Later this week I’m meeting up with a friend to help her set up a Twitter profile and a teacher blog, and to help get her established. It shouldn’t be too much of a struggle as she is already a stupendously good teacher with a lot to say, and she is keen to get started.
Nonetheless it got me thinking about why teachers might want to get into Twitter in the first place. It is hard to explain EduTwitter to someone who doesn’t do it without it sounding like a horrific debating club that has access to you 24 hours a day.
So then, as I lie in a grateful stupor in bed thanks to what happened in idea Five, I got to thinking ‘What reasons could I give to persuade someone of the merits of learning the world of hashtags, blocking and rapid-fire GIF exchange?’
One – Genuinely Interested People
The common ground you’ll have with anyone inside Education’s little pocket of Twitter is an interest in education that runs deeper than just doing the job. There may be different political views, different educational worldviews and different levels of experience and expertise, but on some level, there is a common perception that education is interesting and can change things.
Two – Benefit Your Own Kids
It doesn’t need to be an official school account in order to bring benefits to your pupils. Linking up with authors through things like Patron of Reading allows you to connect directly with visiting authors. Krysta Parsons and I arranged a pen-pals and mutual visiting project between my East London behemoth of an urban school, and her ‘heart of the village’ small rural school in Lincolnshire, and this was all through Twitter.
My engagement with the Scholastic Lollies Awards last year brought literally hundreds of new books into the school and gave us the chance to attend he award ceremony with Michael Rosen, Terry Deary, Liz Pichon, Andy Stanton and Axel Scheffler, among many other Book idols. Engaging actively can bring a wealth of opportunities to connect across the world.
Three – Finding the local community
It’s easy to be blinded by the worldwide scale of Twitter but one of the biggest benefits is the sustenance of a local twitter community. In Newham, where I teach, there are hundreds of interesting people teaching and working in education who are brilliant to connect with. The two schools I’ve worked in have teachers who tweet and across primary and secondary schools in the borough, there are loads of people engaging. Sarah Bonnell School is a hive of activity and the teachers there are keen to share their practice and develop active links with primaries, again, mediated through Twitter. This includes Yamina Bibi, Sausan S, Mr Bentley and many others. Other brilliant local people include Ilona Aronovksy, a writer and historian with expertise on the Indus Civilisation, and Deborah Peck, who coordinates brilliant learning opportunities in Newham’s public libraries. Twitter is a profoundly effective away to make local links that otherwise might pass you by.
Four – TeachMeets and Conferences
On from this online engagement, TeachMeets are informal events where teachers and educationalists come together to share ideas. Events like #TMNewham (at Elmhurst and at Park), #TMHackney (at Cardinal Pole), #TMPicnic (in West Ham Park) and #TeachMeetE7 (at St Bonaventure’s) are dirt cheap or free, and allow you and your colleagues to get loads of useful ideas and to begin building your professional network beyond your school. Through these events, colleagues have found new job opportunities as well, and many have made connections that they go on to build up after the event. We’ve hosted Nikki Gamble, Charlotte Raby, Medical Mavericks, James Biddulph, Yamina Bibi, Bukky Yusuf, Aisha Siddiqah, Rebekah Iiyambo and so many other astounding educators and writers, and we benefit massively from a good shared local network.
Five – Good People
The benefits of Twitter are limited if you keep things fully and exclusively online. The blending of Twitter into the real world is lovely. Meeting Rae Snape and subsequently attending training with her (whilst meeting Miss Johnson for the first time) has been great and I can’t wait for Cambridge Festival of Education . Annual drinks with Tim Taylor and Debra Kidd has become a great routine after Northern Rocks. Coffee in Doncaster’s Waterstones with Sameena Choudry is a great hometown perk. It’s good to get real.
Last night got very real, as we put out a tongue-in-cheek Twitter appeal for donations of onion rings and chicken using the Wetherspoons app, and instead we were inundated by joyfully generous donations of prosecco that keep many tired End-Of-Term primary teachers very busy.
So whilst I lay writing this immobile in bed at 9am the next day, with the feeling that my eyelids and brain have been punched repeatedly, I can reflect with gratitude on how truly amazing it can be to engage on Twitter as a teacher, for all of the reasons above and more.