Is teaching drowning in egos?
Once upon a time, not that long ago, teachers who wanted to get something off their chest went to the staffroom. They’d moan and vent their spleen, they’d cry into their coffee and they’d pull themselves together before the bell rung. They’d also share a funny teaching tale or two about something that had happened in maths. In exceptional circumstances they’d also share news, views and gossip on non-teaching topics and talk about their families.
These same teachers would also use the staffroom as an informal CPD hub to share ideas and resources. They’d look through a bulky paper the size of a telephone directory on a Friday (the TES) and take what they could find. They’d laugh and nod in agreement with the opinions of esteemed heavyweights like Ted Wragg and Mike Kent. They’d read about what was happening in a school elsewhere and wonder “Perhaps that could work here?”
Then social media entered our lives and everything changed. Teachers became journalists overnight and started to ‘blog’. Twitter became a pseudo-staffroom with plenty of space for people to meet and say their bit. They wrote about their experiences and they didn’t hold back. These were raw and in your face. They told the world what teaching was really like. Suddenly other teachers started to say, “I can do that. I have a voice too,” and they started to pipe up. Twitter became the noisiest staffroom in the land.
But like all staffrooms, some teachers have their own chairs. Walk into the Twitter staffroom and you will find that some personalities have marked their territory to let you know they are there even when they aren’t. They urinate their pedagogical prowess and let us all know that they are in charge.
Me, Me, Me
The rise of teaching personalities has been interesting stuff. Ordinary teachers who no one would really knew existed suddenly found some limelight beyond their own classroom. Twitter gave them a new stage to sing and dance on and they grasped it with both hands and feverishly started to blog.
It didn’t matter what they were writing about either, they just blogged and blogged because they noticed something magical started to happen. Other people, people they didn’t know, started to follow them. They loved the idea that strangers and stalkers would take an interest in them so they wrote more and more to feed their imaginary audience. Some of these teachers then started to share their home-grown teacher tips and ideas and people would ‘Like’.
They then started to write for imaginary theatres and arenas of followers. They became teachers of teachers and said “This is how it is done, I know, I have the T-shirt.”
This was unhealthy though because they became driven and had a constant and uncontrollable urge to share themselves on Twitter all day so they could be ‘seen’. They developed an irresistible love of the self.
Social media then started to do something useful. It started to share research and focus on what actually worked rather than what teachers were spoon-fed by charlatan ‘consultants’ and their belts of magic bullets. Bandwagons were exposed and people jumped off them and started to talk about ‘evidence-based learning’ and demanded ‘proof’ within every conversation.
But the egos wanted feeding so they blogged about this too. They had to feed the machine and this demanded having an opinion on everything and so stuck their fingers in every pedagogical pie. They even started to sound ‘expert’ at it. More strangers followed them and some began to love and worship them hanging on every word. They could do no wrong even when they were wrong and had nothing meaningful to say.
The edu-celeb was born and they loved every minute of their fame. They were possessed by delusions of personal greatness, even if deep-down they knew they were crap teachers or hopeless school ‘leaders’.
But this didn’t matter, they started to believe. People would listen and agree. Their strangers would share Tweets and feel close to their heroes. Their strangers would also also contact them and sometimes they would reply sprinkling them with some gold dust and wisdom. This would make the strangers feel warm, happy and humbled that their heroes had shared time and space with them. Their heroes would feel even more glorious and judge themselves on their number of followers.
They would become Edu-Gods, ‘brands’ and self-righteous social influencers. They would sweep aside those who challenged them with a Twitter swipe that their sheep would all support and baa at. These spunky and arrogant prima donnas would believe the whole education world revolved around them and they started to believe their own bullshit.
They would unfollow or block anyone who made life hard for them. Their myself-itis would cause them to regularly throw their toys out of their pram at any resistance but their sheep would still munch on their grass. They were worshipped and people wanted to touch their cloak because they would be healed and their teaching sores would disappear.
Full Of It
The edu-celebs we see now think they are more powerful, important, or influential than they actually are – they have become megalomaniacs. They become go-to consultants and are interviewed by others. If no one interviews them then they Tweet vlogs or post selfies to let the world know of their continued importance as educational commentators. They become self-appointed and self-annointed CPD masters and their followers praise them.
Their presence and visibility on Twitter consists of air-borne fairies, brightly illuminated flights of stairs and fountains spouting pink water. The followers applaud thunderously and this goes straight to their head.
But remember, the distinguished edu-celeb is just an ordinary joe with good PR. A squirrel is just a rat with a bushy tail remember. Some do have genuine expertise to share but beware of the expert, they peddle their own narrative, plant it in Twitter and let it grow.
They then start to referee debates and discussions, nudging the edu-narratives where they want it to go. They become Twitter addicts engaged in petty playground politics because they have to have control. Yes, some are bullies and just embarrassing who bring the profession into disrepute.
Education has become obese with teaching egos and social media megalomaniacs with their own teaching cults. It’s time they stepped off the stage and let others say their bit without being shot down in flames.
Twitter is an amazing platform for sharing and it does serve an incredibly useful purpose for informal CPD but this isn’t supposed to be a private members club, shop-window, ego-outlet or educational catwalk. What next, edu-celebs on Strictly? Anything is possible. Who would you have in?