Why would any teacher want to be on Twitter?
It is the kids’ turf. It’s their space for wardrobe selfies, social angst, sports action shots, and Mean Girls quotes. So, what good could come from teachers invading the land of vanity and self absorption? What good could possibly come from communicating in 140 characters at a time?
A lot, actually.
Twitter is a powerful social media tool for community. If you take the time to reflect and listen, with humility, to what other teachers have to say on Twitter, you will be amazed by what you can learn. There was a time when teachers’ professional growth was limited to interactions with people in their own buildings or to state and national conferences. Now, we are in a brave new world where you can learn from those that teach the same content, fight the same battles, and search for similar answers. No longer are you limited to your district, now your learning community is the world.
What’s the most effective way to use Twitter? Should you follow teachers? Should you follow professional groups? You could, but chats are where it’s at.
What’s a chat?
It is a one hour conversation around a common hashtag (#). A host selects a topic, posts questions, and allows participants to reflect on their teaching while learning from each other. Want to learn from other educators in New York? Join #nyedchat on Monday night at 8:30 ET. Need tips on how to improve as an instructional coach? #educoach meets at 10pm ET on Wednesdays. AP Human Geography? Yep, there’s a chat for it too. It is one of the 46 educational chats that meet on Thursdays.
Think of Twitter chats like a mega-mart, there is something for everyone there. Whatever your needs or interests, Twitter has a chat for it. Search the master list of Twitter chats, and find what’s right for you.
Sharing ideas on Twitter allows teachers to exist beyond the four walls of the classroom. Giving from that deeper place, where you seek to benefit a larger community beyond your classroom, is a wonderfully powerful experience.
It is a mutually beneficial process. In my two years on Twitter I have helped teachers reflect on their practice and they in turn, have enabled my own growth. It widens the horizon. In seeing other approaches, you have a greater view of what is possible.
Because of Twitter I have learned of the usefulness of Socrative to practice multiple choice questions. I picked up the unforgettable acronymy P.E.E. for body paragraphs (make a Point, give Evidence for that point, and Explain why the point and evidence are relevant to the topic). And, I have chatted with novelists about their writing process, which I, in turn, have taken back to my students. Twitter makes it possible to pay it forward.
Mr. Rogers once said, “When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
I have met some incredible teachers on Twitter. What’s the common element? It is not subject or grade level. It is certainly not region. It is that each arrives on with a sense of humility, acknowledging the difficulty and complexity of teaching, yet wanting to improve. They come so that, after the hour, they are a bit wiser, a bit more aware, and a bit more connected to other teachers.
So, we talk.
After spending all day talking to kids — instructing, coaching, assigning, clarifying, repeating, and a whole lot more — why would a teacher want to talk some more? We need this talk. We need this professional dialogue. We make time to talk to adults because we want to be united with other teachers that share the same joys, feel the same frustrations, and have that same sense of humility. By talking, not only is our own existence validated, we do it for others as well. And that’s when a the roots of belonging grow deepest.
Teachers have been cut to the core in the modern era of testing and accountability. They have been demoralized by scripted lessons, humiliated by cheating scandals, and demonized by some politicians. For many, these wounds have yet to heal. In many parts of the country it is a dark time to be a teacher. Enrollment is down in teacher-preparation programs. New teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Twitter soothes the pain of these injuries. It transforms hurt into hope.
What’s your favorite Twitter chat? Please share in the comments below.