I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Edu Celebrities

I've seen the term a TON via tweets from educators I admire and also educators I don't follow.

I wonder who "qualifies" as an "Edu Celebrity..."

I wonder if I am one, or if I even want to BE one. Based on the mixed messages I find on social media sites, I have no clue.

Opinions range from pure love of certain "Edu Celebrities" to pure anger and rage against said "Edu Celebrities." Sometimes they're called different things, such as "Edu Rockstars" or "Edutainers."

What is the definition? I checked Urban Dictionary - I'm actually glad they don't have it - yet.

So... what IS the definition? According to the tweets I've seen shared, some people believe it has a positive and some believe it has a negative connotation. It depends on the person sharing, and whether they're in a mood to uplift or put down.

Here's a sampling of some of the tweets floating around, and my questions about them:

*I, too, love learning in person from those I respect on social media - some have even become what I would call "teacher friends," for sure.

*I've totally gotten my photo taken with more educators than musicians!

*I'm always look forward to meeting educators from whom I've learned!

*Getting your thoughts retweeted when you're new to Twitter (#NT2t = new teacher to Twitter) is one way to grow your network and become more connected. This most likely means you'll learn more than you ever knew before, as you're learning from so many educators around the world.

*I thought teachers shared this type of information as a pick-me-up or reminder, even during the hard times. And... aren't NONE of us "ordinary" teachers, especially if "we know what's good for kids"? Note: This person later shared with a friend "edu-celebrity" that SHE (the friend) was tweeting the "right" way for edu-celebrities... ?? This is confusing to  me.

*Does this mean Edu-celebrities are not in classrooms anymore? And don't some of them present to others to affect MORE students than they could when they were in the classroom?

*Here I see more suggestion that perhaps edu-celebrities have left the classroom. I have no idea what their experience was like. I have no idea what type of money they were (and are now) making. Perhaps they feel they can affect more children by presenting? Perhaps it was a better move for their family situation? Perhaps where they were teaching was a terrible situation? Plus, I haven't heard someone in a long time tell me that what I'm doing is "wrong," only that maybe I could try something different. I feel that much professional development goes in that direction... for "development" that we can take or leave.

*Here's more thinking of these educators being out of the classroom as a generalization. Wondering... do many people share theory first, then when asked, share the practicality? Seems as if social media is for small doses, not entire lessons on how to implement...

*This one was talking about how edu-celebrities should not be presenting at conferences - that students should. I agree that we should hear more from students. I also know I've learned a TON from other educators who share their learning.

*Why should ANY educators stop sharing? And who says they didn't schedule those posts to go out on the holidays when they're with their families and other educators are online reading them? And perhaps some don't have families to be with on holidays? I have more questions now.

*I don't know what to say. I know I'm privileged. I also know I have ideas to share. Where do I go from here???

*Then I saw more about "edu-heroes." I'll bet people have different definitions of them, as well. I can see that term being both affirming and full of pressure, for sure.

*One doesn't have to pay attention to ANYone. I, for one, however, am better when I hear success and failure stories from others who've tried things I don't (yet) dare.

*And yes, there is even a Twitter account mocking educators labeled "EduCelebrities." I wonder... does this educator hide behind this name so she/he/they can be rude online without their students knowing? This educator has a lot of followers - does that mean that many educators support it?

*This tweet is one I want to end my string with, as he's giving the benefit of the doubt to educators trying to do their best. I love how he used "edu role model" for those educators who are sharing and doing what they can with what they have.

More questions I've got...
  • Isn't it okay for people tweet what they'd like?
  • Isn't social media often used as a platform to share opinions?
  • Isn't social media connecting us to people from around the world who have experienced many different things?
  • Isn't it up to each person on social media platforms to decide who to follow, who to share engage with, and who to listen to - same as those we meet in person?
  • Isn't it up to each person to decide who to listen to or who to support?
  • Isn't it fair to ask, "Is this person bringing value to my life?" and then decide to follow (or mute or block) or not depending upon the answer?

What I've learned...
  • People ("edu celebrity" or not) like to share their (positive and negative) opinions online.
  • No one can please everyone.
  • People on social media can choose to mute, block, unfollow or follow anyone they choose.
  • People have feelings, and people can be hurt by what other people share.
  • Educators aren't exempt from hurting others, and some educators don't always model what they want their students to share online.
  • There is research that social media INCREASES isolation and DECREASES social skills.
I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, how to share online, or what to believe. I'm taking this post to share the various ideas around one word that keeps popping up in my feed. Words are important, and I try to choose mine wisely. If I wouldn't tell a person face to face what I'm thinking, I won't be sharing those thoughts online, either.

Teacher and friend Jennifer Ledford wrote about "Edu-stars," and it rings true to me. We're all at different stages of our education, and our educating. Thank you, Jen, for writing a post that has stuck with me all this time. If we're doing what we can for those students in front of us, is that what truly matters? In my mind, ALL teachers are "Edu Celebrities" to some child out there, and most likely to multiple children. That's the type of EDUCATOR I strive to become every year - in the classroom and online.

