Say What?

Isn’t it funny how sometimes as teachers lessons we have planned ahead of time will end up happening at the prefect time? For example,  last week I spent way too much time trying to help my science students understand solstice and equinox, the lesson lasted until Friday. Yesterday was equinox. Didn’t plan the timing, it just happened.

Lesson I taught today in my tech class has been planned for 3 weeks now. Really since January, it was a lesson a group came up with in the conversation led by Gerald Aungst and me at the last educon. And now I sit back and think,  wow at that timing.

The lesson was to look back over your social media footprint as someone from the outside and write a negative story about yourself. Last week we spent the entire week discussing what makes someone a cyberbully and how that line gets crossed. We also talked about how kids are so quick to point the cyberbully finger when someone disagrees with us or posts something they don’t like. So it is safe to say we’d have spent weeks having dialogue about online persona and how to judge or not to judge others online.

So today they wrote. They reflected on what they posted online and twisted it into something else, something negative, hateful, etc. They made comments about how easy it was. Tomorrow we are going to look over these stories and see how we should give each other a break instead of looking for something to jump on as well as be careful of what we say or what pictures we post.

Today and this weekend I’ve watched this lesson bloom into reality on so many levels. On a personal level as well as a professional. And what it comes down to is this:
1. Why the heck do we not give a rats about who we hurt when when twist things?
2. Why have we become a society that does not value others’ opinions and honesty?
3. Why do we not listen, we see/hear/read but we don’t actually take the next step and listen then do.

Totally not getting into the personal, but the professional side of this is eating me up. Last weekend was the Bammy Awards. I was not an honoree but I went as a connected educator. I loved going to Bammy’s last year because it was a chance to hangout with my PLN without the stress and exhaustion of conferences. Hey, I like to party. 🙂 I also like to celebrate those who put their whole lives into this profession. So that’s why I went. Not because it’s a clique (that one hurt some bc never once have I ever left someone out at an event or online purposely, I have same fears as everyone else about going to events like this and being alone or left out) even though I enjoyed seeing friends and meeting others f2f for first time. I didn’t go because I want a pat on the back,  I’m not online for recognition. No matter what anyone says, I’m not. I often wonder why the heck people read my oddities. I even have crazy guilt because I had to tell my daughter no she couldn’t have something she wanted because I spent what extra money I had this month on this trip (no worries teachers make millions). I went because our profession gets beat down too much. This was an event that was supposed to be the opposite. This was a time I don’t get the eyebrow lift and “Ohhh you’re a teacher…” comment. No this is a time to celebrate. Heck I almost quit this summer but didn’t and I’m having the best year I’ve had in years. Let’s celebrate!

The event wasn’t as ‘celebratory’ of education as I hoped. Teacher awards were not recognized, as someone in a classroom every day, that stung. Heck I’ll be straight honest with you, it more than stung. The reason I went was the celebration of education because it’s a profession so often looked down upon. But without teachers, there is no education. They are the front lines. There was more (the look on the kids faces while comedian says she wishes kids still got chicken pox stung as well) but that is not the purpose of this post. One of the teachers I got the pleasure to meet this weekend did a great job writing an honest reflection about her experience. It’s what happened next that made today’s lesson hit home.

You see Pernille was just being honest. She was giving her opinion and being open and real. That can be tough, especially when it is negative. She was giving her opinion. (This is number 2 above.) Yet her opinion was looked down upon and belittled or even worse used to attack the entire event (number 1). Twitter and facebook was just a buzzing. But her words were twisted (number 1) as well as the response from the Bammy’s, which belittled her opinion (number 2 BTW her post was compared to online opinions of Miley at the MTV awards – number 1). When others voiced opinion they were called cyberbullies – which if you were in my class and went through the checklist it did not classify.

