I’ve thought for a long time about starting a (new) blog. I started one a few years back, documenting my experience as a grade 5 teacher. It went quite well and I managed a good year of it. But the problem was I had
little no audience, and with everything else on my to do list I gave it up. It was a big fat failure, but not to say this experience wasn’t helpful. I took the failure back to my grade 5 class at the time and shared it as one of ‘Mr Jeffrey’s failures of the week.’ This had organically developed into a therapy session for the class who loved hearing about the wide ranging mishaps happening to me on a weekly basis. It seemed to provide transparency for my students, with them seeing the human side of me and witnessing first hand that we aren’t all perfect. Furthermore, I was able to connect with my class in a different way, understanding that when asking them to write (non-fiction, fiction, documenting thinking when reflecting) they needed an authentic audience. Otherwise, what’s the point? I could say that I knew this before my first blog attempt, but experiencing it was a different matter. We also had a good laugh reading some of my posts and using them as examples of ‘what-not-to-do’. Amazing how they can find all the grammatical errors in my writing yet never in their own.
Following this I’m asking myself the question what could I do differently this time? What is my purpose for writing? Do I continue blogging about my professional development? How I’ve made my classroom more effective; Documenting Learning using technology; Grade 5 Exhibition up’s and down’s; First time teaching Grade 2. My anecdotes could end up being broadcasted to the wider world, supporting current and future educators on their quest to become ‘better’ teachers. Inevitably, through the medium of social media I would be sharing/tweeting my blog because this is what we all do, right? I could even end up becoming Twitter famous! As I trawl through twitter most days, reading articles, blog posts from educators, I find so many of them that are fantastic. Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid), Tarynn Bond-Clegg (@makinggoodhumans), and Adam Hill (@AhillAdam) to name just a few. I read some, save many for reading later of which I read half but wish I had more time to read them all. However, there are so many ideas and so many posts about amazing things happening in schools around the world that I often think what could I add to this repertoire of knowledge that isn’t already out there? At this point, I need to be honest and say that as much as I enjoy Twitter, it also frustrates me to the point of not bothering.
It goes without saying that Twitter is full of amazing ideas, and the power of social media is without boundaries. I borrow from others on a regular basis and many great things have come from what I’ve seen on twitter so I am not knocking it for that. But, at what point does this amazingness, this platform of perfection, start to manifest itself within a teacher’s psyche and have the opposite feeling. The Facebook Feeling: Everyone’s life is one merry-go-round of fun and excitement, but i’m not doing anything and mine just isn’t. Or in the case of Twitter: teachers around the world are doing so many amazing things, I’m not doing any of them and I’m not as good as them. A negative opinion of one’s true ability and self talk about not being as good as others, leads to Teacher X wanting to throw in the towel. A slight exaggeration maybe, but I feel it does have the potential to cause a negative effect.
I feel it important to look at the impact of social media from a different perspective. We talk often with our students about how mistakes lead to success, helping them to embrace their errors and develop a growth mindset in order to be prepared for later learning. But do we preach what we say out in the public domain? Of course not. An absurd idea when we think about how that looks to our colleagues, other professionals in our network, and even future employers. Well, I feel like we need a break from everything being so perfect because behind the scenes it isn’t. It’s messy, proper messy. Inquiry is messy, maths is messy. It’s not about being perfect, it’s a messy process full of small victories and big mistakes. And what we see out in the world of social media is purely a snippet of what goes on, a snapshot of the polished product and not the messy process.
I believe we need to become more transparent and not just in our own classrooms and so to answer my earlier question, I’d like to write about my experiences of being a teacher with an emphasis on the messiness, not just the perfect moments. I’d like to share the not so glossy side of teaching as well as all the positive and inspirational moments. Luckily my wife is in her first year of teaching and so I am sure to have some gems coming from her. Sorry Katrina, I mean it with the best of intentions. But this also made me think, every year of teaching is like that first year of teaching. You think you have a good idea of what you’re doing at the start of the year, organised and with everything in place. But by the end of the year it has all changed..again.