Just recently I willingly labeled myself a “lurker” in order to describe my social media engagement as an educator. A lurker is someone who reads, follows, observes online conversations and postings and chooses not to publicly engage by producing output. I adopted the term because I felt that it best captured my own approach to this (for me) relatively new realm of professional and personal learning. https://edifiedlistener.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/lurking-listening-and-proud-of-it/
Here’s the thing: As I read more and more posts concerning how to get more educators connected, the best way to initiate the uninitiated and essentially how to get more folks to jump on said bandwagon, I’m getting a little frustrated. I think it’s the labeling we are using to frame the dialogue: connected vs. unconnected or semi-connected, initiated vs. uninitiated. After reading these terms I have essentially asked myself: What’s the price of admission? At what level of output do I get to call myself “connected”? How many tweets until I become “a really useful educator”? It seems to me that the purpose embedded in so many labels serves to determine exactly this. If I make enough of my learning public through particular online forums (of which there are many, many), then I get to officially board the bandwagon and become its latest new ambassador.
While thinking (and getting all worked up) about this topic, I realized how much I long for a different tack in the conversation. As educators our most significant connection is, and remains, to our students. We connect through the care, concern, and respect we show each of our students every day. We connect when we reach out to parents and communicate our hopes, expectations and desire for partnership in developing our young people. We connect in the way we share and collaborate with our colleagues across the hall, upstairs, in the next grade level, or even on the other side of town. We connect with our craft whenever we experiment with new ideas, take risks in our approaches and recognize our weak points. When we co-opt a term as broad as “connected” to define a fairly narrow range of activities and behaviors, we do ourselves and our colleagues a disservice. We create the “us and them” divide before we even can begin the conversation.
Tom Whitby argues in his latest post that
Connected educators may be the worst advocates for getting other educators to connect. Too often they are so enthusiastic at how, as well as how much they are learning through being connected, that they tend to overwhelm the uninitiated, inexperienced, and unconnected educator with a deluge of information that both intimidates and literally scares them to death. http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/patience-for-the-unconnected/
He may well be right. I appreciate his recognition that educators new to social media may be hard pressed to comprehend the fervor of some, yet I can’t help but chafe at the insinuation (in this post and others) that the “unconnected” among us represent so much lack in our whole education system. That may not be the intent yet I feel that sentiment come through again and again.
Come on, educators! We can do better than this! We can be enthusiastic about our turbo learning and wear our merit badges of connection and still remember that every time we divide ourselves, we lose more than we gain. Our “unconnected” colleague down the hall is still, first and foremost, our colleague with whom we share kids and a school community. We need to always be in the business of supporting each other in striving to serve kids and doing our best with what we have. Let’s stay connected and let’s address the core of the topic: how do we help each other achieve our professional best? Whether in person, on the phone, by e-mail, or online, let our connection, above all, be human, compassionate and genuine.