In all the tweets, in all the blog posts, in all the websites, I keep seeing threads of discussion on our "digital footprint." Well, I learned a big lesson about my own this week.
When I first started following teachers and principals, I realized the fact that "PD on Twitter has become everything a teacher's lounge or after school meeting SHOULD be." I believe someone tweeted it, I retweeted it, and it soon became my mantra when I got online. (Update 8/17/12 - I finally found the author - Sean Junkins! I put this quote in my PD in Your PJs keynote, as well! Thanks, @SJunkins!)
I loved the positivity of educators on Twitter. Sure, there were still people who tweeted about concerns they had in education, and most had links to articles they'd read that were worrisome. And some don't separate their personal tweets from their professional tweets, so I'd hear how someone's son's baseball team did not win, or some restaurant service or food that wasn't the best, but it was mostly positive. I learned to skim over the personal tweets and only focus on my goal - of learning from this beautiful PLN I had carefully built.
Well, I was humbled this week. I posted what I thought of as my first (was it really, though???) negative-with-a-plea tweet as a reaction. I was upset, so I tweeted what I heard. I only have a tad over 100 followers, thank goodness. Who really wants to follow a 7th grade LA teacher who's just on Twitter to learn? The only "accolade" in my bio is NBCT, and that was in 2007 (yikes! The year to renew is approaching fast!)! So I viewed the 140 characters as a tiny vent session.
When I came home, I knew I had vented, and started wondering why. I realized I had veered away from "teacher's lounge without the complaints" after what I consider a very valuable discussion I had three days later...
That discussion I had was with a man who is from the source of my frustration that day. I was contacted, and we talked for half an hour [my true Genius (Half-)Hour today]. This is a person I know & respect, and yet was not expecting to hear from. He inquired about the situation from which my tweet stemmed. He listened when I detailed the background of it's reactionary nature. He then proceeded to thoroughly educate me (in the truest sense) about the Common Core Standards and he alleviated some of my fears that come with such as big change. I don't know if he is aware of all he truly taught me... about so many things... (a partial list follows!)!
--> I learned, as so often happens in my life, that I am still ignorant of the digital world, of the power my words can have, and of the ease of straying from my own beliefs to be a positive person. I am humbled by this experience.
--> I learned (and I suppose I already knew, but it was instilled in me this week) that we can write and say (and tweet) whatever we choose.
--> I learned that most companies, no matter the size, have someone on staff who monitors the web (yes, the entire web, including tweets) for any mention of their name, or their services, or their affiliates, and most likely their competitors, as well. This can be to see concerns, successes, ideas, and to keep the revenue coming in. They keep their business by keeping up their image in this image-driven society. This could mean they try to help customers if there are issues, spread the word about what they do well, attempt to keep up with their competitors, and perhaps glean ideas for improvements - all by hovering over and examining the web.
--> I learned to go to the source if you have an issue with something. This could be difficult in some situations... Such as teacher salaries or overcrowded schools. But it could be easier in other situations... Such as a hair in your soup or a student who won't participate. Such situations we can deal with quickly, and even get results, or at the very least bring awareness to the situation. We have so many resources - we can choose to go to them instead of venting our drama out to the world.
--> I learned that if you Google (I can't believe it's a verb these days!) your name, you'll get every tweet you ever typed, every comment you ever made on any blog post, every website organization you belong to, and, of course, your blog and school at which you work. I am creating my digital footprint each and every day. I am taking risks - everything I write can be taken out of context, misconstrued, and used against me. I am still figuring out who I am by what I write. So much of my verbal life has landed on these "pages." I've always said what I feel, as my family is well aware. However... our online community is IMMEASURABLY larger than any family and friends we have that know us. We need to make sure they know US, and not just what we type.