Monday, February 4, 2013

I Must Be Missing Something

A half-hour after I finished my first-ever Twitter Live Chat, I'm left wondering if I have chosen the wrong profession.

Have I completely misjudged my competency as an educator? Have I somehow regressed into some pre-undergraduate state of stupor? How is it that I could enter a chat with supposedly like-minded educators from across my home state of Illinois, and an hour later wonder why the heck I bothered to turn my computer on. Not sure, but I think there might have been a new episode of Market Warriors on tonight. Bummer.

I decided to join the first-ever ILEdChat. How remarkable, I thought, that my first-ever chat would be the first official Illinois Educators' chat on Twitter. Seems like a match made in heaven. Turned out to be a match straight from Hades.
The subject was the Illinois 5 Essentials Survey, a survey created for Illinois' parents, teachers and students to answer questions and help organize Illinois schools for improvement. It sounded like a great topic to chat about: something that could help shape public schools for years to come in Illinois. I took the survey. I wouldn't say I was overly impressed, but I did see the potential for using the data. Most of the questions had to do with collaboration: between principals and teachers, between teacher peers, between teachers and students, teachers and parents, and students and students. I could see how gathering all of this data could point out deficiencies in academic collaboration; and if nothing else, make everyone think twice about how they work with other stakeholders in the equation. I could see how this data could help all students.

Unfortunately, most of the participants either questioned the validity of the survey, discussed how the survey could be used against them, or complained about all of the variables contained in the data. The moderator did ask a total of five questions over the hour-long chat. The questions weren't terrible, asking about how the educators reacted to the survey and what they thought the data might say about them; but few of the answers were relevant. I wanted to talk about collaboration, and how we could do better, and how important it was to connect with parents, students and community leaders. How about some concrete ideas, about how to reach out to people in order to gain their trust and get their input.

I never got any of those. I never really found out what the 5 Essentials even are. I don't know how any of these "important" educators feel about collaboration or what techniques they recommend. I learned nothing. Nothing. And at the end, everyone was congratulating themselves on what a great chat it was and how they can't wait for the next one happening next week. Am I crazy? Am I just not cut out to be an educator?

You know what? I reject what I witnessed, and I reject the attitude that surveys like this are created to somehow entrap educators or blemish state "report cards." I reject the idea that educators can spend an hour talking to other educators and virtually nothing productive comes from it. I know I can do better, I know I can provide more information and concrete answers to difficult problems, and all I am is a graduate student. There were principals and administrators and state officials in the chat, for goodness sake! They offered me nothing.

It's embarrassing, is what it is. I know my next online chat will be better than this one. It has to be.

Here is a copy of the chat archive, via Storify.


  1. Wow! I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with the chat you participated in.

    Something to keep in mind.....Twitter chats are not always about what "we" can get out them. My time is very valuable and if I'm going to spend time doing something I want to make sure it is worth it (so, I totally understand where your frustration is coming from). What about the connections you can make with the other educators in the chat? Did you find more Illinois educators that you can add to your PLN and start connecting with? Try to look at it from a different point of view. I always try to look for the best in everything when there is so much negativity in education. Another the METC next week. I may not learn anything new in some of the sessions, but maybe I will meet someone new in the session. Rather then look at the content that was presented I ask myself if I can learn something from the way the person presented (maybe that will be what to do or not to do - Ha!).

    Hang in there! Join our #MBU543 chat tonight. Our chat won't be that big, so I would highly encourage you to try another chat that interests you. If I can take away one thing then I'm always happy. :) Is there at least one thing you can take away from the chat you participated in?

  2. That's probably really good advice you're giving me here, and I should take it to heart. And I will. I guess that's what's so disappointing, is that I really didn't get anything positive out of it. I did make connections with two educators that at least acknowledged I was there; and one of them quasi-apologized to me, stating that she hoped I would come back to the next chat. But I do feel that what I said above (and in a subsequent post today) needed to be said. All of our time is valuable. That's why edu conferences are so cool, you can get so much information all in one spot, with so many good speakers and fellow educators. If a speaker at a conference isn't for me, then I can just politely leave (as I did during the chat actually) and move on to another one. Nobody's perfect, and we're all going to bore somebody in the audience, I was just put back by the lack of collaboration in a chat that I thought was supposed to be about collaboration! And I do think the chat could be moderated differently, and hopefully that will improve too. I'm not giving up, don't worry. But that's just how I am, when something strikes me as ridiculous I tend to shoot my mouth off. I will take part in the chat tonight. See you.

    1. You would think I would have learned by now that if I just wait a minute, something could change about a situation. After speaking to a couple of the educators in the chat, I feel like I am wanted, and I feel like my opinion could mean something. I have people thinking differently about the chat, and they (and you) have me thinking differently about the chat. That's what it's all about, right?