– Dan Jones –
“Hey, can you say that again, I want to post what just happened to my Instagram!” “Look at how beautifully organized my desk looks (for the moment). I am going to post this to Pinterest.” “My DIY classroom… my spouse helped me organize it, my friends helped build the additional storage, I didn’t get permission from my administrators to change my room, and it looks perfect because no students are actually in the room, but, hey…it looks awesome. This is totally going on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter! Dang, that piece of paper on the floor ruined my picture…30 pictures later to get just the right angle, filter added, and now to type just the right message… which hashtags should I add? I should probably look to see what is trending right now: #Teacherdiy #Back2School #myclassroom #blessed.”
Daily, a variety of social media apps: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest show me a reality that is not my own. The truth is…it isn’t any teacher’s reality. But why? Is there such a thing as the Mary Poppins of teachers: practically perfect in every way? Nope. But as educators, we have learned that we cannot display any sort of weakness; otherwise, we run the risk of looking incompetent, ill-prepared, unprofessional or ill-trained. In a noncompetitive profession, we are constantly competing against one another. There isn’t a single teacher that doesn’t want to be viewed as inspirational, dedicated to providing engaging and meaningful activities, and well organized. And if we are truly honest with one another, we want to be better than the rest. We love hearing the words, “You are my favorite teacher.”
Exploring social media and engaging with other educators in meaningful dialogue has become an extension of professional learning. Unfortunately, all of the scrolling, posting and pinning can lead to a feeling of insecurity, unrealistic goals, and a decrease in self-worth. The TODAY Show interviewed 7,000 mothers about the impact Pinterest has had on them. “42 percent said that they sometimes suffer from Pinterest stress – the worry that they’re not crafty or creative enough.” This statistic cannot be isolated only to mothers. The article goes on to say that social media tricks its readers into thinking that everyone is sitting at home crafting these works of genius or living these fantastic adventures. TIME magazine reports that according to recent studies, “Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing.” The article goes on to say, “Out of five social networks included in the survey, YouTube received the highest marks for health and wellbeing and was the only site that received a net positive score by respondents. Twitter came in second, followed by Facebook and then Snapchat—with Instagram bringing up the rear.” What we see is only what people want us to see: the perfect outfit, shot at the perfect angle, with perfect hair in the perfect setting, but the thing is…what we are seeking is not perfection, it is validation. Pinterest perfect or Instagram worthy is not about being perfect; it is about being worthy of the title educator.
As educators, we compete for validation and support in a society that is constantly connected to social media. We strive to be the first. The first to create a particular activity. The first to give our students a particular experience. The first to design a game-changing tool. And for what purpose? Validation. As teachers, we must evaluate what exactly we are ascribing value to in our classroom. How are we being validated? Do we value the tweets, likes and attention from our social media accounts, or do we value the little ones entrusted to us?
Social media has the power to enlarge or deflate one’s ego, and both are detrimental. The truth is, ego has no place in the classroom. We need to approach every day with humility. We have been positioned to walk alongside our students — living, breathing boys and girls, who look to us for wisdom and guidance throughout their educational journey.
Great educators have a heartbeat of humility, but for many, humility has given way to self-promotion. A good friend of mine, Tony Pingitore, shared with me this past weekend that humility is not meant for humility’s sake, but rather it is to position yourself to help others. It isn’t about being able to say, “I am so humble.” Instead, humility allows us to lead our students by meeting them where they are, not judging their behaviors, and having a sober view of ourselves by lifting others up. Humility allows us to serve others. Tony’s words resonated with me. He went on to say that social media can make it feel like our colleagues are not supportive when they don’t like, comment, share, retweet or love what is posted. As educators, we need to stop being debilitated because no one on social media noticed.
I believe there are four truths we need to rest in:
It is hard to shake that internal thought about not being a worthy educator. It is our little followers that motivate us to do what we do. For it is when they become adults that we get to see the impact of our imperfect lessons and our imperfect organization when they come back to say, “Thank you.” And I love that a lot!