Those who can, teach; those who can’t, tweet – the blog-eoisie should just blog right off!
So it’s the end of the year and, as such, it’s as fine a time as any to vent a little frustration and spleen. There are no two ways about it: it’s been a tough year, with more to come over the summer with GCSE results set to follow suit with Sats, not to mention the existential crisis that the UK finds itself in amid the horrors of post-23 June.
But it’s not the new examination regime, nor the recruitment crisis, nor the shameless NUT strike this month (based on a feeble 25 per cent turnout of members) that is drawing this CEO’s ire as we approach the holidays.
No, it’s the growing ranks of teachers who are taking to social media to share their pearls of wisdom about classroom practice and why their approach “works”. Because, let’s be honest, what this is actually about is a certain type of individual cultivating their own profile and status rather than anything approaching professional largesse.
It is instead about the culture of “ME, ME, ME”, and, quite frankly, the emergence of the “teacher celebrity” makes me feel queasy. Here’s a novel thought, folks: how about spending all that time honing your actual practice rather than waxing lyrical about it?
“Teaching: my story” – like some God-awful z-list autobiography by a St-Tropez’d 23-year-old with nasty hair extensions whose claim to fame is baring their buttocks on Big Brother – is more than a little bit naff.
It was bad enough when a small number of heads invited Channel 4 in to film the “gritty reality” of school life with programmes such as the Educating... series. But this merely fired the starting gun: headteachers are now at it with gay abandon: you’ve sorted out one small primary, which you’ve stayed at for decades, and now you feel you have the right to preach to those of us who slog it out – year-on-year – in the toughest, hardest-to-crack parts of the country.
And it doesn’t stop there. The cult of the teacher celebrity is hitting new heights of self-aggrandisement and delusion with younger and younger staff taking to social media.
In one free school in North London, one can imagine the interview process winding up with: “And do you have a blog?” One also wonders if it is only a matter of time before “Social Media: seven steps to establish, build and let your ego fly!” makes it on to the Teach First six-week immersion course.
We all know how time-poor teachers are, and this is not time well spent. Making the time to hone our practice is challenging at the best of times, but it is utterly essential to ensure we have a world-class profession. Instead of wasting those precious minutes crafting a blog or smart-arsed tweet, how about attending to your actual craft instead? Go to a TeachMeet or – shock, horror – spend some time with colleagues in your own school who would benefit from being mentored and given a helpful steer.
The gratitude you will receive for helping a colleague in a meaningful way will, I promise, far outweigh any number of “likes” and retweets.
The bottom line is that teachers “do”. If we are any good at that, we get on and do more of it. Not only does building one’s following on social media detract from this focus, but also the blogosphere and its blog-eoisie tend to bring out the worst in people: chippiness, cattiness, and downright spiteful, personal abuse.
Let’s stop all this nonsense. Let’s get back to the classroom and our real practice, instead of wittering on about it and adding the sum total of nothing to our profession’s development. Ultimately, it’s hard not to conclude that those who can, teach; those who can’t, tweet. (And, in any case, what sort of person writes under a pseudonym anyway?!)
The Secret CEO will be back in September