Teachers vs the social media monster

two toy figures with expressions of fear

Avoid it. That’s what people used to say to teachers about social media. And if you insist on using it, at least have the decency to remove all the vowels from your name or use your middle name instead.

However, ignoring social media, in my opinion, is like keeping your money in a suitcase under your bed, or refusing to look things up online in favour of reading a printed Encyclopedia. It’s all a bit head in the sand.

So, if you’re still a teacher who avoids social media, you are not just missing out: you are falling behind. For starters, that connection you can make with other teachers around the world can be an incredible and inspiring resource. For new teachers it’s an invaluable source of support to connect with others going through the same thing you are. For experienced teachers, it’s insightful to hone your craft with a limitless pool of ideas and guidance, and it’s also inspiring to see what’s happening outside of your own school.

As ever, schools are looking for staff who are creative, inventive, and go the extra-mile. What better way to show this than via your social media profile? Just think, all that any recruiting Head of Department would need to do is search your Twitter handle to find what great ideas you’re sharing with the education community.

So, here are a few thoughts to help you spread your social media wings:

What’s it all for?

That’s probably the biggest question of all time. What I really mean here is: what’s your social media account for?

Firstly, have a very specific aim for it. When I set up my Twitter account my aim was, “to inspire creativity and an adventurous spirit.” I still stand by that today. That doesn’t mean everything I share is about teaching. But it’s all, in some way, about being creative and adventurous.

Having this approach will help people who follow you know what you’re about. If one day you’re posting about a football match and the next you share an article on classroom pedagogy, your core professional message will get lost. I also think it helps to keep away from divisive topics like politics and religion, unless that’s specifically what your profile is about.

Who’s it for?

Mostly I see teachers use social media to network with other teachers. That said, there’s no reason why you couldn’t set up a profile to help your students with revision, or even a profile to keep in touch with your students’ parents.

Whatever you want to do just be clear and stick to it. Having a profile that targets both students and other teachers wouldn’t be helpful for anyone.

Don’t tweet in anger

I see this quite a lot. Someone has had a bad day and they’re venting about it on Twitter. Of course, social media is great for sharing your experiences both good and bad, but it’s not the place to air grievances. Talk about the unhelpful feedback you got after an observation if you want, but don’t turn that into a one-sided rant.

Embrace engagement

One of the best things about the online education community is that it’s made up of teachers from every stage of their career. That’s great because we can all learn something from each other. If you’ve planned a lesson you’re really proud of, set up a drop box or blog to share it.

I love getting comments about the lessons I’ve shared online. I still have people downloading the things I put up over a year ago.

Choose your online name carefully

I didn’t want my profile to be confined to talking about teaching, so I went for something very similar to my real name (@LukeRicha if you’re interested). I’d recommend doing the same as then it’s suitable for whatever you might do in the future.

I’ve seen a number of people put job titles in their name. I’d recommend against that as your job title is likely to change. I definitely wouldn’t call myself something like @mrnqt, as by the time you’ve built up a bit of a following, you’ll be fully qualified and the name won’t make any sense.

Profile pics

The profile pic can be one of the hardest things. People hate having a photo taken for their profile pic, but honestly, you just have to do it. Get a colleague to take a picture of you at work in your classroom. It only needs to be a head-shot of you looking nice and smiley. Easy job.

Don’t even think about wasting time trawling through your phone pictures for one. You’ll either have a drink in your hand or be off in the distance somewhere. Remember this is a professional profile. That doesn’t mean the picture needs to be boring, but it does need to show you in a work light.

Privacy settings

Now this depends again on why you’re going online. If you are going online to network with other teachers, then you can have open privacy settings so that people can retweet you and the wider community can get involved in the things you say. Of course, this does mean that if students (or anyone else) Google you they may be able to read your opinions on the latest inspection framework. If they want to do that – fair enough. Just always remember to be balanced, not angry.

Of course, that’s different to your personal Facebook account. On there, you’re sharing things with family and friends so that should be locked down tight.

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Be confident and enjoy it

Social media is a great tool for teachers of all levels. It would be a shame if you missed out or didn’t get the most out of it.

Remember, although it’s a noisy and chaotic ecosystem, your experience is unique so what you have to offer is of value. Spend a few minutes on there every day and see what you get out of it.

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

About the author

AvatarLuke Richardson is a teacher, writer and blogger with an ambition to inspire creativity, positivity and an adventurous spirit.

He writes at www.LukeRichardsonCreative.com and his first novel ‘KATHMANDU’ is available on Amazon now.

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