Fourteen Reasons All Educators Should Use Twitter!

As I was writing this blogpost, I retweeted the following and found a new colleague via Twitter!

“After 20+ years in teaching I had got to the point where I was coasting until I actively engaged with twitter. Thank you for inspiring me, encouraging me and pushing me. You made me a better teacher.” –Karen Knight

And now…the blogpost.

If anyone has read many of my previous blogposts, my sad story of Twitter is known. Might be typical for a lot of educators. When Twitter first reared its head, I was a junior high principal. I knew that Twitter was for movie stars and teenage musicians. I just knew it and I was pretty sure I was neither a movie star, nor teenage musician. So Twitter just sat there. Along around 2009 or so, I was hassled into getting an account for our school, via my principal role. I robustly tweeted out some school things on a blistering schedule of a tweet every couple of months to my tens of followers. I still didn’t get it.

Twitter was founded in March, 2006. Officially launched in July, 2006. Officially just sat there for me until about ten years later.

It turns out what needed to happen for me to get Twitter as a Learning Tool was that I needed to get a new job. Shake things up in my professional life and thinking. After 31 years in school buildings, I took on a new role at the district office. Executive Director of Teaching-Learning-Innovation. I had the chance to make a new department, where one didn’t exist. I was casting around for ideas…and found George Couros. On Twitter. And that was that.

I am now an evangelist for Twitter as a Professional Learning Tool For All Educators. And if I can convince just one educator to learn from my sad, slow tale of Twitter acceptance, I know that all of that educator’s teachers/students will be impacted in significant and positive ways.

Twitter has changed, challenged, and enriched my professional life and thinking. Full Stop. -Jeff Nelson, @jnelsontli

Here are Fourteen Reasons
All Educators Should Use Twitter!

  1. Get a new idea/activity/practice in seconds. Find it, think about it, implement it. Share how it went.
  2. Meet authors. Among the authors I’ve met and personally talked with, some of the biggies in our line of work. George Couros, Shelley Burgess, Beth Houf, and Tara Martin, among others! And though I haven’t met him yet, I’ve exchanged thoughts/ideas many times with David Geurin!
  3. Challenge your old thinking. Humbling. But exciting.
  4. Edchats. Twitter Chats. Whatever one wants to call them. A group of educators from around the world, digitally gather around a hashtag and a group of questions and share. My favorite is Saturday morning, 7:30 am (PST), #LeadLAP
  5. Find your voice. Share your voice.
  6. Amplify Your Why via others.
  7. In challenging or dull moments, reinvigorate. Find inspiration. Quickly, easily, and authentically available in seconds.
  8. Follow a real-time hashtag in your classroom to keep up on a current event/pop culture.
  9. From Beth Houf! “My number one reason would be the opportunity to showcase the amazing things that happen in classrooms and buildings each day. We are better together for sure!”
  10. From Tara Martin! “My number one reason would be to amplify impact and build connections with like-minded professionals. There are so many incredible things happening inside the walls of classrooms, but for all of us to peek inside the buildings of these outstanding EDUs and truly learn from each other, we must share openly! Twitter is a perfect platform to amplify the impact of educators around the globe. In the process of sharing and collaborating online, many times…lasting friendships are formed.” By the way, do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Tara’s Twitter 101 For EDUs!
  11. From Robert Kratzig, a real teacher in a real classroom, every single day! “Sharing Ideas / Collaboration – I am certainly not the only person in the world that teaches what I teach (even more true when I was teaching Social Studies), however it often feels like we’re all disconnected.  I was sure there was probably a social studies teacher out there doing something absolutely amazing, but I had no way to professionally meet them, connect with them, see those ideas, and discuss.  Twitter is that avenue!  I have gotten some of my best ideas, things to try or adapt, and just “ah-has” from posts I’ve read from what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.”
  12. Also from Robert Kratzig, “Perspective Shifting – People in other areas of the country or even just in other parts of Washington have different educational experiences and social constructs that led them to have different world views or philosophies of education.  I’ve been a Washingtonian my whole life, and I think that limited perspective is expanded by interacting and seeing posts from others around the world and the social, familial, and educational issues different communities are facing.”
  13. From David Geurin! “Twitter is a great place to get ideas and inspiration. It’s great being connected to fantastic educators from everywhere.”
  14. From The George Couros! “For me, it is the opportunity to provide a “world class” education by seeing what other teachers around the world do in their classrooms.”

I’ll add to this list as other great ideas come flying in to headquarters!

Bitmoji Image


My Why.

We had the chance to sit with a group of aspiring administrators last evening, discussing the advantages of a smaller school district. Along the way, the ever important discussion turned to the question of each leader’s ‘Why’. Why do we do what we do? For whom?

Hard to imagine that any educator’s why wouldn’t somehow be related to the picture above. This is a group of kids from our junior high school. It’s a great representation of Why.

I see Potential. Leadership. Opportunity. Challenge. Growth. Curiosity. Hope. Questions. Answers. Innovation. Wonder.

