In my previous post I shared excerpts from a recent #edchat to illustrate a disturbing theme I’ve noticed in numerous educational chats these past few months: “us” vs. “them”. In case you don’t have time to go back and read part 1: “us” includes all the enlightened, connected teachers who use Twitter and embrace technology in education. “Them”, on the other hand, represents the intractable, disconnected teachers who don’t use Twitter. Perhaps it’s because they fear technology or they fear failure. Either way, they’re not here, and their teaching isn’t up to snuff. Boo. Hiss. Evil. (Picture me with my fingers making a cross to ward them off.)
All sarcasm and faux drama aside, while reading through the #edchat transcript, I actually came across some encouraging comments that question this kind of discussion and thinking. I want to share those comments in this post so you can read what made me smile.
As a reminder, the #edchat topic I’m referring to: How should teachers deal with colleagues who are comfortable with 19th century methods and punitive measures for non-compliant students?
Please note, as before, I refrained from including any Twitter handles. You’re welcome to find out for yourself in the transcript who said what. It wasn’t important to me because my purpose is not finger pointing at particular individuals – whether I agree or disagree with what they said. Rather, I’m more concerned with the general culture created through formal educational Twitter chats.
Some participants questioned the day’s #edchat topic, while others questioned what they were hearing throughout the conversation.
Do we have the right to try to correct others who have a teaching philosophy different from our own, even at the expense of kids? #Edchat
But is that necessarily a bad thing? If it really ain’t broke, why fix it? #edchat
Is it up to us to change what is working for someone else? #edchat
as a general question: In your personal experience is this a common problem? #Edchat
Is it up to us to change what is working for someone else? in true collab environment; must appreciate differences #edchat
Only if you can prove your methods are more effective. Without some measure what ground do you have to stand on? #edchat
Using 19c techniques are normal and they help students learn. Why should a teacher change? #edchat
Agreed! Too often tech becomes a synonym for “engagement” Sometimes I think we r 2 focused on dazzling ’em w tech #edchat
Exactly. So why force it on effective tchr? RT @_: Using tech doesnt guarantee excellent teaching and great learning. #edchat
It seems to me that today’s #edchat topic is too negatively phrased.
It feels to me that with the language the topic uses it limits what language we can use to discuss this issue. #edchat
Perhaps instead of “deal with” we should use “work with”? Learn with? #edchat
I see what you mean, but if I’m an educator who has it under control, why risk messing up when I know I’m OK this way? #edchat
At times, some of the participants came to the defense of “them”.
We cannot force someone else to change their teaching. We can only offer help, be supportive, and stay positive. #edchat
(1/2) It’s important to remember that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, everyone an individual. #edchat
(2/2) Have colleague who is very lo-tech but has kiddos COMPLETELY locked on his every word! It is a gift!!! #edchat
Some techniques are timeless. It’s the all or nothing that causes conflict. Need balance & variety. #edchat
Some teachers actually do better w/ low-tech & they’re more effective that way… I think that should be okay. #edchat
I don’t think it is up to teachers to try to force change. I share my “techy successes” but I don’t think “my way is better” works #edchat
#edchat technology is not the only way forward – it is one way. Need to be mindful that it is not the be all and end all for tchrs and chn
Don’t forget though, that some of these teachers have been through many waves of “the new great method/program/etc” #edchat
Good teaching does not require #edtech. Be open minded. We all can learn from each other. #edchat
Our joy is the art of teaching. It’s never the same for anyone person or class. Otherwise we’re no different than a computer. #edchat
Inclusiveness and Collaboration
Finally, some of the discussion shared an attitude of inclusiveness and collaboration without insinuating that “us” knows better and needs to change “them”.
Me, too 🙂 I personally don’t think it is necessarily bad for kids to be exposed to a variety of teaching methods #edchat
I think the only right we have is 2 engage in conversations w/ those like that; we cannot force our philisophy on others #edchat
But we can’t just shut our doors – we have to collaborate and share what we’ve learned with our peers #edchat
Don’t force change if something works – but – keep introducing new ideas and techniques – share #edchat
Agreed. Having that kind of know-it-all attitude can really turn teachers off… esp when you want to share ideas w/ them #edchat
Sometimes, coming from the top down helps. But there is nothing better than coming from the bottom up. Teachers organically adopting #edchat
Setting aside time for real learning conversations with trusted colleagues about student work brings about positive change. #edchat
An attitude of “policing” is not the way to approach it. #edchat
In the end, I want to make it clear that I treasure the conversations I participate in through Twitter and blogging. They’ve opened up my professional world way beyond what it was before. Heck, they’ve blown the doors right off the hinges. By writing these posts, the last thing I’m trying to do is vilify anyone for any one thing they’ve said.
Rather, I want to point out that our conversations create a culture, intended or not. By speaking so freely about “them” and how much they are behind the times or how bad they are as teachers, we are creating an unwelcoming environment should those teachers ever choose to join Twitter. As I said in my previous post, teachers face enough criticism from outside sources. The last thing we need is to attack each other.
So what would I suggest? Focus on you and the issues you face with your job. Not the issues you have with how someone else is doing their job. You are the one person you can control and change for the better. Focus on that in your online conversations. You have such a great community ready and willing to help.
And don’t stop collaborating with others at your school. Have conversations (in person even!) where you can say more than 140 characters at a time. I mean really. Look at the excerpts from the #edchat. With the constraints of Twitter, you can hardly put together a coherent thought sometimes.
Talk about issues that matter to you, but also listen to issues that matter to your fellow teachers. It should be a dialogue, not a monologue. When you’re jonesing for affirmation for everything you’re passionate about as an educator, Twitter is a click away. Just don’t forget to foster professional relationships with “them” that are in the same building as you. Those are the people you have to see and work with day in and day out.