brittney Murphy Design.  Clip art is courtesy of Irina Bandyk, whose Etsy shop is WatercolorCliparts.  The blog theme used is Emilia by Georgia Lou Studios.