Friday, 16 November 2012

Task 3a - Current networks

Following on from my initial scribblings about my network I have been thinking about the questions in the module handbook (p21 - 22). I thought I'd blog some of my answers, rather than writing it in essay form, as I feel it might be easier to read. I am also hoping that it will show me where and how I can improve on areas such as, for example, my current interactions, the effectiveness of the tools that I use, and what I gain from my network.

What are the current and different ways (tools) that you have, or do, engage your professional network?

This question I approached as a mind-map as I felt that a lot of the tools that I use currently, interlink with one another:

Link here, then click on view, followed by full screen, to get a slightly bigger version*

I also felt it might be interesting to identify which of these tools allowed "realtime" interaction, or "instant networking." Looking at the diagram I notice there are less bubbles taking place in real time, but, when I actually think about it, I realise that this is, conversely, where most of my networking time is spent. I think that, for me, having an emotional connection with the people in my network is my preferred way of interaction. I also find that in realtime interactions, particularly face-to-face ones, there is less chance of being misunderstood or misinterpreted, whereas tools like, for example, email or text are devoid of intonation and can easily be misconstrued.

What are the established (and different) ways that others use their networks, especially if they are more established or experienced practitioners that you admire?

There are two main ways that I can see, at the moment, where others use their networks differently to me:
  1. self-promotion
  2. social interaction
It occured to me, as I got further into this exploration of this topic, that I don't use my network for promoting who I am and what I can do AT ALL! The main reason for this is two-fold, I think! Firstly, I have been with the schools I am at for a number of years, have quite a hectic working week as it is, and am quite content, so am not looking for anything else. And secondly, I'm not very comfortable with pushing myself forward, and the idea of "blowing my own trumpet" leaves me cold.

I am very aware of the blurring between professional and personal lives that has come with the onset of the social networking phenomena. However, I am still not comfortable with the idea of sharing everything with everyone!
There has been many a "slip-up" reported in the news, where too much information has caused harm or embarrassment, because people have lost sight of what is personal and what is professional. I don't think the two mix, particularly in my job as teacher, and am very aware that my dealings with all aspects of my network don't include over-familiarity.
I do see, on places like Facebook, a lot of dance schools and can understand the benefit of using a tool like social networking to advertise your school, connect with both parents and students, up-date information quickly and easily, and to show pride in achievement. If I ran my own dance school, would I use social-media? My honest answer right now is...I don't really know. 

When you reflect upon your current networks, can you think about the motives of others to be in the network and what values and purpose they have in mind?

Looking back at my first blog on Professional Networking, which I linked to at the top of this page, I immediately noticed two things:
  1. I didn't include the parents and students in my diagram. Is this because I don't see them as part of my network? Initially, I think I only thought about other professionals, then friends and family, but now I have looked deeper I can see that the parents of my students provide me with support, knowledge (both about their child and also their wide ranging professions), and feedback. In addition, my students provide me with feedback, lines of inquiry, inspiration to learn so that I can be better, different ways of thinking about dance, and so much more.
  2. I like to think that I am a pretty good judge of character, and can honestly say that I believe everyone in my network is there for the benefit of all rather than personal gain. The societies I work for, the people I attend courses with, my employers and colleagues are all working to achieve the highest level possible, whether that is through promotion of dance, good teaching practice, safety and duty of care, etc. My newest network group is everyone on the BAPP course, and the motives of everyone I have interacted with so far seem to be about learning, sharing, and growing as professionals. I can't think of anyone in my network who is purely driven by selfishness - "take what I can get without giving anything back", monetary gain, or the desire for power.

What would your ideal network look like and why? What realistic things could you do to work towards developing your ideal network?

In my reading on the subject of Professional Networking I have been looking at John Rousseau's The Social Contract (1792). One particularly thought, which I think is relevant here, occurred to me and I scribbled the following down in my journal,
[My] ideal network leaves me room to be who I am, with the ideas I have and the skills I possess, but pushes me to be better  - more skillful, more knowledgeable, more ethical - by the very nature of its own skills, knowledge and ethics (Journal, 2012).
In terms that are more realistic, I think that I need to feel that my network values me for my contributions in the same way that I value everything it gives to me. In order to develop this ideal network I now realise that most of the work needs to come from me! I need to:
  • engage more with other professionals by not always feeling like the subordinate, the dunce or the novice. 
  • realise that I do have something worth saying.
  • not feel that, by asking for support, that I am weak.
  • see that I have something worth promoting.
I have known for a long time that certain aspects of my personality have a tendency to stop me from making the most of what is available to me, but I have never realised quite how much this also spills over into my professional practice.

I think this blog has ended up being less a reflection on my professional network and more a journey of self-realisation. The challenge now is to act on these thoughts...

*if I can find a way to make it clearer then I will alter it later 


  1. Good in-depth critical thinking here - I like your real time analysis very much and your appraisal of the tensions between personal and professional spaces in which you work but are not that different than the worlds in which we all participate. Building a professional identity, on or outside of social media contexts, may not be 'blowing trumpets' as much as being able to relate to others skills, competencies and capabilities. If we make the effort of examining our own practice, than others will perhaps have more confidence in our ability to help them learn and develop - not just children - but fellow adults!

    I agree about the BAPP Arts network, both current and past alumni of the programme have conducted themselves with high levels of professional conduct while sharing their practice while on the programme. Glad that is your experience as well.

    1. Thanks Paula. Your words, as always, make me stop and think.
      I know that you've encouraged me before to think about my skills and capabilities not as "showing off" but, in a more critical light, as what I can bring to the work that I do.
      By reading the blogs of other students (past and present) and the helpful comments on my own blog, I can really see that I need to move on from the immature idea of claiming knowledge or skills as being "big-headed" so that I can engage deeper into both learning and engaging with others.

  2. A highly reflective blog where you have a real effort to critically evaluate your networks.