As the convos on blog and twitter heated up people stopped listening and valuing others opinions (number 3). No one stopped and asked “what can do to not make people feel this way?” or “how can make this better?” on either side of the aisle. Or side of the theater. What ever. No it became a “right” vs “wrong” and we missed this huge chance to start dialogue. We missed this completely. People start arguing about cliques and asking “why didn’t __ teacher who isn’t online get nominated?” (um probably because your butt didn’t nominate him/her). Screw dialogue, right? Let’s twist things,  let’s complain, let’s argue,  but God forbid we work together to find a solution.

So tomorrow I’m heading back into my classroom and we are going to discuss whether or not what they posted online really was something inappropriate or was it just easily twisted. Then we are going to try to figure out the purpose of twisting things. We are going to weigh the hurtful words vs jealousy vs uninformed vs actually being wrong in doing something. I have this small hope left that my kids will learn something from this and we can see a success in this.

By the way, there were positives this weekend, I got to spend a weekend with some of the most awesome people I know,  that is totally worth it. I got to see lovely friends receive much deserved awards. Let’s focus on that, let’s ‘fix what’s broke’, and let’s watch how we respond to others.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Diane Cordell says:

    Amanda, I like the way you draw parallels between what you teach in the classroom and what you experience in “real” life.

    I watched the Bammy’s online, and my reaction was that I wish they had spent less time on the (questionable) humor and more time highlighting what the nominees DO, their innovative approaches, special gifts, student products. Pernille’s reflection was honest and thought-provoking, and her courage in speaking out should be applauded, not attacked.

    Some of the attendees were unknown to me, but the ones I recognized are connected and caring. I just wish the Bammy’s had given me the chance to get to know a bit about those not yet in my network.

  2. Meri says:

    I shared this with my teen daughter at the breakfast table this morning – it’s very powerful! We talk about cyberbullying a lot I wish I could somehow push these ideas outside of the edusphere and into mainstream sites. Those posts are so vitriolic and I am terrified to jump in with a relevant comment because it just gives others a springboard for their negativity and their own agendas. And it seeps in everywhere.

    Thank you for the illuminating post. I hope you get nothing but honest and respectful commentary all day!

  3. Deven Black says:

    Thank you for writing a calm, reasonable post. I, like so many others, wished there were far fewer minutes spent on questionable humor and more talking about — or better yet — showing what the award winners did that earned them an award. To my complete and utter amazement I won an award, but I have no idea what the Academy saw in my work that outshone the work of the four other awesome nominees. It would have been interesting tohear the reasoning.

    I also am disheartened by the rancor and childishness that Pernille’s post brought out ion what I previously thought were reasonable, considerate and caring adults. If we cannot model constructive criticism and responsible dialog to students, and other adults, who will?

  4. amandacdykes says:

    Thanks for the comments. Mari! Yay!! That is exactly the point. We need open dialogue about criticism and how we word things as well as how we take them to heart. We don’t need to go on defensive and think we are being attacked with out being reasonable first. One the flip side we need to look at what we write and see if it can be looked at as an attack. Like I said before, this post is not really about the Bammy Awards, but I felt like those reading needed background info. I hate vague “this situation where…” that doesn’t hit home as well as being honest and discuss where it is coming from. I did not want this to be a negative post, but I did want to clarify what happened (and if you know me, I will throw my two cents into the pot). But it isn’t a negative post about the awards, just about the rest of it. I went back last night and reread my post because last night there was a blog post about “no one has written a post about the Bammy’s that was not negative…” and all I kept thinking was, crap, but then maybe I did not hit the importance on the blog list of the one writing. Whatever HAHAHAHA! I think post like that are just as bad as ones that are negative only. If you want to reflect, you need to be REAL and we need to open dialogue of “what rocked” and “how can we make this more awesome.” My students have to do that before finishing a project, why shouldn’t we do that for anything we reflect on.

    Anyway, Being a “nobody” at the awards gave me a real outsiders view. Also allowed me not to become emotional. Happens.

