[I don’t want this to be a negative post, but I will come across as being a little cynical. Please respect my opinion and I encourage a healthy (and respectful) debate.]
I have been on Twitter for about 5 years now and have interacted with a wide variety of people from comedians to politicians, but I’ve only harnessed the power of Twitter for education/professional use within the last 2 years or so. Once you get past all of the clichéd inspirational photos that remind you to ‘be strong’ and ‘remember your goal’ (like as if you’d forgotten what your main job is), and the mutual back-slapping, Twitter is a powerful tool to connect with other like-minded individuals. What I’ve seen in my time using Twitter professionally has been a mixed-bag of amazing ideas and also negative posts. I thought I was the only one who felt like this, but then I saw this tweet:
This tweet inspired me to finally put down my thoughts on (digital) paper. As professional adults all with the same goal of educating the future leaders of the world, I would’ve thought that there would be more positivity and collegiality. Now, don’t get me wrong… there is plenty of collegiality on Twitter, and I often rely on my PLN to give me advice or reassurance, however, every now and then, I spot a glimpse of teacher shaming.
What I want to focus on is ‘expert’ teachers (truth be told, some of them aren’t even teachers, but rather consultants) with an educational ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude holding court as if they are the utmost authority on something telling you what they are doing and then guilting you because you don’t do the same thing as them. These ‘expert’ teachers are operating in a different set of circumstances as everyone else: their school might have more resources, they may have more time off to develop new strategies, their school system might allow them to try different things without the fear of being reprimanded for having a go.
You still use paper worksheets? Then you are not a very good teacher and are negatively impacting the learning of your students.
You don’t flip your classroom? Then you mustn’t care about the learning of your students.
You don’t harness the power of coding and robotics? Then you obviously don’t care about giving your students 21st Century skills.
What even are ’21st Century skills’? I understand that engineering and computing are the way of the future, but what about compassion as well? As Doug mentions in his tweet above, this really hurts your instinct.
Not all teachers have the ability to ditch paper worksheets or to flip their classroom or to use coding and robotics. This is for a number of reasons: time, money, resources… even the culture of the school. Perhaps the worst thing about this is is that it then makes the teachers who don’t do it feel worthless or that they are incompetent. I have known some teachers with 30+ years of teaching experience… and they have never flipped their classroom, never heard of coding, and have never used a HyperDoc, but their students still come out of that class both a better person and with high grades.
I’ve worked in schools before where I asked if I could flip ONE of my classes, and I was quickly told no ‘because they didn’t want angry parents calling in complaining about the change.’ Someone quickly said ‘why didn’t you just flip it anyway without telling anyone?’ To that, I said ‘unfortunately, nothing is secret anymore in the world of education. If I go behind a superior’s back, then I’m asking for trouble, particularly as a newly qualified teacher.’ I didn’t have enough clout to go and ‘change the world’ like I thought I would be doing when I was undertaking my degree. So, does this make me a ‘bad’ teacher? I still gave my students my 100% commitment to them, and I did everything I could to give them a great education, but I was still guilted into feeling like a failure.
Newly qualified teachers particularly are most affected by this as they are still ‘finding themselves.’ They need to form their own identity and instinct as a teacher and see what does and does not work, and then they can make necessary adjustments based on the best practice that others teachers are spearheading. They have so much going on within the first year or two of their career: they need to get to know the school and its policies, the system and its policies, the students, and a lot more.
Then, add on top of that someone in a different situation to you telling you that everything you’re doing is wrong and ineffective. How would that make you feel? You’re being bombarded by Twitter posts saying that flipping your classroom or coding is the only way to get your students to achieve at the highest level possible, and if you don’t flip it or use coding, then you aren’t a good teacher. How would that make you feel? You start to doubt yourself and your ability as a teacher. Then, burn-out is a real concern as you’re trying to change yourself both as a person and a teacher as quickly as possible in order to fit the mould that the ‘expert’ teachers have built.
Don’t be guilted by others into changing yourself. Yes, it is important to try new teaching methods for the benefit of our students, but, we shouldn’t be doing it because we are being shamed or guilted into doing it by someone else. We keep telling our students to never give up, and to not change for others. Why don’t we follow our own clichéd mantras?