What do you see?

Not a big fan of the term ‘classroom management’.

I thought long and hard about the title of this blogpost. My first thought was, “I hate the phrase ‘classroom management’. That seemed too harsh. So I dialed it back a hair.

A gifted teacher, working her magic with her kids. ‘Classroom management’ is her loving, respectful style.

Stand back for a big announcement later in this paragraph. I was a middle school teacher for 16 years. Middle school, grades 6, 7, 8. Kids that were 12, 13, 14 years old. Earlier this week, we met with the staff at our middle school to talk about construction plans. I mentioned that when I was a middle school teacher, and I was out and about, I would tell people that I was a teacher. They usually found this charming and inspirational. Then I told them I taught middle school kids. And they usually expressed some form of horror and pity. Cracked me up everytime. Here’s the big announcement. Not intended to be bragging, but it is a fact. In 16 years as a middle school teacher, I sent one referral to the office. It wasn’t that my classes were perfect, that I didn’t ‘lose it’ sometimes, that kids behaved like little angels all time. Of course not. The kids were good, typical, middle school kids. Nope, it was that my ‘classroom management’ strategy entirely consisted of treating the kids with respect, having a sense of humor, laughing with the kids. We all knew that we all cared about each other, and when I was having a bad day, they graced me the time and space to do so. As I did for them. And that lasted for 16 years. I learned that being myself in the classroom was my best tool.

The words ‘classroom management’, in my opinion, are too cold. A teacher is not ‘managing a classroom’. He/she is working everyday, with kids. Human beings. Period. ‘Classroom management’ too often connotes ‘discipline’. Rules. Regulations. I think we make it too hard sometimes, as teachers. Treat the kids as you would want your own kids to be treated is a pretty good guideline.

By the way the teacher in the picture is a former student of mine at our middle school. And every teacher who has former students return to be colleagues knows what a thrill it is to see them in action, in the trenches, working with kids. That’s what I get when I cruise through her classroom! Smiling, laughing, respecting, and loving on kids.

Works every time.

Our educators continue to learn and read.

Recently each of our schools had the opportunity to do professional learning, based upon each building’s needs. We love that the bulk of our professional learning is directly tied to the individual needs of each school. We do all we can to avoid ‘top down professional development.’ The educators in our schools know the kids and know the kids’ needs best.

Here are a couple examples of recent events to drive home that our educators didn’t stop learning the minute they left college!

At one of our schools, teachers looked at What Great Teachers do Differently, The Innovator’s Mindset, The Power of Moments, and Who Moved My Cheese. This school called the activity Book Tastings. Served with treats and beverages, teachers sampled different books to determine which would suit their needs and interests!

At another one of our schools, educators reviewed Grit, How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms, and Classroom Management in the Digital Age. This school did a series of Book Chats. Broke into groups that rotated every 15-20 minutes. Had a variety of different activities for staff to get an introduction to each text.  Chats were led by TLI and building administrators. Teachers then made their selections via Google Form as to the text they want to read. The follow up will be a twitter book study, using #CJHreads in March. Also going to use a Padlet to have a digital dialogue with benchmarks for reading. All of this will launch next week and wrap up after spring break with a World Cafe activity!

Recently I had read a fantastic book, Grading for Equity. One of our principals asked to read it as well, based on the needs at his school. When I dropped the book off, he showed me the 2 or 3 books ahead of Grading for Equity. All books that the teachers had his school had been reading and were recommending to him.

Looking for a copy of this book!

Another great example of our dedication to continual learning centers on the book above. One of our teachers sent an email to her colleagues in her school looking for a copy of this book, based on the needs of her students. Then that request was shared with other building principals…then with entire other buildings’ staff members. All stemming from the request of a single teacher, wanting to learn more to help her kids in class. Amazing. But not surprising in our district.

It’s how we roll.

It’s like a family reunion!

This is a great book!

About a month ago, Dave Burgess send me a message letting me know that I had been selected to get a free book from DBC! The person who would be taking care of me was Tara Martin. I had the awesome good fortune to listen to and learn from Tara at ISTE last summer in Chicago.

The Tara Martin at ISTE with one of her many fans!

I let Tara know that I was excited to read one of DBC’s newest titles, Lead Beyond Your Title by Nili Bartley. I loved the title and had great hopes for another fabulous pirate experience. Tara let me know that this book was SO new, it wasn’t even released yet, but as soon as it was, I was in business. And, of course, she was good to her word. The book arrived, along with some cool pirate swag (I love DBC!)

So I’m well into Nili’s book. It’s fantastic. It’s like sitting next to a trusted colleague, sharing fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations. It’s so clearly written from a great teacher’s heart, it’s amazing. One of the things that struck me most powerfully was her use of quotes. Since I changed jobs, moving from being a junior high principal, to the executive director of Teaching-Learning-Innovation, I’ve had the opportunity to figure out that twitter is the best professional learning tool on earth for educators. And because of twitter and my PLN, I know every single person she quotes…and even cooler, have met almost all of the educators. That would NOT have happened if I hadn’t opened my mind to the possibilities available through twitter.

