Send me one name of a teacher you know with a small following but big, interesting ideas, please.
— Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) November 29, 2015
I sent out a tweet asking for recommendations- someone with a small follower count but big ideas. I assumed I would get a few replies, and from those choose someone to run a deep profile on. A human interest story, boosting someone who deserved it. Instead my mentions were almost immediately flooded. Love poured in from all over.
How can we use twitter? Exchange ideas. Share knowledge. Argue and disagreeing (Spock knows I do plenty of that).
But boosting- Boosting is something truly valuable. Boosting not because it’s Follow Friday. Not because Q5 of an edchat is “Name three people who are cool.” I asked a simple question, out of context, out of nowhere, and teachers responded in droves. Teachers boosted for no reason and attached to no hashtag.
Teaching is a difficult job, we all know that. Taking the reasons why out to talk about is good because facing issues is how we begin to solve them. But too often the reasons weigh us down because it’s easy to come up with reams of paper listing why teaching is hard. Do we need to? No. Stop printing those lists. I need those reams of paper for worksheets when I have a sub.
Refocus on the good, the positive, and amplify.
I’m not saying ignore the problems. We have real issues and there are hard working teachers doing good works in those areas. But balance is nice. I try to always preach balance. In fact, all of my preaching from now on will be about balance.
My tweet specifically asked for teachers with small follower counts. (Another amusing thing was what different people qualified as a “small follower count”. Over 2k? I’m not sure.) We tend to assign value to high follower numbers. High number = higher value. But teachers are islands and twitter gave us canoes, not an All Seeing Eye. The teacher next door to you who isn’t on twitter has amazing ideas with huge value. The teacher with fifty-three followers does too, but she’s hard to hear. That teacher is doing things teachers with counts in the upper thousands would be blown away by, if only we could hear each other.
Amplify each other. Boost.
Look at what one tweet, one small request, brought. Dozens of responses highlighting dozens of teachers. Not to raise money for Donors Choose (which I love and flog mercilessly). Not to promote a podcast (which I also do because the sound of my own voice is like nectar). Not to pile on when someone is thoughtless, hurtful, or dangerous with their tweets. Simply to celebrate good ideas from quieter voices.
One thing that always gets forgotten or ignored (or, I think, stifled so as not to sound egocentric) is ourselves. Trust your own awesomeness in all of this. You’re doing things no one else is doing in a way no one else is doing it. You must be, because your class is not my class. It’s not anyone else’s class. I’m fond of comparing classrooms to chemical mixtures. Each is different and they all go ‘Boom’ for different reasons. Even if you’re teaching like a pirate*, or the weird way**, or whatever, you’re still translating that through your own lens. I wish more people had responded, “Hey, that’s me! I’ve got barely any followers but I’ve got great ideas.” We’re all teaching differently because all our rooms, all our kids are different. We are trying (and sometimes failing) to respect those differences.
Look at this spreadsheet or this Twitter list. Know it’s smaller than it should be. And know that someone, had they seen my tweet, would probably have added you to it. Go into the comments of this post and amplify. Who should have been on the list?
*not a rip, I respect Dave a lot for how much he’s inspired people, and I hope they take it and make a ship of their own
Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor, Slytherin faculty representative, and a tenth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words). Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST