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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Twitter Is Perfect for Socially Awkward People

By Peter DeWitt — February 26, 2013 4 min read
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There are kids who have dreams that are bigger than the town they live in.

Socially awkward sounds so much better than workaholic. Most educators love to talk about education. One might say they live and breathe it. They read about it in articles, watch movies about it, listen to debates that focus on it, and surround themselves with other educators. The only issue is that if you happen to be partnered with, or a married to, a non-educator. Perhaps you didn’t pay attention. Perhaps you ignored that they are not educators.

In your personal life, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, you may attend parties and wait for the next person who brings up public school, their children, or their favorite subject in high school. However, if you’re like me that usually never happens, which is why I feel socially awkward at times. I don’t watch a lot of sports, don’t have a stock portfolio worth bragging about, and I don’t always know how to start a conversation with someone, so I typically walk around and smile a lot.

Sometimes it’s so bad that when we have a dinner party, I secretly pray that more than one couple will show up at the same exact time so I don’t have to make conversation. I can just ask them what they drink or if the weather has gotten better or worse. Don’t get me wrong, I can usually fumble my way through a conversation, get comfortable and have a nice time.

The only problem is that my favorite thing to talk about is education. I can drop Howard Gardner or Michael Fullan’s name into a conversation like it’s going out of style, and I love to talk about discipline, recess or differentiated instruction. It’s when high stakes testing and accountability come up that I start to feel a bit impassioned and realize I have to step back because I’m probably really boring the other person who mistakenly brought up education because they know I’m a principal.

Socially Awkward People Need Twitter
Twitter is perfect for those educators who love to talk about education. Within a few seconds after you log in to your account you can jump into a conversation about the Common Core or share your hatred for high stakes testing. If you’re lucky, and the timing is right, you can discuss data!

Twitter makes us think because we have to put all of our thoughts into 140 characters. We have to develop our opinion and figure out how to say it in the fewest words. If we are really creative we can use U instead of spelling YOU and save ourselves two letters! It’s like Morse Code for educators!

The best part is that when you are done with a conversation, or a little bit over it, you can log out and wait a few hours until the coast is clear when you want to go a second round with another educator. And unlike parties, it doesn’t take a long time to say goodbye. No need to hug everyone and say goodbye to each and every person as you are walking out the door. The only door to walk out is the door in your home office!

Professional Learning Network
In all seriousness, Twitter has many benefits. There are thousands of educators on the social networking site who can offer a great deal of insight into education. Just like students, adults need to experience social-emotional growth and Twitter can offer those opportunities.

We all need to stretch our thinking by talking with people who have opposing views and find like-minded people who we can speak to about our passions and concerns. We can come up with new ideas for our collective thinking and bring those back to our schools, regardless of whether we are a principal, teacher or parent. There is no shortage of blogs, articles, surveys, reports and videos.

Twitter has one more benefit that happens naturally, and that is the relationship it can build between different stakeholders in the system. Teachers and principals do not often see eye to eye. If a teacher works in a school with an unsupportive principal, Twitter can offer an opportunity to talk with other principals who may be very supportive. Teachers get to see there are administrators who get it.

On the flip side, administrators get the opportunity to talk with other teachers who can help stretch their thinking. It gives school leaders the chance to see the perspective of other teachers, some of whom feel as though they can be very honest because there is no downside to share your opinion with people you don’t know. It actually might help those teachers and administrators define their issues and get a better perspective on them which may open up conversations back at their school.

Plus, it’s really great to say, “I was talking about accountability with a principal on Twitter,” and see the reaction of colleagues. It makes you sound really connected.

Our Kids Who Aspire for More
There are kids who have dreams that are bigger than the town they live in. Twitter offers an escape for them where they aspire for more and keep moving forward. Clearly, you want those kids to be safe and for them to make positive connections but there are millions of kids on Twitter and they can connect and learn from one another. It actually might help kids dream a little bigger, and may help them see they are not alone if they are having a problem.

In reality, Twitter is great for everyone, not just people who are socially awkward. It’s about making connections with others and it no longer matters whether they live in your town or on the other side of the world. These days, the connections we make in cyberspace with others from our PLN (and kids have PLN’s too) can help us become better educators and better people. Conferences offers us an opportunity to meet with these people in person, and when we do that it’s like meeting up with an old friend.

Give Twitter a try. There are loads of people on there that will help walk you through it. Just ask for help.

Talk about education with Peter on Twitter

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.