Saturday, April 28, 2018

Worn out by Twitter

No dispute:  Twitter can be a good venue for professional development.  It’s super-fun to find educational experts to follow—there are so many smart people in the Twitter universe, happy to offer short bits of inspiration and so, so many new ideas to implement. 

Or, wait:  So many new ideas we wish you had the time and energy to implement.

Not long ago, I found myself worn out by Twitter.  Beyond the obvious stuff—too many advertisements, too much political mumbo-jumbo—I was weary of the “professional development” part of it, too.

Yep.  I said it. 

It just felt so…  lecture-y.  Like a finger wagging at the things I should be doing.  To keep my feed clean, I had followed only prominent educator voices, but that meant it’s all I saw—many, many Tweets a day, all feeling like short little chastisements:   “We need to start…” or “If only everyone would…”  “Good teachers always…”

Of course I agree with the message of these tweets, but they felt, increasingly, like a gaggle of woodpeckers—relentless, ruthless, focused on chipping away at my confidence.  It made me feel inadequate, like I wasn’t doing anything right.  Especially on a bad day, where I felt I hadn’t done a bit of good that day, to scroll through Twitter and see my screen full of coulda-shoulda-woulda advice was like a kick in the face.  I’d think, “Is everyone else always doing awesome things?  Is every other educator out there is always offering fabulous choice books… always offering students a platform for voice… always advocating relentlessly for justice in our education system?” 

I’d wonder, Do any of these Tweeters ever have a bad day?  Are there any days they don’t trailblaze?  Are there any days they just do the best they can, and be grateful for it?  Do they ever go home exhausted and defeated? 

Resentment followed, because many of the people I followed weren’t actually doing the day-to-day work that I—and my colleagues—were trying to do.  Not every day, they weren’t.  They may have done it at some point in their careers, and when they did, they were undoubtedly excellent at the work, but they weren’t doing it now.  Not on the five thousandth rainy day of the year; not on the day there were sixteen interruptions or schedule changes; not on the day all students were bent over a Chromebook, squinting their way through yet another mandated standardized test.

I thought about taking a Twitter break, so as to give myself a rest from the judgy-ness.  Then my husband offered an alternative.  “You need to balance it out,” he said.  “For every educator you follow, find someone who isn’t an educator.  Find someone, perhaps, who tweets something super-funny every day.  Or something different or new.  Something that won’t hit you over the head with teaching and leadership stuff.”

What a great solution.  Now I follow just as many non-educator Tweets as I follow educator ones.  Comedians.  Musicians.  Chefs.  Athletes.  Bloggers and parents and artists and all sorts of people—anyone and anything that doesn’t saturate me with things I should be doing differently.   And when I find myself feeling inadequate, I just stop, because that’s when I know I’ve hit my saturation point, and it’s time for moderation. 

Social media continues to confront, contest, flummox, and frustrate me.  I haven’t yet found a place I feel comfortable in it.  As with anything, though, the answer is undoubtedly balance—lots and lots of balance.   

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dreams, Possibilities, Choices

I wanted to be a cowgirl.

No, seriously.  I did.  The real deal, too:  Gold-tipped boots and leather chaps and a button-up pastel shirt to accent my long, beautiful neck and fabulous hat. 

My father had taken me to a rodeo when I was about ten, and every detail bulges crisp in my memory: The sun precise and perfect, the sky an untouched blue.  It was the type of summer day that was a gift, all by itself, existing to make magic.  At the rodeo, I watched the cowgirls especially closely, the big hats and confident footfalls; the dusty, glittery jeans; the red lips and shimmery hair.   

On the way home, we listened to a cassette of the Dan Seals song Everything that Glitters. We sang along—my father on harmony, me on melody at the very tip-top of my lungs.  The song was about a cowboy’s lost love, which sounded melodramatic and super-awesome.   I thought I’d like being the kind of efficacious cowgirl capable of eliciting that kind of country song.

So I decided I’d go ahead and be a cowgirl.

I had a horse, which gave the whole thing some oomph.  I got home and started working to turn her from a regular old horse into a rodeo horse.  My father was kind enough to find three big medal barrels, which we placed in the pasture, just so, and I put my horse through hours of barrel-racing practice.  I saved all my money for a good hat and a bridle with shiny silver trappings.  I didn’t bother saving for a saddle—good ones were hundreds of dollars—but I sure dreamed about it.  I did my best with the creaky, dried-out saddle I actually did own, rubbing Feibing’s saddle soap over it relentlessly, hoping it would turn into a something worthy of a rodeo queen.

The dream faded, as many dreams do, and before leaving for college, I sold my horse to an Amish kid who came to pick her up with a handful of twenties underneath his hat.  It was enough money to buy me a semester of textbooks.  He was impish; I was solemn. I ached to clutch my mare’s neck and sob.  Instead, awkwardly, I asked if he wanted to buy my saddle, too.  He said no.  He leapt on, clean and graceful, and rode away, bareback, which was something I thought she’d only let me do, but he did it nonchalantly, as if my horse had always been his, which broke my heart into a shattering of pieces. 
I bet that old saddle is still in the barn somewhere.   

I’m a long, long way from being a cowgirl these days.  I’m a suburban mom and a school principal and other things, too, instead.  This isn’t a lament; it’s just a remark on growing up.  It’s the way things are. 

Dreams turn into possibilities, which turn into options, which turn into choices. 

I like to think about those early dreams, though, because the imaginings of the young are so irresistibly inspiring.   I like thinking about kids and their dreams—the potential and promises of imagination without limitations.  I wish we could bottle all those dreams into the air and release it into the earth. 

Because wouldn’t that be something to see?  What would happen if it flipped?  If our choices could match our fiercest dreams?  It's something to think about, is it not?

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