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from Nili’s book from some of my favorite learning influences. Thanks to all for growing, sharing, and learning with me!

“When students put their phones in their lockers for the day and are asked to learn what we tell them they must learn, engagement immediately drops, no matter how good a teacher we think we are.” –Joy Kirr, Shift This

“People are less likely to tear down systems they help build.” –Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, Lead Like a PIRATE

“It’s not supposed to be easy–it’s supposed to be worth it.” -Dave Burgess, Teach Like a PIRATE

“If you are going to crush apathy in our schools and create learning that’s irresistible, it won’t happen doubling down our efforts to reach proficiency. We have to start by developing environments where students can rekindle what it means to be a passionate learner. After all, they came to us this way, right?” –David Geurin, Future Driven

“Twitter is not going to change your life. But the educators you meet there will.” –Aaron Hogan, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth

These are just a few of the quotes from the author educators. Reading them again, having read all their books, interacted with them on twitter, talked with them via Google Hangouts, or met them in person, makes this book, in addition to being a powerful, supportive well of inspiration and ideas for educators, a family reunion. A celebration.

Great job Nili and thank you!

Where were these questions when I started teaching?

Sometimes I feel like I whale on my beloved university unfairly. But the further along I go in my career, I honestly wonder what in the heck we learned in the undergrad teacher preparation process. I specifically remember a solid week’s focus being on bulletin board preparation. Seriously.

Joe Feldman has written an excellent book shown above. He is flat calling me out as a teacher who gave no thought to grading practices. I made ’em up as I went, based on how I thought grades were supposed to work. I remember something about a bell curve, from teacher prep days in college.

And that was literally the extent of the thought to which I gave my grading practices.

I wonder sometimes if we’ve moved the needle at all with this topic. Here are some pretty hardcore questions/statements about the punitive nature of grading from Mr. Feldman.

  • Does traditional grading stifle risk-taking and trust between the student and teacher?
  • Are mistakes punished? Or encouraged? (Jo Boaler has an entire book about the brain growth nature associated with making mistakes.)
  • Simple question for teachers. Do the kids’ grades at the beginning of learning carry the same weight as at the end of learning? When they don’t know anything about the subject matter, do their mistakes as they learn punish them? Wow. That one kills me because it makes SO MUCH SENSE.
  • Do kids’ grades include things associated with behavior? Noisy class? Brining tissue for extra credit? How about wrong heading? Late work? Skipping problems they don’t understand?
  • The entire riff on grades being sought for the sole purpose of a grade—not learning. Does a teacher’s grading practices incentivize cheating? Getting the right answer, to get the right grade is the point. Not the learning.

I could kind of go on and on. I’ve just started this book. The above is captured over 3 pages(30-32). I’d dare any educator to read them and honestly ponder grading practices.

I did. I wish I could go back in time.

Would this fly today?

I bet most educators who do great things with/for kids, do a lot of those things via instinct. Just seems like the right things to do. Greeting kids at the door, for example. Doesn’t seem like rocket science, seems like a good idea intuitively. Then somebody does some research, slaps a name on the thing, and we’re off to the races. And virtually every teacher thinks, “Geez, I’ve been doing that for years. Didn’t know it was an official thing.”

One of the things I did, every Monday, for 16 years as a middle school teacher, was ask the kids how the weekend went. 6 periods a day. That simple. Sometimes the conversation in class would last the entire period. 47 minutes. It never occurred to me that I should/shouldn’t do it. It just seemed like a good thing to do. Spend time talking with the kids about how things were going with them. Sometimes, but rarely, we had to dive right into the work of the day, but the majority by far, of the time, we talked about how the weekend went. What kinds of things I was doing, what the kids were doing, or wherever the conversations went. And those same kids, now adults, still remember fondly those conversations. We really built strong relationships and a positive classroom environment. Paid off in many ways, including academic.

Back when jumping in the air and landing didn’t seem daunting or dangerous.

Another thing we used to do was play flyers up Frisbee with the kids. This was not a very technical process. One person threw the Frisbee towards a large group of kids/teachers. As soon as one person caught the Frisbee 3 times, he/she became the thrower. We had some the funniest and best things happen during this dumb game. Lifelong memories. Built strong bonds to school.

Yesterday I was having an awesome conversation with one of our principals. We were talking about grades and who the kids were behind the grades and how important it is to know the kids. The educators at his school are masters and getting to know the kids behind the grades. I recalled my time working at the same school….and some of the things we used to do. Spending a whole period talking with kids and playing.

I wondered if those things would still fly today? Does the tyranny of the urgent overcome the power of forming relationships as a classroom foundational must?

And I decided, based on this conversation with this great principal, that nope…relationships still matter and fun times with kids still fly.