Monday, November 30, 2015

Grains of Salt

For quite a while now I have been a big advocate for teachers using social media. Specifically, I have encouraged the use of Twitter as a way to build strong professional learning networks. I know for me Twitter allowed me to make some very strong professional and personal connections. These connections have been a huge asset in my growth as an educator. Having said that, I feel as though new users and some veteran users of social media need to take things with a grain of salt. The reason I say that is you can't take anything at face value and should keep a skeptical eye out.

For starters, much of what you see on social media is the "best" and is highly biased. People are tweeting and posting about their best lessons, their best classes and their best days. You don't often see the sometimes ugly, messy or painful work we do as educators. If failures or “bad” content is shared, it is done is a way to attempt to garner positive attention or gain pity. In other words, people are not often sharing the days they lose it on a kid or a situation. They're not jumping out to post a vine of the lesson that went horribly wrong. Administrators are sharing great pictures of their schools’ work but fail to mention the irate parent or disgruntled board member they often deal with. This is not to say the negativity needs to be shared but we need to be mindful of this reality. Far too often people see other people's work and feel inadequate. Many teachers feel they cannot measure up to those who are sharing and posting all of these seemingly amazing things on social media. Just remember they're sharing their absolute best from a biased point of view and those individuals likely share the same frustrations and tough times as you.

Another aspect of social media which has become quite popular is the use of absolutes. People are spouting off about how all teachers should 100% do “this” or should never do “that”. I have been told I am a bad teacher if I lecture, use worksheets, assign homework or don’t use Minecraft. Now to be fair, I have shared what could be considered borderline absolutes specifically around the notion of homework. Yet, I fear that the use of absolutes when it comes to just about anything in education is an easy way out. It is far easier to make a blanket statement than engage in critical thinking aimed at understanding the very nuance embedded in the work we do. Outside of avoiding cafeteria food nearing an extended holiday break as freezers are being cleaned out, absolutes should rarely be used.

The final piece that I caution social media users on is the so-called experts telling you how to do your job. There are some incredibly outgoing and in some cases pushy individuals in these social media spaces. They are constantly telling teachers things they should do or should not do. They use passive aggressive tactics or are even out right demeaning of teachers in an effort to get them to do something. Yet a simple click on their biography will illustrate they are not in fact classroom teachers or school administrators themselves. That is not to say we can't learn and grow from those not in a classroom. That is not it at all. I greatly value the insights and opinions of those with a variety of perspectives both in and out of the classroom. However, always be skeptical of somebody telling you how to do your job when they are in fact not doing your job.

I will continue to encourage teachers to use Twitter and other social media sites. I stand behind the notion they are good for building connections while learning and growing in a community. However, I do so with a bit of hesitation and ask that all users, new and old, take it all in with a grain of salt.