"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Too scared to share

What a wonderful school holidays it has been. It's been great to unwind and take time out to ponder on things. I really do love to ponder. No wonder I like blogging so much. I have spent some of the hols preparing for next term and I am feeling very excited about it. I have longed to have a senior History class for many years and finally I will be teaching History as part of the TPC course (Tertiary Preparation Certificate) at TAFE this semester. This is a wonderful subject with great scope for understanding historiography and applying these skills throughout the semester. It has been pure joy revisiting some of my resources and reliving those moments when I am truly enthralled by interesting insights into the lives of people in our ancient and recent past. I am also teaching a subject called Humanities and it is much like Society and Culture for those who understand that subject. Very interesting to learn about our own culture and that of others around the world. Anyway enough waffle.

As usual I have had some wonderful conversations with colleagues and teaching friends over the holidays on a wide range of topics but one conversation has come up a few times and it interests me greatly. Why bother sharing what you do in your classroom or your thoughts about education on social media? At first I was taken a back because I have come to realise that sharing on social media has become my new normal and so I needed to dig into this question and digest it before I answered. My dear friend who raised this question with me has given me some fresh insights into this concept that I had long forgotten and one I think is important to revisit because I think it is one that many teachers face.

Fear of rejection

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There are many wonderful teachers out there who are fantastic at their job but would not want to be judged
on what they do. In the last twelve months I have 3 instances where I had colleagues evaluate what I teach. I would prefer to speak in front of hundreds of people than get peer reviewed. I was so nervous. I was so worried about failing and appearing stupid in front of my colleagues. Of course it was fine and it went over really well but the bar I set for myself was so high I freaked myself out. The fear of being rejected by peers was overwhelming and staying within the safe walls of my own classroom is a much more comfortable space for me. Sharing on line and putting your thoughts and ideas out there for others to judge could really be daunting for some people. You do make yourself vulnerable for criticism and this can be hard.

Personality differences

There are some teachers who are quiet and private. There are some people who do not have a tendency to want to share and who like to keep to themselves. There are some teachers who feel that their intellectual knowledge has come about through hard work, experience and dedication and they are not about to share that freely with anyone or they might steal it an claim it as their own. Those of you who like to use social media probable have greatly benefited from the experience of others yet not everyone has the desire or the personal drive to want to do this. These teacher types don't like to be pushed into anything like social media and they will not be forced into doing it. I can respect that because social media is not for everyone.

Lack of confidence in writing
I know when I started to blog 3 years ago I wasn't very good at it. I might be an English teacher but writing wasn't necessarily my thing. I was so afraid that I would sound stupid and the things I wrote wouldn't make sense. It is one thing to verbalise and communicate effectively through this mode but writing your thoughts in some cohesive manner is completing different to speaking. I had to write and rewrite what I had written and even then I would delete whole blog posts. It took months and months of diligently writing on my blog to improve the way I communicate through the written word. When I was asked to be a guest blogger on some educational websites over the last few years I nearly fell over. I still don't consider myself to be a writer but I continue to develop the way that I express my thoughts and ideas through the written word. When you use social media you have to learn the language and jargon that goes with it. (e.g Twitter, 140 characters to say what you want) Like learning anything new it is best practice to sit and watch. See how others do it and then jump in and have a go. You can't break it and you might even enjoy it.

I don't have the skills
With an aging population comes an aging work force. Baby Boomers and many Generation X are not digital
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natives. We didn't spend our childhood playing internet games or being entertained by 'tablets' and devices. We actually went outside to play. Imagine that! Anyway there are many teachers who find it difficult to learn how to use technology and it takes them a lot longer to learn how to use it then say a Generation Y teacher. Some teachers are so busy with their full time teaching loads that making the time to regularly learn how to use social media falls into the too hard basket. So with these types of learners I like to go steady and slow. It's great to be in their ear reminding them of what's going on in social media and occasionally you help them 'dip a toe in' and have a go. There is a lot to be said for modelling and encouragement.

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Considering these points has brought back to the forefront of my mind the real and genuine barriers that teachers face when considering using social media.  For some teachers to share is to make themselves vulnerable for scrutiny by their colleagues and those in the education community. However whilst I can see these barriers I see it as my job as an advocate for education to equip and encourage the sharing of knowledge for the benefit of all.

"In vain you have acquired knowledge
if you have not imparted it to others."
Deuteronomy Rabbah
(c.900, commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy)

I do hope that if you do share using social media to help advocate for students and learning that you would encourage others to do so. It takes just one teacher at a time to help change a culture and recreate a technology revolution. 

I wish you all an inspiring and innovative semester!

Until next week,

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