I meet regularly with two of my friends, and I consider them to be dynamite teachers. We used to work together, and they truly helped me survive my first and second years of teaching. Before we discovered the #NerdyBookClub, we called ourselves the "nerd herd." Sometimes, I think my students know more about my friends than they do me.
On a local level, this community is so important. Like I've said, I would've quit long before if I hadn't had this support network to share my failures and successes. Just yesterday, we spent hours at a Panera to talk about what we are changing, removing, and implementing in our classrooms this fall. We all run similar classrooms in that we believe in the workshop model, independent reading and writing, and student choice. At the same time, we all work in different contexts that have unique visions, schedules, and other requirements, so we discuss ways that we can make others' ideas work in our settings.
In fact, these two friends and I are presenting this year at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English's fall conference. We've spent a lot of time talking about whole-class novels and making them work, and we want to share that conversation and our learning with others. (Quick preview: There is no panacea for this dilemma, but we have some ideas that might work!)
Like man, no teacher is an island. You can't do everything on your own, and you can't get better without sharing and learning from others. With that said, I'd compare Twitter chats to the Burkean Parlor. The conversations are taking place all the time, whether you participate or not. You can come and go at any time. In fact, some people messaged me this morning to let me know they are just now getting a chance to view the Storify archive of last night's #nctechat--And that's okay! They're still able to network and reflect.
The nicest thing about these networks or communities is that you realize you aren't alone. The conversation that is happening is directly relevant to your classroom and your inquiries. Once you overcome the fear of being the one teacher that just can't make something work--and believe me, I am in that category way too often--you realize that there's a host of people out there who have and are willing to share, or there are others that are wondering the same thing.
And this is why I don't understand why many forget about their parent organizations and support networks after being in education for so long. It's about being connected. It's about continued learning. I'm a card-carrying member of NCTE, and I know that they "have my back" when I'm lost, confused, or want to learn more about something.
If you aren't a member of MCTE, NCTE, MRA, MACUL, etc., you need to be. And if you aren't on Twitter or are still an "egg," you need to get involved. Research shows that the hardest part about doing something is getting started. Don't say you'll do it tomorrow or later today. Start now!