I am in disbelief you read to the end... That, too, is a choice we make. Thank you for keeping polite conversations going - either on social media, the comments section here, or in your own school in front of your students.


  1. I love how you approached this topic from different perspectives and were empathetic no matter where people stand. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joy! - Eric Patnoudes

  2. Tried to do this during my lunch and never finished, but will post unedited as is!

    I wonder why people worry about this "word." All the people that write about it seem to be themselves educelebrites. Having people with 1000s of followers debate this is kind of interesting... You would not see some "commoner" on twitter writing about the problems with edu celebrities right? The thoughts might be driven by some guilt from the edu celebrities about whether or not they are still rooted in the classroom. Have they made such a complete transition that they have forgotten the pain of grading papers, dealing with "problem" kids, and freezing during recess duty?

    Could it also come from something that I hear locally all the time...the "we are all great teachers" sorta line. Teachers hate to admit that some are better than others, some have magic that others never will be able to wield. I am not sure what other profession hates to admit that some in the profession are simply better at it than others.

    I can remember way back near the birth of Twitter when pretty much every teacher on twitter knew of every other teacher on twitter. Slowly, some people found they were better at marketing themselves better than others and a new class arose. The regular ol’ teachers and those that were learning that they could start to specialize in things and write books and consult and light up conferences. We’re talking like 2008 when the folks who were becoming the popular tweets were touting themselves as Web 2.0 gurus. I still remember a tweet from someone back them complaining about feeling like they were being left behind and left out of the in crowd who were leveraging twitter for more fame (he is firmly entrenched in it now!). Is the current debate just the same but now we have labeled it with a different word?

    While the above can be read with a bit of an evil tone, I have no issue with someone using twitter for fame and fortune whether accidentally or on purpose...maybe more fame for most. It allows me to check out their work and then know who I can turn to for help on project based learning, the newest tech gadgets, or details on how to organize genius hour in my class. The reality is that I, or anyone else who is at the bottom of twitter, can no longer tweet out a question and expect it answered by anyone anymore. The days of just some commoner tweeting out a question and having a whole discussion wrap around the tweet is over. I have seen and proven this over and over with grad classes that were introduced to the “power” of twitter. In the old days you could tweet some question and have multiple honest to goodness edu celebrities rock your world with their answers. Now one has to wonder how to break into their feeds of 10s of 1000s of followers.

    All education is a call to action. Maybe we need to change the label. It’s not about being a celebrity. It’s not about whether or not people know who you are or how many followers you have. It’s about does your influence create positive change and action in someone’s life. So Joy, you are an edu celebrity. You can walk into a room and people light up. You can tweet the exact same words as someone else and get tons of reaction the other person cannot, you have influenced 1000s of people you will never meet, and in conferences around the country people continue to share your ideas. Embrace it :) You wield your power for good by using it to lift up other folks and your influence is felt in 1000s of classrooms across the country through your books and conference sessions. You have pushed me to become a better teacher because I always wanted to out do what you do :) I still couldn't tell you whether you have 100 followers or 100,000. It just doesn't matter. What matters is that you make a difference. You are a celebrity to me :)

    1. Thank you for keeping the conversation going! I wasn't there for the birth of Twitter, yet I do remember more people sharing with each other and fewer people bashing each other. It's probably the same phenomenon you witnessed. I remember people asking for followers, and I remember thinking "too many followers" is scary. The more I had, the better my tweeting had to be. I felt a responsibility to make sure I definitely didn't tweet about my food or complaints or ... I've always used it for professional learning, yet suddenly I had to be VERY professional. I've since tweaked my usage to add some family and some "outside school life," as I do find those who do (like you) seem more "real" and more approachable.

      YOU are still on my "first" list, I just don't know what to say about those awesome Keva plank builds and teardowns, so I stay quiet. 👍 YOU are the one inspiring me - I'm so glad you talked about our Twitter connection when we had the group in the room in Boston. I love how we inspired each other to do better. I hope that's what many (most) of the connections on Twitter are still for. Thank you for taking the time to respond in such a thoughtful way, Paul! YOU are the type of educator I hope to be in the classroom! Thank you!!

  3. And one more thing! What the heck is up with only three comments! In the old days folks would leave comments and go back and forth. There were like 60 responses to your tweet but no real dialog.

    1. Right?! In the old days we'd keep the conversation going through the comments. Usually when I write a post, I ask for them, and then ZIP. I was totally fascinated with your response this morning, Paul. In fact, I'll go reply to that one now, too. 😉

  4. This is an awesome post. This gave me a lot of thought and reflection. I have recently seen a lot of arguments among some of the educators I really enjoy....I am like are we all not here for the same thing, but do it differently?
    Glad to see some thoughts on this!
    Alana Stanton