This morning I was in a funk. I was hitting up my always inspirational twitter after a great workout out but something was off. My dear friend Susan coined a hashtag in our own little #curiositycrew and we laughed about #brentsinafunk. I pondered on what it was that was really bugging me and I think it all boils down to the fact that when I joined the Edu-Twitter world it was for ideas, inspiration and a supportive community.
Over the last little while I have noticed changes. There seems to be less learning popping up in my feed. Aside from the #G2Great chats my feed is filled with a lot of what I think people consider inspirational quotes or feel good stories but primarily my feed is becoming more and more a sales pitch. If it isn’t 7 million tweets a day about the newest book that is going to change my classroom (as long as I change myself) it is the newest conference that is 500 dollars plus travel and lodging and don’t even get me started on #teachersofinstagram and Teachers Pay Teachers. All of these things just keep popping up in my feed. Now I guess I could stop following people that seem to be amplifying this make money message but I followed them for a reason I just hope we find our way back to the why.
I am specifically bothered today by the trends, the room sponsorships, the staged photographs that don’t focus on joyful learning but do focus on company names being displayed for those fancy chairs and tables because flex seating is more important that authentic environments in this new monetized learning environment. I left twitter in a huff this morning for a lot of reasons but they boil down in the end to this new influencer culture. Is that what we got into this for? Did we get into teaching so we could be Rockstars? I didn’t. As I made my rounds through teacher social media I came across another post on a group that is dedicated to Jennifer Serravallo’s work. The post had nothing to do with her work however. The post was drawing attention to Teacher’s Pay Teachers 4th of July sale. Save money, save on planning, eliminate teaching tailored to your students needs. I know there are a lot of people that love Teachers Pay Teachers, they love a good Chevron border and cute Penguin clip art to fill there 40 binders to cover their 180 days. But again what is driving Teachers Pay Teachers? It isn’t authentic joyful learning. It is money, it is that desire to be pInstagram famous as I saw one person point out today on Twitter. Did we get into teaching to become famous?
I have talked about my next big issue before but can someone please explain to me how having your classroom sponsored by companies is not all kind of unethical? We had this discussion as a staff once when a company reached out to help support a school initiative. What conditions do you have to meet to get sponsored? What percentage of your room needs to be their product? I friend told me that she really wanted to get into flex seating and so was looking for ideas on Pintrest and Instagram and came across this great account that had the most amazing room. Tables that were 4000 dollars. A quick show of hands for who can afford 4000 dollars for one table…I will wait. This teacher was an instagram “influencer” all their cute TPT stuff and Pintrest worthy staged pictures got them a ton of followers and so companies started sending them things to showcase. How does the average teacher accomplish this?
I have been expanding my twitter net recently and reading about all this amazing work, amazing learning being done in classrooms all over schools but I have to dig for it. Those stories are not the ones being shared far and wide. They are being lost in a sea of “look at me”
I am not looking to shame anyone that has bought into this celebrity culture of education. I would say to each their own but we are not only responsible to ourselves. We have classrooms of kids depending on us to bring our A-game. To better our practice to meet their needs. All the followers in the world to “influence” will not make me a better teacher. Actually doing the work? That will. In this world of Social Media we can do so much good but what good is 50k followers when you don’t discuss inequity, injustice and the real challenges facing kids and schools today. Trust me kids get along fine without a ball chair and standing desk, they don’t get along fine with books falling apart and not enough chairs to go around. With great power and all that as Uncle Ben says.
Today Penny Kittle tweeted her dismay about how schools can’t “afford” libraries. In Alberta our government is cutting funding to nutritional programs that were getting students breakfasts and lunches when they needed them. The money issue is real, scary and something must be done. But unless all this “influencer” money is making its way back to students, building librairies, funding nutrition programs is it really worth it?