Apparently, if you’re blogging about education then you are contractually obliged, at some point, to blog about Twitter. It’s in the Twitter terms and conditions just after the ‘Your soul is ours forever more’ stuff in the 7th paragraph.
Anyway, I thought I’d get mine out of the way as I don’t want the Twitter police waving their big batons in my face and blinding me with the pepper-spray for non-conformity. Because they do that.
Like a lot of people, I’ve had a couple of goes at Twitter. The first time I stopped after two weeks due to the fact that it seemed to be full of self-publicising, self-aggrandising snake-oil merchants who screamed the most pedestrian achievements from the rooftops.
(That’s not you of course. You do not fall foul of any of those particular traits and have proved yourself of worthy character and exceptional taste by reading this particular piece. You can further affirm your general awesomeness by re-tweeting and linking to it after you’ve finished reading. A great many thanks. Read my blog.)
I was done with it until it was suggested that it might be a good tool to engage students. I jumped back in. Turns out it’s really not. Well, at least not for me and mine as hardly any of the buggers use it unless they want to extend being awful to each other outside normal business hours. They also resent your use of it in an attempt to engage as it intrudes into their social sphere. They really do not want you in there poking around. The fact that THE WORLD CAN READ IT ANY TIME THEY WANT was slightly lost on them.
Fair enough. I’m only slightly bitter.
However, that extra bit of time using and exploring allowed me to find my feet. I’ve learned a few things and I am now firmly in the self-publicising, self-aggrandising camp and am working on a cure-all potion that will turn a teacher’s troubles on its head put a smile on your face and a song in your heart and make every class an absolute joy (it’s vodka and codeine based). So without further ado, here’s some things I’ve learnt about twitter in relation to teaching:
1. It can open up what can be, traditionally, a very isolated profession.
You’re on your own in that room for an awful lot of the time (bar your brood, of course). Unless you’ve got a good CPD programme, you’re not going to get much of a chance to share with other professionals. Twitter has allowed me to make contact with a whole host of other teachers. How meaningful that contact is…well, that’s debatable. The medium itself acts as both mask and filter. But the mere fact that I can experience, in some small way, what other people are doing in a variety of settings has been a plus point for me. Much like entering a clearing after a long time alone in a tunnel.
2. You can use it to your advantage.
It may be incredibly hard to believe, but there are some things even I don’t know. If you follow a lot of people (something else I recommend doing by the way, you never know who might come in useful) I’ll ask around. More often than not someone will know the answer or point me to someone or somewhere that can help me out. This is good because I am properly lazy. Sometimes I don’t want to Google it because my sausage roll fingers are too tired to type and my other hand has become wedged in a family-size bucket of KFC. But mostly I want a human opinion linked to the information I’m gathering. Twitter’s useful for this.
3. It reinforces the fact that there is little shared experience in teaching.
Before getting into twitter, I honestly thought everyone thought the same as me. That I was ‘typical’ for want of a better term.
There is a massively broad range of background and experience (but yet still only a tiny fraction of the general teaching populace, let’s not forget that). I find that some comments strike a chord and I find it easy to relate to what is being said and some send a cold shiver down my spine due to the sheer otherness of the utterance. For me, this is usually linked to behaviour issues. With many tweets my first response is to assume that the person is an insane fantasist tweeting with the sole purpose of invoking my furious wrath.
Then I realise that nobody cares enough to try to purposely invoke my furious wrath. Then I realise that my wrath isn’t actually all that furious anyway. Then I eat some chicken.
What it really is about is differing experience. The behaviour issues I face are the behaviour issues I face. Yes, there may be similarities to others but the field is so diverse there’s no guarantee that everyone will find something relatable. My teaching experience is my own. Teaching is not homogeneous and the differences can be difficult to conceptualise. Hence arguments breaking out. Which leads me to my next point:
4. You can’t win an argument on Twitter.
The schema seems designed to not allow proper discourse, But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. For one thing, it’s great to watch. And lastly:
5. It is very easy to talk a good game.
Try not to get sucked in. Just because someone says they’re doing something fantastic doesn’t make it’s so. If you like something try and see it for yourself. Make a real connection. Meet a real teacher instead of a tiny icon. It’s here that I think the true personal development starts.
But don’t ask to meet me any time soon. I’ve been told I’m not going out until I get the damn bucket off.