Know When to Hold ‘Em

I love writing reflections on this blog – having been doing it for the better part of six years it allows me to look at the time from the start of this madcap journey in January of 2014 to now through my various writings and musings I’ve put to keyboard and screen. The bittersweet piece of it is the threads and themes that I find as I continue through the teaching journey over the last three years – the old saying rings true, “The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same“. Given that the saying is credited to a former teacher (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) from just over two hundred years ago, it seems appropriate that it fits here in today’s musings on my teacher life.

This entry also shares a title related lyric with two other posts are thematically aligned as well – This first one where I talk about dropping a class to focus on my core degree program, and this second on where I ruminate on having to drop a fun class to make sure I’m able to keep my eyes on the degree prize ahead. The song is of course “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

I’ve spent two years in a 6th grade classroom as a Literacy teacher and I will miss that classroom, and the students terribly. I’ve been given the chance to step into the Alternative Education sphere as a full blooded High School English Language Arts teacher within my district. I’ve also been on teacher twitter since 2015 – sharing, learning, growing, and engaging. In five years, twitter and the educator sphere is expanded, grown, and exploded. It has become an incredible resource and place to engage – but it has also become a part of my time and how I use it.

You’ve seen these type of posts from teachers, working folks, social media types, youtubers, instagrammers, and more – the reality of engaging, running, using, being an active part of, and all of that can become exhausting and time consuming. The part that is hard to accept in the initial stages (I am a fervent Teacher Twitter Evangelist) is that it’s true – without a game plan on how to handle your time, schedule when you’re going to check your Twitter Timeline and when you’re going to engage – you end up scrolling, reflexively checking your timeline to the point where the phone is coming out every two to five minutes.

I took some time off recently (it’s now been 16 full hours at the writing of this post) in which (for the first time ever) I deleted the application off my phone. This was late last night Friday into (today) Saturday Midnight.

Today being Saturday, I helped serve at a community event in which we gave out backpacks, food, supplies, and more to those in need as the school year ramps out. I was put back on traffic duty (I did it last year and had a blast) so I was mostly alone with my phone blasting music as I smiled, directed cars, and waved. In the intervening time I found myself pulling my phone out every few minutes – my instinct since March has been to check twitter for any replies, content I should engage with, or just scroll through the timeline.

It was shocking, but not surprising. I’ve found a great many friends on twitter and some I’ve engaged with offline…but the overwhelming amount of what I did on Twitter was respond to big ideas, retweet with quotes, and give my perspective on things. My responses were generally adding to the conversation – but there was something else there that I knew I needed to confront.

I was subconsciously looking to build clout, online presence, and in some fashion – craft a brand around my teacher persona. This is the worst look for a teacher on twitter, if I’m honest…but it’s true. There are more than enough Edutwitter speakers, consultants, folks who wear jackets, and self described experts plying their trade on either a short time in the classroom or no time in the classroom – all to build a brand, presence, and/or clout. I think I got sucked into the idea because I wanted to be a part of the “cool kids” – which in some ways I think exists in parcels on Teacher Twitter.

I’ve always wanted to be a part of the cool kids. As a middle school student I was not a cool kid. I was the nerd who was verbally abused, mocked, and demeaned for three long painful years. In high school I found my people in theatre, and we were “cool” as it pertained to us being smart kids with a bunch of nuclear powered creative minds all in the same room. Never mind that being cool was pointless, full of it’s own heartbreak, pain, and sorrow – those kids suffered just as much as we did.

I don’t think you ever really grow out of wanting to be a “cool kid”. I’ve chased it off and on with social media through Twitter, Youtube, and podcasting. I don’t think I’ll stop creating on those platforms, but I’ve had to take a step back from Twitter to remove the influences and the needs to be popular, cool, in the know, and/or a part of something that doesn’t really exist as much as we think it does. My home is my #alted school, my family is the staff and students in my building – they’re the ones I need to strive to build important, lasting, meaningful, and powerful relationships with – not big names or influencers in the social media world.

Focus will be such a massive part of what we do this year as the #COVID adventure continues across our county and state here in Colorado. I encourage you to focus your efforts on your kids, your building, and your community. Twitter is a great resource and I will never tell anyone to delete it and give it up forever. I’ll still check in out in the mornings and evenings – but my time during the day is owned, copyrighted, and funded by the students, staff, and community I serve.

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