Teachers lag behind other careers in harnessing the power of social media, and a major reason is fear.
“It’s dangerous to put my words on Twitter or Facebook,” I’ve heard educators explain. “Who knows who might stumble across it? And you know, things on the Internet never go away.”
Teachers frequently feel this undercurrent of fear. Each day, tabloid headlines scream “Teacher Fired for ___!”, reminding us that we’re constantly in the public eye—an eye that hungers to blame and judge.
Often this fear squashes our voices and stunts our potential as teacher leaders. But I think it is time for us to realize as teachers we are the ones who must must speak out about education, and we should use the most powerful tool currently available to do so: social media. Until we do, other people who know little about schools will do the speaking for us... incorrectly.
“But what if I accidentally tweet something that gets me fired?” some teachers ask. Listen, the first few months you drove a car were rough, but you got the hang of it. With practice, any educator can master the art of using social media in a professional, productive manner. Trust your sense of judgement as an education leader.
And rather than focusing on the evil eyes who want to catch teachers slipping up, remember the millions of hungry minds that yearn to hear from real educators. In her post below, Jessica Cuthbertson recalls an evening when she was in a restaurant with a group of teachers talking about standardized testing, and the family in the booth next to them began listening raptly. People are starving for “in the trenches” analyses of education by teachers.
Now, consider the potential of social media to amplify the voice of a teacher leader:
• In the restaurant, Jessica’s analysis about testing was heard by eight to ten people, tops.
• If Jessica tweeted a comment or a link to an article about the topic, however, that could potentially reach her 217 Twitter followers.
• If I re-tweeted Jessica’s tweet, it could be seen by a swath of my 4,000 followers. The likelihood is that one of my followers would retweet that retweet, thus exponentially distributing the information.
• Further, if Jessica also posted her ideas or article in the Education Bloggers Facebook Group and asked any of its 350 members to help share it, her thoughts reach thousands more people. (Disclosure: I run the Education Bloggers group.)
Now, why would a teacher with excellent ideas informed by years of experience in the classroom NOT want such an audience? Stop being scaredy-cats, teachers! People want to hear from you, and they need to hear from you, so start experimenting with social media so your voice is heard!
Lillie Marshall (@WorldLillie on Twitter) has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003, and is passionate about creative forms of teacher leadership and teacher retention.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable 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.