Storytellers: Why Teachers Should Control the Education Narrative
By: Alex Stubenbort @alexstubenbort All too often, teachers are portrayed in society as caricatures. As a recent New York Times article entitled "Why Techers on TV Have to Be Incompetent or Inspiring" points out, our hopes and experiences collide to create a juxtaposition of two predominant teacher archetypes popularized in modern America: the aloof buffoon and the inspiring rebel. Fortunately, teachers in real life rarely, if ever, fully fall into either category. In my experience, teachers are a passionate bunch that often enter the profession for all the right reasons (not for summers off), and, if they are lucky, maintain this moral purpose throughout their tenure. This is not to say that there aren't exceptions to this norm. Any profession that denies some levels of incompetence and apathy in their ranks is telling themselves a boldfaced lie. But, generally speaking, teachers are a hardworking bunch assigned the task of preparing the nation's children for their tomorrows in the face of insurmountable odds that rarely brag about their accomplishments. And THAT is precisely the problem.
Of course, I understand the inherent value of living a life in relative humility. No one enjoys the company of a self-absorbed blowhard, nor should teachers strive for such a title. However, to allow stereotypes like truTV's sitcom "Those Who Can't" to exist undisputed is an egregious mistake. Teachers in the most powerful nation in the world possess, as a colleague put it, "one of the most sacred occupations on this planet". The fact that we have allowed the miracles produced in the classrooms of the members of our Professional Learning Networks to be misrepresented by a society that has accepted that teaching is a mere "part time job" is a travesty. Millions of teachers strive daily to perfect their craft through Twitter chats, professional development training, courageous conversations, and hours of data analysis. Yet, the vast majority of our nation believes that our job ends as we walk out the schoolhouse door.
Given this fact, teachers are left with two options. The most popular of these two options is easy to spot throughout your social media feeds. Teachers become fed-up with a society that ceaselessly and systematically undervalues their worth. Therefore, teachers stroke each other's egos, tell each other that everyone else is wrong, and lay their heads down at night knowing that their jobs MEAN something. And rightfully so! But imagine a world where, instead of responding to attacks with hostility, teachers took up the torch of optimistic hope and shined their light.
Sean Gaillard imagined such a world. When he realized that the day that teachers and students traditionally dreaded the most became synonymous with the worst day of instruction, he decided to, instead, rewrite the narrative. Sean created the hashtag #CelebrateMonday as a place for educators, students, and parents alike to celebrate the wonderful things happening at their schools across the world on Mondays. Now, the hashtag regularly trends internationally in the top ten week-in and week-out, even into Tuesday night!
I had a chance to communicate with Sean as he moderated the wildly engaging #USedchat last night. In this chat, Sean posed the question, "Why is positivity needed now more than ever in education?" After some thought, I responded, "When we stray from positivity, we allow others to write education's narrative (for us). Shame on us if we don't believe in a better story." Like the positive guy Sean is, he responded to my tweet with the words "#EduMicDrop" and suggested I blog about the concept of "writing a better story". So here I am.
After careful consideration, I decided to bounce the idea off of my #EdtechAfterDark colleagues, Dan Koch and Zachary Leonard. We stumbled upon the fact that Twitter chats are often used as a way to gain insight and share best practices; however, very few places exist for educators to display with positivity the things they do outside of "traditional work time" to improve their craft, impact the lives of children, and make those around them better people. Very few places exist on Twitter or otherwise where a teacher can boldly and emphatically say, "This is NOT a part time job; this is my LIFE!" Therefore, we've sought to create such a space. Through Sean's inspiration, the boys of #EdtechAfterDark are launching a new initiative called #WeTeach365! This hashtag will be used as a place for teachers to control the narrative surrounding their profession by sharing the incredible things they're doing beyond the traditional "school hours" that have real impact in the lives of the children they serve. The hashtag will be operated as a weekly "slow chat" where a question will be posed Monday morning, and participants will have the entire week to expound upon their answers. We encourage all teachers to share the hashtag in the hope that we can steer teachers away from self-defeating prophecies and cliches and take back the narrative!