A few weeks ago, I published a post called My issue with Teachers Pay Teachers. I expected it to be controversial, but I didn’t expect the level of outrage that it sparked. Including my replies, that post has over one hundred comments and, admittedly, most of them are in disagreement. I like to think that the post itself was written politely and respectfully and, if you read the comments, you’ll see a large number of educators justifying their opinions in a similarly respectful, professional manner.
What you won’t see on that post are the many, many comments that I trashed due to their nastiness. When I first started blogging, I witnessed @TeacherToolkit‘s Ross Morrison McGill being trolled on Twitter by educators who disagreed with him. I sent him a message of support and also expressed my surprise that teachers could act in that way. I’ll remember his response forever: “Sadly, I’m no longer surprised.” As an established blogger, he learnt the sad message long before I did: not all teachers are nice.
The published comments on that TPT post prove that I’m open to disagreements, debates and even criticism, but I won’t tolerate nastiness or trolling and I certainly won’t engage with it. That was a tough day! The hurtful comments came in thick and fast! True story: at around 7pm, I turned off my devices in protest and announced to my girlfriend that I could not take any more abuse. The following day, I woke up to more personal attacks and wildly untrue stories. I was deeply upset but also disgusted that a minority of teachers reacted so viciously.
In case you don’t have time to read the 100+ comments on that post, let me share a snapshot:
“Thank you for opening the discussion…”
“Thank you for sharing your perspective…”
“Interesting post. However…”
“While I completely understand your point,…”
“My perspective is that…”
“I agree with some of this. That said,…”
These comments were written by people who disagree with me (many of them strongly). However, these teachers were professional enough to do so with respect. It is hugely important to challenge ideas rather than people and, after such a tough time following that post, I sincerely thank all of those teachers who responded with professionalism and kindness.
On numerous occasions, I have stated that disagreements are not only inevitable but welcomed. We benefit from hearing other perspectives and debating ideas. We must remain open-minded. If you ever disagree with me, please tell me! I learn most when my thinking is challenged and stretched. Sometimes you’ll change my mind and other times you won’t, but I’ll benefit either way. Hopefully, you will too. These exchanges, however, must remain professional. My blog/social media spaces will not be platforms for trolls.
One of my idols in the education world is George Couros (I challenge you to find a more inspiring, thought-provoking blog than his, The Principal of Change). I was struck by this paragraph in one of his recent posts and felt the need to write about it myself:
“There are not “sides” to education; we are all on the same team. There is a lot a “forward-thinking teacher” can learn from a “traditionalist”, and vice-versa.”
His blog post is not just about whether you identify yourself as a progressive or traditional teacher. Education is a complex field; there’s no one, correct way to teach. As George points out, there are no absolutes in teaching and learning. Very few teaching ideas (if any) have been accepted globally and timelessly.
Due to this complex nature of education and the lack of absolutes, we won’t always agree on what’s best for children. However, we can assume that educators are doing what they believe is best and, as George points out, we’re therefore on the same team because we have the same goal. Everyone on the team deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. Remember, as well as being adults and professionals, we’re also role models.
So, as the new academic year begins (back to work for me tomorrow), let’s vow to be a team. Let’s support, encourage, mentor, share and collaborate. Let’s disagree with respect and open-mindedness. Let’s remember what team stands for: Together Everyone Achieves More. We will achieve more, but guess who will benefit the most from our teamwork? The children, of course.
This post was not intended to be negative or disheartening. Unkind teachers are obviously just a minority. I want to reinforce the positive message. Click play below and listen to the surprisingly relevant lyrics. This is how I feel about our amazing profession and my colleagues worldwide. Indeed, we’re all in this together.
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