2011 is rapidly drawing to a close and now is the time when people and organisations look back on the year that was. Google’s Zeitgeist is a good one:
2011 was a big year for me – personally and professionally. I got married, temporarily lived interstate, went back to the classroom as a casual teacher, travelled through the US, UK and Europe for over 2 months, bought a house and moved. I also shifted strongly into the digital world and invested more time into my professional online presence and that of Sovereign Hill Education through a blog and twitter.
In light of the many learning experiences I’ve had in 2011, I thought it would be valuable to reflect on the top 5 things I’ve learnt:
1. It’s ok for the personal and professional lines to blur, most of the time. When I first started working in the museum sector I was delighted that I could leave at 5.06pm and leave all my work behind. Unlike when I was a teacher and would spend a couple of hours every day working at home. I thought it was important too, especially when my holidays had just dropped from 12 to 4 weeks a year. Now though, I find it not only healthy, but productive to let the lines blur.
I will still have mental work-free time and I believe devoting time and effort to my family and friends is very important. But previously, when I had the mentality of finishing at 5.06 and that was it, I was missing opportunities to connect, engage and share. Allowing ‘work’ to infiltrate my non-work hours has resulted in me having a much more positive outlook on my work and kept my eyes and ears open to opportunities to learn more.
This line-blurring has also meant that I have opened up about my work to my family and friends and conversely opened up myself to my work. This has allowed me to grow in confidence about saying what I think and also letting my friends and family understand a bit about what I do. I still like to have some distinction, my twitter account is predominately professional and I don’t tweet about what I ate or who I voted for and my Facebook account is largely personal. To me this distinction is simply good practise of writing for the right audience.
When I was at school, I couldn’t have told you with confidence what I wanted to be when I finished. But I knew, adamantly, that I wanted a job I loved. I didn’t want to drag myself out of bed in the morning just so I could pay some bills at the end of the day. I check my work email at home not because I have to, but because I want to.
2. Having an opinion is positive, if you share it in the right way. I have always been someone with something to say. It has got me in trouble in the past. In my first year as a teacher I wasn’t shy about asking ‘why’ and doing things differently, consequently I was bullied terribly and told that my individuality had to ‘be stamped out of me’. I’ve only just recently come to realise the depth of the effect that had on me.
But now, I’ve able to move past that and consider that my professional opinions, while sometimes difficult to justify or hear, are still valid. More so, they help to encourage conversations, which can lead to new opportunities and alternative solutions. To share opinions in the right way I’ve learnt it’s important to listen, try to understand that people’s emotions are involved, but also believe in the value of what you’re saying and accept that inevitably sometimes you will put your foot in it.
I was inspired this year by posts from Colleen Dilenschneider, particularly her comments about Millenials in Museums. I also enjoyed reading some of Seth Godin‘s book Linchpin, and the increasing commentary around the value of breaking the chain of an industrial-era compliant and dispensable workforce and pushing forward with a dangerous idea. These ideas also permeate education and challenge traditional notions of how we teach and learn, Charles Leadbeater is a leader in this area and has written extensively about the future of education and the future of workplaces.
3. External connections and new experiences are endlessly valuable. This year was such a profound year for me because of all the new experiences I had and people I met. Returning to the classroom allowed me to reassess assumptions I had made and try activities I had previously suggested for teachers.
Travelling to a range of places and visiting a mix of museums and cultural sites gave me so many ideas, insights and drive to change and develop what I do in my work. I blogged about many of the places I visited and even the ones I didn’t blog about left an impression. I also met a range of people from the organisations I visited. I found it very though-provoking to talk with people from an area different to my regular area of work.
I was also fortunate enough to attend a couple of conferences this year: International Museum Theatre Conference and the Museums Australia Conference. While I sometimes question the level of effectiveness of the traditional lecture-style format of many conferences, there is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of value in the opportunities they provide to refresh, make new connections and inspire new ideas.
4. Building an online presence and network is very worthwhile. I had always had intentions to have a good online presence, but until this year I had not devoted much time to it. Even for a Gen-Yer I had misgivings about the constant state of change of programs and trends online. But partly out of a desire to meaningfully record my travel experiences, partly from what I learnt while I was away and partly after a swift kick at Steve Hardagon’s PD in August, I invested a good deal of time and effort into getting myself organised.
I have got this blog organised and started posting more regularly, I am using my twitter account in a more meaningful way and I have set up iGoogle and Google Reader to keep tabs on relevant news and blogs. For work I have begun a blog for the Education team and Twitter accounts for both Sovereign Hill and Narmbool Education. iGoogle and Hootsuite now sit open throughout my work day and I am continuously on the look-out for opportunities to share and learn.
Getting this set up and maintaining it has been worthwhile for me in many ways. Firstly, I have learnt loads – about Education, Museums, online learning, schools, students, my organisation and myself. I feel connected and empowered to ask questions and find solutions. The opportunity for unmoderated self-publication is liberating and has led to higher job satisfaction. I also feel part of a community and find strength in others – I can connect to people and ideas I could never have done without an online presence.
5. Keep on going, accept change and evolve. Sometimes I have felt as though I am fumbling through muddy waters when it comes to working online. I don’t know all the things I want to know and the constant state of change can be frightening… if you let it.
Accepting change and letting ideas be fluid and dispensable has not only saved my sanity, but also allowed me to move forward and maintain the excitement and drive to keep going. I used to lament the latest changes to Facebook or find reasons to berate a new and popular program. But now I just try to take the new and let go of the old. I am now ruthless with selecting what newsletters or blog posts I read and which programs I use. If they don’t fit what I need, they go. Not feeling like I have to read and use everything that crosses my path has given me the freedom to get things done and try new tools and ideas.
So now I head into 2012 with the aim to keep going, building, learning and saying how I see it, and with the belief that what I am doing is not only good for me, but good for my organisation too.