All that Twitters is not gold…

Aside

I’m going to say some things and many people reading aren’t going to like it.

But you know what? It’s fine. I can handle with dissent  and am happy to debate.  This blog is for me to consider my thoughts about issues largely related to my practice and evolve.  These issues have been floating around in my head for a while so here goes.

Twitter can be a bit of a mirror. Ppl look at it and see themselves. Many of us follow people that we like and agree with and forget that there is a wider world where ppl may not think these things.  So now I’m going to be a slightly heretical.

Most talk about Twitter from an educators point  of view focus on the positives ( of which admittedly there are many). If there are negatives mentioned its more to do with issues related to courtesy and rudeness of Tweeters rather than anything else.

I’d like to suggest that perhaps many of the things that we speak about as positives could at times be negatives.

Like minded professionals –By its very nature Twitter is self selecting, people are likely to be similar in some respects. It takes a certain type of person to comment about work issues in their personal time ( as many teachers on Twitter do). Dissent is surprisingly rare ( unless it’s against the Government) and when it comes sometimes people can be unfairly jumped upon or maybe just ignored just for expressing a  view slightly different.  Teachers on Twitter can forget that not everybody in schools are like us but hey that’s ok too.

CPD whenever you want it –I have been wondering whether Twitter encourages workaholism and further skews that work life balance that many educators say we want but then seek to actively destroy and ignore at seemingly  every opportunity. I  had an interesting discussion with somebody at work a few month ago a statement that they said  has stayed with me ” Every single day get into work at half past 7 and often stay until gone 6, on top of that I still have other things to do and there is always more. I know that you get a lot out of Twitter but the last thing I want to do is go home and talk about work and education in my personal time.”   The person I was talking to works hard and is a good teacher and do you know what, maybe she had a point.

Latest educational trends-In the educational world as with other areas of life these days, it seems that many things occur first on Twitter and the wider blogosphere. It’s immediacy  is part of the pull but it can also create a group speak, cultish effect at times. When I first became aware of Twitter many hashtags were about #SOLO now it seems to have moved on to #marginalgains ( of which more in a later post) there are great things about both of these but equally there may well be things that some educators feel don’t add any value.

In closing Twitter can be an excellent tool but let’s be balanced about things and realise that every ying has its yang- we need to be critical in our appraisal of things just as we ought to be encouraging those that we educate on a daily basis to be.

In the spirit of this I’m going to mention some Twitter contrarians who can always be relied on to disagree with something but who still want the best for students- @ethinking, @TheBullacademy. I’d give you more but maybe you should find your own or else we’ll all be having the same contrary voices which is against the whole spirit of this post.

My 2012 (Nurture 1213)

There has been a hashtag going around among education professionals on Twitter called #nurture1213.

The idea is a reflection of 2012 via 12 positive points and plans for 2013 via 13 points that you wish to work on.

Like all fashionable people, I’m slightly late to the party but my reflections re 2012 are below.

1. Photography

I took up photography  as a way to unwind after a particularly difficult 2011.  What started as an excuse to relax and have something just for myself not allied to work, or my personal relationships, has grown into a serious hobby and passion. It has given me a new way to look at the world and enabled me to connect with people who I would not other wise have met.  It is not an exaggeration to say that photography has kept me sane.

2. Kindness of strangers ( social networking)

I was initially underwhelmed by Twitter after being introduced to it via my  real life friend @Dewbien. However, I now believe that, used effectively, it is an unrivalled resource for connecting with people who share similar interests. My account mostly links to educational professionals and photography enthusiasts.  I have been the recipient of the most generous hospitality from ppl all around the world some of whom I have been lucky enough to physically as well as virtually.

As a result of social networking sites (mainly Twitter but to a lesser extent Facebook and Instagram) I have been taken to lunch and invited into people’s homes. I have been offered advice and expertise personally and professionally.  I have been given free software and plugins to help me with my photography.  I have been given insider’s tours of New York, Hong Kong and Sydney – all out of people’s good will.

3. Travel
I have always been excited by travel and been lucky enough to go to some interesting places but 2012 has been a definite highlight for me.  Having never been especially bothered about visiting  Australia, I spent 2 weeks there ( one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney) staying with my best friend who had decided to live and work there for a year after being made redundant.  Since I was travelling alone and I didn’t know that  I’d be visiting that part of the world again I decided to do a stop off in Hong Kong for a few days where I was looked after by the wonderful Nevin @gxgarnerings.  Who I’d been virtually introduced to by  a fellow photography blogger that I knew from London. Nevin, prevented me from being ripped off, introduced me to the most amazing fishballs and let me play with his Leica! For no reason other than that he is a great guy.

Part way through the year. I changed a planned solo trip to Peru  ( which I decided I was doing for the wrong reasons) into a combined anniversary present and first ever  foreign family holiday to New York with M and our (then 1 year old) boy, Little  G. It was brilliant and the feeling that I got watching Little G count and point to every single yellow taxi going by our hotel window over looking Central Park is something that I can’t quite describe.

As if that wasn’t enough I also went to Bruges ( or Brugge)  for a few days during the summer. I’d try to outline the reasons why here but I don’t know. It really was done completely on a whim. Something to do with a Twitter #ff that I idly checked out where I came across @phototourbrugge read the website  decided to go after  I realised that Eurostar went there for not very much and the journey was pretty quick.  What can I say? I’m sometimes a bit impulsive but M is used to it and very understanding.

