Edu twitter has always been a particularly strong platform for the seemingly righteous and academic stalwarts within our profession. Those that seek a little controversy and like a damn fine researched reference point to boot. I always found my angry blogs tend to get more hits than my so called ‘professional’ blogs. Add in a nice click bait link and BINGO! There’s nothing worse than tweeting, ‘Marking books right now… phew!’ or ‘Four children fighting and sent to my office… it’s all sorted now.’. Let’s face it, our profession is pretty boring to anyone not actually doing it. Maybe a ruckus is the best thing for making some of us feel a little more needed or relevant?
I use the word ‘profession’ in the context of Edu-twitter with real caution at the moment. I use it looking over my shoulder fearful of the mob. The professional rituals of being an educator are often complex. There is a perverse hierarchy that fluctuates between skill, knowledge and current position with confusing abandon at times- never more so than in recent years. It would seem that on Twitter what you say determines far more than what you actually do daily, or have done. Be very careful what you say on this forum because it genuinely believes it has pole position on teacher voice.
I have watched recently as Edu-assassins take down a stray tweet, a list or a slightly naive point of view with an almost zombie horde persistence… one after another they keep coming for you. It seems to matter little where your core principles lie within the great education debate about what is ‘best’. Trad, prog, old, new, NQT, SLT, consultant, governmental, corporate, freelance or general all round good-egg… you are now fair game to a quick reprise, a defensive parry or an all out strategic tweet strike. It’s almost as though by attacking views some feel they increase their own twitter credibility status -when in fact they do the opposite.
Maybe it’s because some of the things we say and do on twitter, in all earnestness, come across as so desperate that the immediate reply is one of disdain or sarcasm. I remember posting a card a child had sent me with lovely words in it… Why? Why did I need to do that? Why do I care what twitter thinks about what one of my pupils said about me? Why was I so desperate that I had to tell strangers that kids in my school think I’m alright at the job?
Maybe, I’m over analysing this… maybe I’m going all out ‘British’ – putting down those above their ‘station’ feels pretty natural- especially when it’s yourself. Who do you think you are? There may be an element of this in the twitter venom- alongside a ‘why am I not on this list?’ But, I also see another side. A petty edge, narrowly principled and historically shackled to a begone era of education. This is especially true when school leadership is under the spotlight. It would seem that if some people were in charge of education the first thing they would do would be to write a list of rules everyone in education would have to follow:
Thou shalt not swear, acknowledge profanity or be privy to err… especially if you have a TLR!
Thou shalt not be rogue in thy philosophy- you are either Prog or Trad – there is no other way…
Thou shalt not have a preference for people to follow unless they balance the precise demographic that I have decided upon…
Thou shalt not preach hate… or disagree with me…
Thou shalt not be above thy station, or worse… have aspiration to be better than me.
I find it hard to believe that anyone offering up a list of people ‘they’ feel are worth following could dig up such venom. It seems I am very green on this because it clearly does… I have felt it before and now I am almost afraid to be ‘honest’ on this forum – as in share what ‘I’ think/like/don’t like. Surely this should be protected? Surely, as a profession, we should be a little more tolerant of the wide spectrum of views within our craft? Wouldn’t that make us stronger?
Ok… if I was using this platform to spread hate, be knowingly (or unknowingly- they are different but both relevant) sexist or racist… fair game. This needs to be called out but rather than mob handed – it should be led by the aggrieved and only escalated if justice is not forthcoming. I have made mistakes in the past where I have been flippant or tried to be funny and got it wrong. In those cases I have directly contacted the person to apologise or if they were not following me offered a more public explanation. But, mostly I find people on here are sharing their perspective and that is important. Any perspective is going to find someone who probably disagrees. I also fear going back over my twitter history in case I find some late night, drunken tweet that out of context and in the cold morning light makes me sound like a Nazi. I know that I have spent 24 years championing this amazing job, and in doing that I have sometimes been outspoken, taken risks or made decisions that weren’t great… but, hate filled? The truth is, there seems to be far too many willing to take offence for the slightest thing and want to war it out. They seem to care nothing for the person behind it all, far too outraged in the anonymous white noise of the battlefield. I find this difficult to understand and it is the main reason why I want to walk out on this forum… deep down I am pretty sure it will be for the best – after the initial cold turkey of social media withdrawal I usually find my life comes back to me. But, who will read this? Why am I writing this ramble rather than out running? Why do I care? Why do any of us need this? I ask myself this pretty often- why do this? And yet here it is another blog and another day NOT leaving twitter… I live in hope.
I think I need someone to say, ‘Go on! You ain’t got the balls!’. I probably need a troll to give me the ire and self satisfaction of a twitter divorce.
Why have we become so divided? What is the point? Is this a social media thing, or were we this angry, divisive and distant before? Did the teaching profession write letters of disdain to each other bemoaning the lack of respect towards weekend planning in 1922?
I am not convinced that this is a Trad-Prog thing… it may have flamed the fuel recently, but it’s evolved into something else. Something cold and hard, lacking compassion and thriving on the take down. Whereas, I have always found strength in talking to those with different views, not over the phone or via a reduced social media text format. In school I always meet with parents face to face when there is a difficult conversation to be had. Over the phone or through a letter does little except to escalate the problem. Maybe that is what has happened in Edu-twitters evolution- that over time we have lost the emotional grace that comes with a one to one debate. We have lost the conversation into the deep night where despite differences you keep talking between trips to the bar. Twitter, blogging… they are mainly a forum to shout into the electric ether to a crowd of strangers who at best may have laughed at a tweet you once put out or nodded sagely at a quote or link you referenced. How do we find the connections we need to make the shouts transform into debates that actually help form our professional development? Especially when we have programmed our echo chambers with people we agree with and we secretly pop over to see what ‘the other side’ are saying hiding in the dark static shadows agreeing or disagreeing in silence afraid of being seen… or worse- heard.
Or maybe that is me?
I have become careful which in turn slows down my development and I HAVE developed during my time on twitter. I have appreciated the views expressed here and I think some have helped me reflect and develop my ethos for the better. The views that have been the most productive have been those that I initially disagreed with (and to a degree still disagree with but they challenge my thinking) and have over time made sense through rational and calm debate. That’s what Edu twitter needs- calm and rational debate where we start from the perspective of curiosity and good will and if there is disagreement we continue to approach it calmly and with the desire to try to understand. Rather than building an anger that someone has a different view, or can not see our view we need to celebrate the debate rather than try to shut it down.
Let’s face it it’s not like we don’t have real lives to be getting on with and I’m quite sure no one will really miss anyone on twitter. Not only will no one really notice that I am not here… No-one will really care with a few days. One thing I know about school leadership is no one is bigger than the school… people come and people go… no one is bigger than the institutions we gather at… The vandals might take the handle’s but in truth we probably don’t need either.