First of all, this is not a response to #listgate. Enough has been said over that, on both sides of the argument. However, it did inspire me to revisit this blog I’ve been meaning to write.
I joined twitter as a teacher in June. I have actually always tried to avoid education in my life away from work. I can’t stand watching TV programmes about education such as Secret Teacher, Educating wherever or Jamie Oliver’s attempt to run a school, they have always just wound me up. I don’t know what made me make the leap, but I did. Setting up as an anonymous was not something I did because I am embarrassed of anything or because I want to hide. I know that the parents from my school will be trying to track me down, especially as we have just started our own social media platforms. Who knows what gets back to parents via likes and retweets here and there, and before you know it you are in hot water.
I have a long experience with Twitter and have several accounts. My first was for friends and family and has largely stayed as such. It is very placid and doesn’t get much attention or traffic. My other account is a football based account. Wow – eye opener. I understand that football is tribal, and I can be as tribal as anyone when it comes to my beloved Liverpool. However, I was taken aback by the amount of vicious comments that passed back and forth over simply expressing an opinion. Nothing is agreed on, any comment is met with consternation or disgust and generally abuse. It’s a harsh world. It’s also a very funny one at times and part of me understands the context in which it is based. Football and sport can be a competitive and divisive world.
So this background brought me to the world of edutwitter. A slow foray into its world led to some exceptional accounts (I won’t list them!) and left me feeling inspired, just what I needed as I was coming in to the end of a long year. My timeline was soon filled with so many excellent ideas and resources to take back to my staff in September. It is a wonderful resource and has opened my eyes too lots of new ways of working. I am very glad to be part of it.
Then came the summer holidays and a whole new world opened up.
In amongst all the good stuff was a world of backbiting, sniping, criticism over classrooms, displays, even over going into work. Someone made to feel awful just because they asked for help? This surprised me much more than seeing it in the football world. The world of twitter suddenly became a double edged sword. One of my very early tweets was just after a visit to a nearby school where I came away feeling inspired, but just as depressed. My school wasn’t like this, there was so much lovely stuff, why wasn’t I doing it? Imposter syndrome came on strong. Twitter can be just like this. Seeing people’s classrooms over the holiday brought on exactly the same feelings. They are amazing, wonderful, fabulous and would be a joy to learn in, but mine never looked like that at all. I wish they did. Does the make me a worse teacher? No. Does it inspire me? Yes. Does it make me feel like a worse teacher? Partly. Would I say anything about it to anyone online? No. What would we say if we saw behaviour like this in the playground? We would be on it in a flash and trying to modify it. It so easy to get offended on twitter, but it also very easy to offend, often completely unintentionally. There is no tone button, there is just face value.
But, why shouldn’t they share it? It’s not done with any malice, it is done to inspire and because they are proud of what they have done. Who are we to take people to task over that? Why is it our place to tell people what they can and can’t share? It isn’t. We are all adults and can make our own decisions about what we look at. However, I can completely understand how the guilt starts. It’s the summer holiday and we all need a well deserved rest, but seeing people in work could make people feel the opposite of what is intended, but that is their choice. You know what works for you, you know how to set up your classroom, you know what access you’ve got. Work with that and be secure in your own expertise.
Is twitter amazing? Yes. There are so many reasons to love it, so many great accounts and great resources and I have really enjoyed my time so far. I’ve gained an awful lot of ideas and resources to try out in September – what a fabulous hub of inspiration and learning. Is Twitter toxic? Yes, at times it can seem that way. It has the potential for making people feel guilty, offending and making people feel inadequate. In a world of education where we all strive to be better and try to teach children the art of collaboration and learning from others, it seems that, at times, we are unable to do it in the online world.