Welcome to the world of education’s professional learning on the internet. I have been seeing a disturbing trend lately, which seems to be the thing that motivates me to write blogs more now than ever. (Please accept this grumpy “old” man as he shouts at the wind.)
Putting your work out to the public, to the world, can be scary. It can be a challenge to overcome the fear of rejection. Having consistently put my own work out to the public over the past few years, I understand that there are people with whom you can’t engage or continue to hold conversations because the goal isn’t discussion. I am also firmly of the belief that if you did the work, you should share your voice. You never know who will resonate with your work, so we shouldn’t feel as though we don’t have a voice.
I want to dig into a different sentiment though. The new push from people who are catching pushback and criticism has been to simply say, “I don’t listen to the haters.” Sure that’s not new, but it is beginning to catch on with some of the biggest, most influential names in our field. It is becoming the standard response to people who disagree with your position. The sentiment is that other people are jealous, dislike you for your success, or are just being petty. I have seen it more and more. I have been blocked by high profile names in education on social media for asking questions or pushing back on something they’ve posted. I am not a hater. I am not jealous of the success of others, I tend to promote it and support them. There are many people like me out there, people who care about what messages are put out to the hundreds and thousands of people influenced by popular educators. Each time I see messages that are questionable, I ask the question. I try to do it in a respectful manner, but also publicly. I want people to think about the great sounding positions they blindly agree with because they make great sound bites.
The worry I see in this “don’t pay attention to the haters” mentality is how easy it becomes to ignore everyone. There is no surer way to create your own echo chamber than to stop thinking about the objections of others. I don’t expect you to engage with everyone, but ignoring them means you have given up on learning. It means you’ve given up on making your ideas better. You don’t need to make “haters” agree with you, but it is important to stop ignoring the voices that counter you. Understand their concerns and use them to make you stronger. Not everyone is a “hater” just because they disagree with you. Your ideas aren’t perfect, they are just like the rest of us, getting better and improving every day. If you don’t, you will look for the learning and only see your own reflection. You will become an echo chamber of one.
I have spent most of my life living with in a bike ride of the Atlantic Ocean. Growing up, and living now, in a beach town in southern New Jersey I have learned many things. I have written about how my summer jobs in restaurants have made me a better teacher, I have had a summer job since I was 13 years old. (Yes, I know I was supposed to be 14, but I wanted money for a stereo…) While I have had ups and downs working the summer months while many teachers spend their time refreshing and rejuvenating from a long year, I have spent almost ever summer for 2/3 of my life working in the summer. While the work was a change of pace and at times I enjoyed the restaurants in which I worked or the people with whom I worked, I have never felt excited about summer work. This summer, however, I am in a different place.
This summer I have found myself more disconnected from the education world than ever, despite oddly enough working with a number of educators. Unlike the past 20+ summers working in food service, I have found a slight change of pace. The hours are long, the work involves slightly more physically demanding labor, but I feel like for the first time my summer is providing me with a combination of working income and self care. I spend 5 days a week working 10-12 hour days on a dolphin watching speed boat where my job is to take care of the boat and the passengers, spot dolphins, and essentially through a party for the 100+ passengers on board. When I am not doing that part of my job, I also spend some of those days as a “Jet ski” guide flying through the harbor helping novice wave runner users “play with the water motorcycles”. (This is my favorite and most terrifying explanation I’ve heard of a wave runner.) My job is often fun. I get fresh, salty ocean air. I get more than my share of the sun. I get to spend amazing time close to some beautiful moments of nature. Most importantly, I get to completely unplug my brain from education for most of that time. I have almost never left teaching out of my mind for that much time in a day, let alone a week. It has shown me just how important it can be to completely step away. Even when I have gone on family vacations there was always something I was thinking about that I needed to come back to do, yet for the past week I haven’t had time to so much as think about my classroom. This is something for which I feel there should be no apology. So, be aware that if you are trying to contact me, do it directly. If you want me to read something, send it to me. I have plenty of educational goals for this summer and I am planning on digging into them soon, but I am finding myself wholly refreshed by this major change and the ability to let go of so much. To me this summer is only two weeks old, but it already feels like a lifetime. It isn’t perfect, though I won’t list my complaints. It is however, exactly what I needed to feel rejuvenated after a long, challenging school year.
I have said many times I am going to revive and rejuvenate this blog, so I won’t make promises to anyone other than myself. I am aiming to rebuild my blogging. Today was a start, I hope to build upon it from here.