One thing that has become glaringly obvious over the past two terms with my leadership of our Year 8 cohort is that teenagers make mistakes…..newsflash!
On a daily basis I have had to respond to, comfort, delegate, punish and refer onwards issues and actions that these 13 and 14 year olds participate or create.
Many of these involve media and I can’t but help reflect on my own teenage experiences and remember the mistakes I made and the risky situations I put myself in where media was not there to magnify the situation or outcome.
I know that social media frustrates many of the teachers, parents and authorities I work with as they see how quickly an image can spread, or harassment can escalate. The problem is this is just a reflection upon something else that’s missing.
Over the past weeks I have been speaking to these young people about empathy. I ask them if they have ever made a mistake, I admit to them that I have made hundreds and many of them in my teenage years. Yet it was different, my peers couldn’t take a picture and post it online in 5 seconds flat, or create an anonymous profile to comment on my personality or appearance. My friends couldn’t “like” or “share’ someone else’s comment and I wasn’t left with ambiguity around what that meant.
I ask them if they too have made mistakes. They never deny it. I ask them if they regret doing some of these and what it would feel like if that mistake was publicised on social media. I am yet to have someone wish for that end.
We talk about forgiveness, we talk about empathy. We talk about everyone having the right to make a mistake and when someone’s mistake hits our “inbox” or “timeline” it is our choice, right then, to decide if we punish them for making a mistake and pass it on, or we show understanding and delete.
I think we could get a little better at this.
I use blogging as an opportunity to develop my ideas, reflect on my practice and question my assumptions. This can mean I write about things that I am learning, things that frustrate me, things that have impacted on me as a person, either recently or in the past and things I strive for in the future.
“Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.”
– Clive Thomson from How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas Thinking Out Loud
I have previously written about this process for me and how I see writing in this online space.
Recently someone commented to me “You will get plenty of “likes” on that post!”
That honestly threw me for a moment. Really “likes”? Yes people have “liked” my posts and the little star in my WordPress bar shines bright orange to let me know, but for me this has no impression on me, not even a warm fuzzy, I just click the star to make it go back to grey.
I have never “liked” (to my knowledge) any blog post. I have definitely “liked” on FaceBook and “favourited” on twitter. I “like” on FaceBook because I only connect with my friends (people I have actually met) and it is a quick way of acknowledging something funny or endearing that they have shared. I “favourite” on twitter to record an idea, or a point of view that I want to return to.
If I read a post that challenges my thinking, evokes emotion or speaks passionately about an area I am interested in, then I won’t “like” it, I will share it and most likely I will comment on it.
Personally, I would rather a comment that disagrees with my writing, challenges my approach or makes suggestions rather than just get a star.
I feel the same about giving stickers to kids! What does a sticker actually achieve for student development without any feedback? It shows you “liked” it, but what did you actually like about it, what could they do to make it even better?
I realise people use “likes” in different ways and social media is amass with ways to acknowledge approval or disapproval, I would just encourage to continue the dialogue to push the thinking further when reading work online or off, whether they be a teacher, student or other!
I had a discussion today with two colleagues about why I blog. In the past I have had it said “you must have too much time on your hands” or “you need to work less and get a hobby!”
I tend to laugh this off because if I didn’t, I might get annoyed. The time complaint is nothing further from the truth. I do spend a lot of my “free” time on my iPad or computer, but no more time than others spend at the footy or watching TV. I use my technology because I love reading (books via kindle, blogs, Zite and online news) , listening to, finding and adding new music to my library online and exploring new digital tools for use personally and professionally. Previously this would have gone unnoticed because I didn’t have the ease of sharing as I do now via this blog, twitter and Facebook!
Each of these mediums serve a different purpose for me. Whilst other people blur the lines between professional and personal with twitter, Facebook and blogging, I tend to use Facebook exclusively for personal connections. The people I “friend” on Facebook tend to be restricted by a few conditions. I only “friend” people whom I know personally. I would most likely have been in their home, met their parents/children/partners and socialised with them by choice! I know their family by name and they know mine. Facebook is a space I use to share information about my children, connect with friends interstate/international and share music and humour. I don’t spend a lot of time on this domain, but tend to check in from time to time (every couple of days).
Twitter has been a dynamic addition to my online presence. It has connected me with a developing PLN that supports my learning and empowers my teaching practice. I use twitter for professional purposes generally, but do still like to show some personality and not keep it too clinical! I generally access twitter daily.
This blog is a space that has had the greatest impact on how I reflect upon and develop my ideas in a public arena. It enables me to:
- work through feelings
- stay positive
- clarify my thoughts more clearly
I have always written to work through my frustrations or confusion, it was previously just kept private. I have always recorded my reflections, just that it would take the form of a letter or email to my mother, a friend or colleague. This blog provides an avenue to do this in a public forum. Whilst some of my colleagues are anxious about how their writing is interpreted or judged, I don’t tend to be concerned by this. Sometimes I see what is shared via other social avenues and think my few spelling or grammatical errors or misplaced clarity of writing is nothing to agonise over! The benefits for me far outweigh the risk of a negative comment (still waiting) or someone bored by my ramblings! The bonus is that at the same time, I am developing a professional portfolio that is a growing digital footprint, tagged and categorised for ease of reference, no longer a linear record.