I am not a teacher. I have never been a teacher. I think it is unlikely that I will ever be a teacher. So am I not allowed to have an opinion about education? That's the way I've been made to feel in the last two weeks.
Let me stress: it's nothing to do with my school, which values my judgements and seeks my input. No, this has to do with a suggestion from my chair of governors that I join Twitter.
It has been a real eye-opener for me – and not in a good way. I have seen teachers talking to each other in a manner that would land the students they teach in detention if they were to show a similar attitude. I have seen teachers gleefully engaging in group attacks on others, often on the basis that "they started it". And, just as worryingly, I have seen professional snobbery that is completely out of step with how schools operate in this day and age.
That's not to say that it's been all bad. There are small pockets of support and good, healthy debate. But they are drowned out by the cliquey vitriol of a small number who make edu-Twitter a genuinely unpleasant place to be. And the worst thing is that I don't think these people are even aware of the corrosive impact they are having.
A vocal minority
Consistently good teaching is, yes, something that only teachers can deliver. But they do not do it in a vacuum. They do not do it without the direction provided by senior leadership. They do not do it without the proper resources – some created by them, some perhaps shared by others or bought in from an external source. They do not do it without properly targeted SEN and pupil premium provision. They do not do it without a budget with which to obtain all of these things.
To insist that good teaching is solely down to teachers is an affront to the many, many people working in education who may not stand in front of a class, but who always work with the best interests of children at heart. They do not deliver good teaching, but they sure as hell facilitate it.
So, having experimented with Twitter, I've found that I don't have the time to sift through the incessant childish arguments to find the increasingly rare nuggets of gold. I'm happy enough to leave them to it, at least until the vocal minority learn to apply Wheaton's Law to their approach to fellow education professionals – regardless of whether they're in a classroom or not. Governors are not teachers. But that doesn't mean that we don't have valid things to say about education.