Twitter is my favourite social media platform for teachers. I have promoted it many times on this blog because my Twitter connections provide daily support, inspiration and professional development. It might not be for everyone, but I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t already. Set up a teacher account and start building your professional learning network (PLN). Many Twitter newbies will lurk for a while without posting at all, which is fine. You can always retweet until you have found your feet. But don’t hold back for too long. Teachers need each other and we will benefit from your sharing.
I have listed some common ‘sins’ that are worth keeping in mind. For different reasons, these mistakes are likely to make your experience less successful. I can’t speak for all educators on Twitter. These are just my own standards. However, I do get the impression that others share these expectations. They are unwritten rules, I suppose.
Mixing personal and professional
My Twitter account is for professional use. In my opinion, it doesn’t work to mix education content with other areas of interest. If you would like to use Twitter for personal use, consider a separate account (from mobile devices, it’s really easy to switch back and forth). I don’t mind the occasional tweet that isn’t about education, especially if it’s a special occasion for that person. However, if I see too many tweets about football, Justin Bieber or the Kardashians, it’s likely to result in an unfollow. Twitter is home to thousands of amazing teachers who unite through their shared interest. I don’t want other things to get in the way.
I don’t expect everybody to love Twitter as much as I do. I don’t expect daily, or even weekly, tweets. You should use Twitter however much you want to and in whatever way works for you. However, accounts that are inactive for extended time periods are obviously not the most fruitful connections.
This is really important because people will make a snap decision about whether to follow you or not and this is probably what they will base it on. There’s no need to overthink it, but your bio should at least make it clear that you are a teacher. It might also highlight some specific specialisms or areas of interest. I rarely follow people with an empty bio because I’m unsure who they are or what value they will add to my PLN.
No profile picture
I want to feel personally connected to real teachers. A clear photo is essential. I’m not keen on logos either. They lack a personal touch. I can’t really explain it, but it matters.
There are many social media options for teachers and they all have value to some extent. However, in my experience, Twitter is a much more positive platform. In Facebook groups, for example, it’s more common for teachers to share their gripes and frustrations about their work, school or colleagues. It’s rare that teachers express these negative thoughts on Twitter. We just don’t need them.
As teachers, it’s unacceptable to communicate through bad language (however mild). We are role models both online and offline. It isn’t usually the teachers themselves who are using bad language, but they might occasionally retweet it or share an article that includes it. I’m strict about this. There’s no place for bad language in my Twitter feed.
This should go without saying, but it’s more common than you might think. Twitter is a fantastic place for debates and disagreements. In a field as complex as education, it’s vital that we challenge ideas. But we can always conduct ourselves with professionalism and integrity. Sadly, some people (even teachers) are unable to respectfully disagree. If a teacher is unable to express their opinion without nastiness (even if I agree with them), it will always result in an instant unfollow/block. We should have zero tolerance.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
It seems out of character for me to write negatively about Twitter when everybody knows how much I love it. The above sins are not the norm. When you scroll through your feed, the items should be uplifting, encouraging, helpful and inspirational. 99% of the time, they are. If the occasional person ruins it, simply unfollow them. My Twitter experience is positive because I follow the right people.
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