I decided to take on social media. Since Facebook is the main type of social media I access, I decided to focus mainly on that. The goal is to create a more positive view of teachers everywhere. I want to avoid posting anything about how excited I am about summer or how hard teaching is. I didn’t want people to think that my job is so incredibly horrible that I’m praying for summer to come or that life is so unfair that I have to stick with a profession that is so hard that I have to constantly complain about it.
On my Facebook, I’ve also discovered that I tend to post things that students may have done that are comical to me and other teachers, but I decided that didn’t really help to showcase the positive reputation for teachers if we are touting the hilarity of the mistakes our students make. True, they are funny and help us to see the humor in our profession and I still enjoy them, but I wanted to avoid it for this particular focus and goal.
It’s not like I wasn’t posting good things about teaching before. It was just a lot more about the good AND the bad. I noticed through my previous statuses that I tended to do a lot of complaining about how long it was before break arrives or how stressful some of my students are. I noticed I wanted the kinds of responses from other people that I despise getting now. You know, the “Oh my gosh, your job is so hard. I don’t know how you do it!” Or the “I could never do what you do.” With feedback like this from a teacher, what did I expect from others and what else could they think of the teaching profession? Instead, what can I do to show people how hard I work without it being viewed as negative? How can I shed a positive light on what my hard work can accomplish or help bring out in my students? How can I show that my profession is something that requires real expertise and experience to accomplish?
So my focus and goal is primarily on the positive ideas around teaching as well as what other teachers are doing that have created something positive in their classrooms.
When I started to become more self aware of what I post on Facebook, I first realized how hard it was to keep my complaints to myself. I had to really ponder whether what I had to say would give a negative outlook on teachers or become annoying so I found myself a little more reserved. I posted positive things that other schools are doing that is working and maybe a little different (first image). And some great ideas that other teachers are doing in their personal classrooms to really show how caring and amazing some teachers and students are (second and third image).
Some posts show how amazing students and teachers across the country are and how caring and innovative they can be:
And other posts are general positive things about what is happening personally in my school and classroom:
What I have come to realize, though is that I didn’t get a lot of traffic on the posts from other classrooms across the country as I would get with posts from my personal school or classroom. The posts that didn’t get as much “likes” concerned me. After all, shouldn’t people check these things out and become informed about the teaching profession? Shouldn’t they be showing their appreciation by liking my posts? If they are seeing my posts and not liking it, does that mean they are ignoring my positive messages about teachers and teaching? Then I started to wonder if these posts may have become overbearing to other people. For an example, I have a friend who has a child with severe peanut allergies. All of her posts have become warnings on food allergies and articles about shaming others who don’t think about other people’s food allergies. Have I become the Peanut Allergy Mom? Oh, goodness, I hope not. Perhaps some of these shares were not getting the same traffic as my other posts because they weren’t very personal to me. Reposting things that are happening in other classrooms across the country is great, but there’s really not a connection between that post and you. YOU. You are the person that your audience (friends or followers on your social media) care and want to know about. Why shouldn’t there be more positive things that you have done in your own classroom personal classroom? Going back through my posts, I noticed one particular post of a video on how Finnish schools are working so much better than US schools (image to the left). When I look back on this post, I realize that it’s a very interesting post and show a positive aspect of where education can go in the United States, but also shows a negative light on where we, in public education, are still lacking in achieving student success. Have I gone back to square one with my positive-image-for-teachers campaign?
It’s so hard to share things and not feel badly about the possible negative consequence from something as simple as Facebook posts. I’ve realized that doing this reflection process made me change my mindset about the way I think about teaching. I mean, I’ve always thought teaching was great (with minor and major bumps along the way), but it really helped me become more aware of the good and not necessarily all of the negatives.
It’s easy to view other people’s comments as something negative and unflattering and an attack on our professional identity. At the same time, it’s more important to know who you are than trying to manipulate others into thinking who you’re trying to be.
Maybe I’ve become the Peanut Allergy Mom, but I think I’d like to think that it’s okay. It’s okay to want to share and advocate the positive things about teachers, teaching, and students. Some people might get sick of my posts, but maybe my positive-image-for-teachers campaign might go somewhere and maybe it won’t. What I know is that I’ve become more critical of my mindset and how I can choose to look at things rather than take things for what they seem right now.
Jessica Cakrasenjaya is a 9th and 11th grade English teacher at Ames High School.