As I try to make head or tail of another education debate on Twitter, I realise that I’ve spent hours recently reading lots of different blogs and comments, mostly from the UK educational Twitter community. I tend to follow people if I find their comments and/or blogs interesting, thought provoking, of practical use to my CPD and classroom practice. I haven’t followed people because I support them or subscribe to their ideologies. I admit to having been naively unaware of any sides, collaborations, working partnerships, and professional relationships, and in my ignorance wasn’t aware of the traditional/progressive debate on Twitter until about 6 months ago during a few particularly heated and what appeared to be quite personal debates.
It took me by surprise having, again naively, thought that I’d entered an honourable profession where educated exchanges would be well thought out with the common goal of improving outcomes for children that we teach, being at the heart of educational debate. Admittedly, I’m fresh from a 2016 PGCE where I enjoyed practising my skills at academic reading and writing. I’m still developing my ability to objectively critique academic journals and research. My corporate business background and training in customer service within service industries also affect my interpretation of such exchanges amongst education professionals.
So I am asking myself how should I react when I come across an educational Twitter debate? I admit to getting caught up in reading them and following comments and trying to piece together who is agreeing/disagreeing with who from my list of people that I follow and try to work out if they have any allegiances and where I stand on the whole matter. It’s like trying to piece together a jigsaw and I find myself going off in many directions, and sometimes I have to question the value of this in terms of my time. Would I be better dedicating all my time to one of the many educational and fiction books that I excitedly bought for summer reading?
I do have a natural tendency of holding in high esteem professors, authors, academics and researchers, and anyone with what I consider to be knowledge and expertise in their field. As an overly analytical person, I like to make decisions and form opinions based on evidence, statistics and facts – using my own developing critical analysis abilities to then form my opinions with a good mix of my values thrown in. I regularly find myself with the dilemma of whether I should decide or even know if I am progressive or traditionalist and does it even matter to me, what my political inclinations are and how these affect my decisions of who to follow. What about my personal values and life experience – where do they fit in? That I no longer live in the UK, that I don’t work in a state school, that I have a daughter with dyslexia and dyscalculia and therefore have a passionate interest in SEND provision. How does this affect my opinions, my ability to empathise or my ability to have a point of view? After the recent spate of exchanges, I ask myself, ‘Should I now unfollow some people on Twitter?’ as by following them am I unwittingly creating a profile of myself when all I really want is to hear diverse educational debate and information?
I hear of people being blocked. My natural reaction is to be surprised by this as I have not built up my Twitter education community to be limited by only following people who I agree with, even though there are times for my own self esteem, that I would like to be part of a ‘club’ of like minded individuals. Part of my desire to educate myself is to hear and engage with, albeit privately and away from the public brutality of Twitter, with a wide and varied amount of knowledge, evidence and opinions. Developing a way of handling opposing comments, not always put politely is a new skill in itself to develop. It is one that I admire and is very often the reason that I follow someone on Twitter when they have eloquently kept the debate on target and not become personal.
I often arrive late in threads, not sure why that is. Maybe I don’t have my Twitter settings set correctly. I confess to being confused at times as to who appears to be supporting, agreeing or disagreeing with who, who jumps on whose bandwagon for personal interest or because they passionately agree. I do indeed feel like a rookie – I have to remind myself at times that I’m not a young graduate, although I felt much clearer and confident about my views at 21, and that my life experience, especially the bit I’m currently experiencing as mother of three teenage daughters two of whom are in the middle of IGCSES and A levels must count for something and mean that I have something interesting to say?
I’ve decided to continue following people even if I am beginning to think that their ‘style of engagement’ with other Twitter users makes me feel uncomfortable – something that I should face not avoid. My intention is to learn through reading opposing views. I hope to become less confused about the whole educational debating edging on warring of words and understand if I even want to have a personal stance, as I would prefer not to be labelled one way or the other. Maybe I’ll develop the thick skin that is needed, it would appear, to engage in debate on Twitter, or a funny repertoire, or it would seem, an ability to put someone down with an incredibly intellectual barb that is designed to highlight the intellectual inferiority of the person with who you disagree. This, however, is not my style.
So instead, I’ll continue with my Masters and hope to develop my academic abilities and expertise as an educationalist in this way, and limit my Twitter exchanges on education to writing a one sided entry in a blog that is subjective and based on my biased opinion as it’s about me and how how I feel about Twitter education community at this moment in time.
And once school starts again in September, I could just continue what I’m really trying to do, and what I optimistically believe most of the Twitter education community are aiming to do. To do the best for the children that I teach by improving my practice and teaching to the best of my ability.
My Twitter world is very separate from my daily life as a teacher. Investing time with my colleagues is important as well as spending time with my family. I’ll continue to evaluate whether the education community on Twitter is of any real use at all in my life as a teacher, or if, I would be better using my time doing something else.
I hope that my original reasons for wanting to follow so many educational professionals on Twitter will prevail.