    And Deven, enjoy your award, it was much deserved and I was soooo happy for you! 🙂

  5. Errol S.Clair Smith says:

    Amanda, I recall last year how you helped out at the Bammy Awards by accepting for an honoree who could not attend. You were asked at the last minute to make a presentation and you gladly and creatively improvised. It was delightful and I appreciated your stepping up to help. So naturally it was disheartening to hear that you were so let down by my failure to more prominently acknowledge teachers this year.

    At this point my rationale is irrelevant, the impact is what matters now. I’m sorry I let you down. Rest assured much thought is going into how to remedy this going forward.

    I also appreciate your post above as it echoes the sentiment recently expressed by Pernille in a follow-up post about how we communicate with each other. I have cut and pasted my response to Pernille’s post here as it applies to your recent thoughts as well.

    Your message is more than relevant to the discussion that has transpired over the past few days. I believe it’s critical to the survival of our nation. It seems that despite all of the wonderful new tools that we have to communicate with each other, and though everyone now has a voice and more words and thoughts fly between people via text, phone and video than ever before in the history of humankind, the quality of our discourse has not improved. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that we as a people are less in communication, listen less deeply, have less true understanding of the views that differ from our own, and are less inclined to engage in communication that doesn’t support our feelings and beliefs. Moreover, things that we would never dare to say to another person face to face are lobbed like grenades into the public square as we sit safely behind the firewall of our screens.

    I came of age as a radio talk-show host in Los Angeles during the ‘80s, along with the rise of the “shock jock.” Disc jockeys, talk-show hosts, political commentators on shows like Crossfire, the Howard Stern show and the Jerry Springer show were transforming the air waves by saying things that many people would be hesitant to think in private let alone say in public. Incivility suddenly became marketable and in vogue. And so the arms race began.

    Media personalities engaged in an all-out battle to be the most startling, shocking, offensive, “brutally frank,” in-your-face, “yea-that’s-right-I-said-it” personality on the air. Talk producers screened call-ins and guests and searched for the most outspoken, combative people to usher to the front of the line. So I watched as a the industry of mass communication modeled for the public the dysfunctional communication style that now dominates traditional media, new media and, at times, social media.

    As a radio talk-show host in a city like Los Angeles, people calling in, disagreeing with me, getting all up in my grill and even talking about my mother was part of the daily diet. No thin-skinned persons need apply. I have no issue with disagreement. The concern I share with you, Pernille, is the loss of civility. Indeed, thoughtful and talented people like Phil Donahue walked away from very popular talk shows because they just didn’t like the new “bare-knuckles” rules of public discourse. He walked away because neither agreeing nor agreeing to disagree was good for ratings anymore and to survive you had to become a purveyor of “heat” versus “light.” I left traditional media for the same reason.

    BAM Radio Network was created out of s desire to restore public discourse and to invite people to discuss very difficult and sensitive issues in a thoughtful and respectful way. Over the last five years we have produced and aired over 1,250 episodes with passionate educators, who possess wildly diverse positions and opinions. We tackled controversial issues like tracking students, arming classroom teachers, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Gay Men in Preschool Settings,” sexual predators in school, homework, standardized testing, and charter schools — often while these subjects we starting major firefights in traditional media. However, every single discussion on BAM Radio Network is civil, thoughtful, and respectful, while still being candid and authentic.

    Candid, authentic, civil public discourse is part of our mission and we’ve worked hard to model it on the network. Why? Because we believe that it takes more than a well-educated, well-informed public for a society to be sustainable. It requires the ability for people of wildly diverse backgrounds, positions, opinions, political persuasions, faiths (or lack thereof) to be able to talk to each other, create mutual understanding and find ways to reconcile our wonderful, amazing diversity of views. So I applaud your post, Pernille. I hope those who respect your opinion will follow your lead and I hope it will stir an equally passionate and engaged discussion about the need for us to model civil discourse for the next generation. I certainly will do my best to follow right behind you.

  6. Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) says:

    One point… you are NOT a nobody Amanda.

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