I use Twitter. It’s great. I post links the short stories I write and retweet ideas about teaching or media or literature that I think are interesting. I also share things I’m doing in class in case other teachers might want to discuss them. I’ll even link this blog post to Twitter, and approximately two of my followers will like it. That’s right: I have followers, and at least two of them have been known to validate me on occasion.
Twitter’s a good way of networking and getting to know other teachers out there in the world working hard and tweeting diligently away. Recently, a colleague told me how he had a question answered about some ambiguous detail from an IB diploma course after sending it off to Twitter by one of the people who developed the course. I can definitely see how that could come in handy.
Sure, it’s a little self-promotional, but institutions also like to be promoted so there’s a certain bit of symbiosis there–everyone’s needs nicely converging. Tweet about what you’re doing and grow your presence and the school’s at the same time. Pragmatically, it makes a lot of sense.
But, what if you’re reading this blog post (having come across it, presumably, somewhere other than Twitter) and you have reservations?
What if you object to being an unpaid content creator for a multi-billion-dollar content publisher that is as financially successful as it is precisely because it doesn’t have to pay for the creation of its content? Not this guy, Zuckerbesosorwhatever. You want to chronicle my wisdom? Pay up, you silicon valley fat cat! you’d like to demand.
What if you feel like tacit pressure within your field to be a prolific social media influencer is just another mechanism to get more free work out of teachers? Wait. Now I have to moonlight in my school’s public relations department in my free time? As an unpaid intern, no less? you might be thinking.
What if you’re on Twitter and you follow a few hundred teachers and much of what you see consists of banal, context-free photos of kids huddled together writing on a wall with some pithy, inspirational caption? #Learning? What is this even communicating? I might as well be looking at those old ‘hot dog legs’ poolside photos or one of those ‘let’s all stand on the beach and then jump in the air at exactly the same time’ pictures? you grumble misanthropically.
To its credit, Twitter encourages us as teachers to reflect on our practice and participate in professional dialogue, both of which are good things. You don’t necessarily have to be on Twitter to do these things, but it’s the best way I can think of to be part of as large a conversation with such a diversity of peers.
I think we should push back, however–and really hard–against the idea that being active on Twitter makes one a better teacher or, worse, a more desirable job candidate. I’d hate to think anyone’s actually getting hired out there to teach because they have a few thousand followers. I’m not above decrying “The Kardashianization of Education” if it comes to that. I’ll rally my two most loyal followers and take it to the streets if I have to.
Caveats here. I have never felt pressure from my institution to tweet more often. And, although I work with some colleagues who are very active on Twitter, I have no doubt they’re also very good teachers. There’s no personal axe to grind in this post. It’s just a general #snarkattack. Sorry.
In short, if you’re a teacher and you’re not on Twitter, it’s OK. You’re fine, actually. Take some time out of your busy schedule to have some substantive conversations about education with your colleagues. Share what you do with other teachers you know and encourage others to share with you too.
Or join Twitter. That’s reasonable too.
In memory of Google + (2011-2019) We hardly knew ye.