4. Trying new things. Not being held back by fear.
I’m usually open to new experiences but I’ve accelerated that a fair amount in 2012. I remember  having a conversation with M where I told her that I didn’t want to be held back from doing things because of fear.  You’ll notice from above that I did some of my travelling solo. That is a new thing for me. I’ve been abroad alone before but usually to stay with somebody I already know as I did in Australia. This year was the first time that I’ve gone abroad and stayed alone. It was scary but I’m glad I did it. I learnt that I could and had fun but I also learnt that I love my family and have a limit beyond which I start to miss them terribly – which has ramifications for other things that we have discussed for the future.

However I also eliminated fear in small things. I have good friends and family but I also have very eclectic taste in music and sometimes nobody else wants to come with me. In the past M usually joined me but changes in our personal circumstances mean we don’t go out as a couple as often as we used to. So I decided that rather than miss out, I’d still go if it was something I wanted to see enough. I’m glad that I did.

5. Parenthood

I have now been a parent for just over 2 years. I’m going to be honest here and say that I found it incredibly difficult for the first year and  although I have always loved Little G,  there are a variety of reasons that I initially  didn’t cope very well with the impact of become a parent on my/our life, especially compared to M or other people we know.  That all changed in 2012. I now love being a mum.   There are so many more positives than negatives and I am enjoying helping Little G grow up into a happy, caring and joyous young person (I could do without the tantrums of the terrible 2s though). I hope that by our actions as parents wegive him the gift of happiness and resilience in 2013 and beyond.

6. Work life balance

As mentioned in point 1, I had a pretty crappy 2011 and at the end of it I decided to make quite a few changes to my life and personal relationships. One change was securing  a new job which I started in Jan 2012. When I started that job I decided that nothing would come before my family and personal well being. I decided that I would restrict my working hours to particular times and not work in the weekends. I have broadly stuck to this to no detriment to my productivity at work. In some ways I am more effective than I have ever been.

7. Happy at work
I work at a place where I feel valued and respected, I have thrived and achieved great things individually and via my team because I am trusted and given the space to use my professional opinion to do a good job.  I can be myself but have also been challenged and supported to become a better leader too. I originally joined in a sideways move but promoted to  a year long secondment to SLT this September, in which I am learning a great deal.  I could easily write a nurture 1213 post solely concentrated on work but won’t due to point 6.

8. Life with M
M and I have been together for over a decade. We have had lots of fun together  and some more trying times too.  2012 was the year that we have started to honestly negotiate and conquer what it means to be a couple who also happen to be parents. Our number one duty is to be there for our boy but we have also ( after a few false starts) found a way to remember and nourish  each other too as well as  ourselves individually. There has been much laughter in our house this year and writing this post is making me reflect on just how much I have to be greatful for.

9. Strong friendships
I feel that the modern world places too much emphasis on romantic love and that we expect too much from our  spouses.  The weight of expectation is a massive strain to place on one person. I came to the realisation a while ago that I actually have 2 soul mates, one is M and the other is my best friend, G,  and they fulfil different but complementary functions.  When  G went on a working visa to Australia, I was happy for him and didn’t give it much thought as a year goes pretty quickly. I was unprepared for what came next. I felt as if my arm had been cut off. I was bereft . Here was a person that I communicated with on an almost daily basis for several years and he was now gone. To make matters worse he originally didn’t have a permanent address or mobile phone, this added to the time delay, meant communication during the early months was extremely sporadic.  We managed to make things work and as mentioned in point 3 I visited him during his stay. He is back now but has decided to return permanently as he loved he quality if life ( I can’t blame him). We still have an enduring love for each other but I don’t feel that gut-wrenching dread now because I know that we will be just fine.

10. Honesty
I’m a fairly straight forward person who tries to be honest with people and values those who are honest with me.  I some areas that is easy but it can be difficult to be honest with your self especially if it involves perceived vulnerability or weakness.  I’ve been better at that this in 2012, I have many strengths but acknowledging my limits and knowing when I need to access support or advice has been liberating and improved my relationships and general well being.

11. Live sport
I have a list of things that I haven’t done but would like to try before I die. Some are big but others are small. I’m indifferent towards football but decided that it was kind of sad to be English but never have been to see our national game.  Luckily I have a few football mad close friends so it was not hard to remedy the situation  ( M would rather pull her eyes out). My first ever football match was  England v  Holland. Little did I know that it would be the start of a year of live sport for me and that I would actually like it!

Highlights have been a rugby final, baseball game, world cycling championships, Aussie rules football game, and the Olympics and Paralympics which I  was lucky enough to attend courtesy of a sports- mad and extremely generous friend.

I’m still underwhelmed by almost everything other than athletics on TV but live sport is a completely different experience and I’m planning to see  more in 2013.

12. Puckishness
I can be extremely driven and focused, I turn this on and off and have found it useful in achieving and exceeding my  personal and professional goals. However, deep down inside I’m just a mischievous imp. My life so far and those around me has taught me that life is what you make it. It’s too short to waste being unhappy, regretful , guilty or making others miserable, it is  to be enjoyed – for me this involves regularly  unleashing my ( sometimes close to the knuckle) sense of humour.

2012 has had it’s tough times but overall it has  been successful in many ways as well as being a year of wit, sarcasm, innuendo, harmless flirting and lots of fun at home, work and in between.