Reflection and Self-indulgence

Blogging, Tweeting, Instagramming and other forms of social media sharing have become part of the daily grind for many educators.  We may use these tools to share our latest classroom provocations, take a stand on a social justice issue, connect with educators from across the world or create a digital archive of our own practice. (Keep in mind I am consciously ignoring any personal posts about family, or food, or summer vacation.) The idealized version of this suggests that we are all “on the same page” and sharing the magical moments we have with students and colleagues each day.

The truth is the reality doesn’t always hold up to this utopian version of the EDU-verse.

Let’s be honest – we curate the heck out of these posts! Other than a live feed option, we know that each photo, statement and hashtag is carefully selected.  Some of this is purely out of respect for our students’ and/or colleagues’ privacy. We recognize that these policies vary board to board and that each individual has their own personal boundaries when it comes to social media. But moreover, it’s because we are selective about sharing our “best” moments.  No one shares their worst pedagogical choices looking for actual suggestions for improvement.

Do we share these moments to help inspire other educators or to position ourselves in an echo-chamber of praise?

When I work with other teacher librarians and school library professionals I often point out the stress of feeling overwhelmed when we look at the social media posts of others in the school library world.  It’s already a role that requires we wear a millions hats, know curriculum and program content from K to grade 12 (depending on our school), manage a massive print collection and somewhere in there learn ALL the latest tech. No one can actually do this successfully without bumps in the road.

I am a person who sees the 100 things I have failed to do, not always the 20 or 30 things I am actually doing well.  I think many educators who work from a stance of reflective practice can relate. Social media can add to this stress if we don’t engage with it through a critical lens.

So here’s the struggle for me…

Are Blogging, Tweeting, Instagramming and posting to other forms of social media about our educational practice a form of purposeful reflection or an act of attention-seeking self-indulgence?

The EDU-Twitter tension this summer over “EDUknowns” and “EDUcelebrities” getting called out  for using their digital footprint to promote their books, their T-shirts, their keynotes and more, seemed to highlight this question.

Is it problematic for people who have these opportunities to “self-promote” and “product place” their offerings as just another part of the massive industry known as back to school?

For me, it is problematic.

But not out of jealousy or spite (maybe a wee bit of curious envy).

The problematic part is not the “sales pitch”. I get it. We are in a capitalist, product-driven society. The problem for me is balance.  I want to buy your educational product (I tend to read as much as humanly possible of the latest pedagogical offerings). But I also want to know YOU. That might not be fair but it’s true.  I want to know what you stand for, not just your catch phrase. I want to know where your educational journey has actually taken you, not just your bio. I want to know that you are working often, if not daily, with actual kids, not just what happened for one year while you worked on your book draft. None of my expectations may be fair but, I have them and I am trying to be as honest as I can.

So back to my original question…

Are Blogging, Tweeting, Instagramming and posting to other forms of social media about our educational practice a form of purposeful reflection or an act of attention-seeking self-indulgence?

For me, it’s actually both.

I do consider myself reflective and intentional with my practice and my social media posts. I do go back through these posts as a digital archive and reconsider my published statements as an intersection of my teaching practice and who I am inside. I have actually met and connected with incredible educators, organizations and opportunities simply because of my Twitter PLN or a blog post that was shared more broadly than I expected.

But I also enjoy the attention that posting gives me.  I appreciate the comments, the “likes”, the retweets. My ego is fuelled by these digital interactions. Posting THIS is an inherently self-indulgent act.

For now then, as I publish my blog, eager to see your reaction, I can admit to being flawed and hopelessly human.  My moral compass is always on high alert but, I cannot pretend to be anything more than I am.

Maybe this is what we need to hear from those in the EDU business who are facing so much criticism right now. Maybe being honest about the monetary and emotional pay offs of the attention and opportunities they receive would make it all a little easier to swallow.

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