I worry that Twitter can be bad for new teachers.
Twitter is a barrage of information, often good, more often conflicting, even more often amplified to the point of deafening. There can be little subtlety on twitter, and I believe teaching lives and dies on subtlety. The echo chamber, the attacks, and the misunderstandings are not just taking place between established classroom teachers. New teachers still building their personal teaching philosophies are in the middle of these conversations too.
While I am loathe to implement the “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children” defense, I wonder how these influences and messages are hitting those who are still growing. The best way to answer a question like that is to ask. So I did. I posted this tweet and waited for responses. What follows are responses from four new/pre-service teachers who were willing to take time out of their weekends to indulge my curiosity.
Courtney Albrecht– @AlbrechtCL, Middle school: Grade 5 core, French 5 and French 7
Jason Boyer– @RealMrBoyer, Will be a 4th grade student teacher in the fall of 2015
Sarah Joncas– @SarahMJoncas, Student teaching music (for an All Levels K-12 license), currently in a K-2 school
Sherry Davis– @MsSherryDavis, 5th Grade
How strong of a Teacher Voice do you feel you have right now? i.e. Do you have a solid personal philosophy? How much of that is influenced by what you’ve heard on twitter?
CA- My teacher voice is growing. I have a fairly strong personal teaching philosophy. A lot of my beliefs on teaching come from things I wanted from my teachers as a student.
Twitter doesn’t really influence my philosophy so much as makes me more aware of my own personal belief system in regards to Education. I like to share my best practices and try cool things I see but I can’t be someone else because I am still learning who I am.
It has been quite a journey to develop my courage and self-confidence to take risks in my teaching and that was influenced by participating in #WeirdEd because I was accepted for what I was saying not being labeled “the new teacher”. It was a confidence boost to try my own ideas.
JB- As of now, I do not have much of a “teacher voice”. At this point, I do not feel I can have much of one as there is so much I still have to learn and want to learn. That is my main focus when on Twitter. What’s new? What can I do right now that will make my lesson better?
SJ- I feel that I have a pretty strong teacher voice as compared to my peers, but not a strong voice compared to many in-service/experienced teachers. I have a personal philosophy of teaching, and I sometimes feel that it conflicts with a few of the prevailing ideas on Twitter. The big philosophy difference I see is the idea of “STEM to STEAM” and the arts serving other subjects on twitter whereas I believe in the arts for their own sake, just as I believe in reading for its own sake. Granted, being a music teacher I’m biased.
SD- This is my first year teaching and I feel I have grown a lot this year. I am definitely NOT the same teacher I was at the beginning of the year. With that being said, I think I am still experimenting and shaping my philosophy. I have learned a lot from Twitter that has helped me grow as a teacher.
Are you trying to copy what you see/hear on Twitter?
CA- I like to try some ideas but first I have to see if they will even work for my kids. Most things I try, I modify to suit my needs. There are some cool activities out there but they don’t always fit the context of my classroom. I like to steal ideas and transform them to work but never copy.
JB- I can say that I will eventually copy what I believe are good techniques or lessons. I have no problem with doing that. If it benefits my students, I will implement it into my lesson. If it saves me time, I will use it.
SJ- Not really, though I do like much of what I read and have used a few ideas I read about on Twitter. Most recently, I used an attention-getting song that I saw in a linked blog post on Twitter.
SD- Not necessarily “copy” but I will take bits and pieces of things and make it my own – tweak it to work with my teaching style and with my students.
Do you have any frustrations from Twitter?
CA- One of the things that really bugs me is how easy it is to get caught up in something but also how easy it is for something important to get lost. It is also fairly impersonal if you let it be. I consider myself lucky to have found people who are awesome and supportive of me but it took quite a while.
JB- I do not as of now. I will reserve my frustrations for the future.
SJ- Sometimes it feels like an echo chamber. I think that people look at follower numbers too much, and it’s hard for a new teacher/user to gain followers and get feedback. It can be hard to find like-minded users who are posting primarily about teaching/learning.
SD- I love Twitter, but it can be so overwhelming. I just have to focus on a few topics for now.
I love seeing that these young teachers are taking what they are hearing and seeing and trying to work into who they are and will be as teachers. Teaching is not about copying someone else, teaching is about being who you are. Being genuine will earn you the trust of your students and colleagues faster than just about anything else, and it will increase the speed you see confident in your classroom because you won’t be acting like someone you aren’t. These teachers are ready to grow and change and they know that twitter isn’t the be all end all.
Doug Robertson is a ninth-year teacher currently talking at fourth graders in Southern 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. East coast teachers can participate in #WeirdEdE Wednesday at 7pm EST.