Are You a Connected Educator or a Connected Person?

So this post is one that has been on my mind for about a week now. Today I was having a conversation on Voxer, an extremely inappropriate conversation to be exact with a group of girls, well professional educators. (If you know me personally, you are probably not surprised and can probably guess that I started it.) This conversation gave me the laughs that I needed to get through the day. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of post about how we can use Voxer as a professional development tool. I’m sure a lot of awesome ideas has come from conversations there. Just like on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Pinterest. We are so connected and we are so passionate, we flock to social media to connect with others like us.

But here is my worry, are we too connected, are we too serious? I remember years ago when Twitter was new. People didn’t have 10,000 followers because there weren’t 10,000 people out there. It felt like one big Voxer where we could bounce around ideas in a small and safe environment. Back then I would make a joke or off the wall comment and get DM’s from people saying that it was a place for learning and if I wanted to be taken seriously I needed to tone it down. Yeah, whatever. I’m going to be me so move along, please. But I would worry about those people. I would worry about their passion overcoming their lives. I also worried that they were missing out on a huge part of social media – the social part. We see a new platform and immediately think we have to use it for professional purposes, because that is what is expected of us as social media experts, that is great, but we need to remember that we need a break from work sometimes.

Try not to use social media as a place for only seriousness. Think back to when you were in school, you did not learn as much from the teachers who never shared anything personal about themselves. You learned from study groups with whom you became friends and learned about the interest of those in the group. I’m sure college was not all studying and classes, there was time for fun. So when you are using social media, don’t forget there is fun to be had. Don’t forget to turn off social media and be present with those around you in person. Don’t get obsessed with your profession. Your job is not who you are. Your job should not take up more time than time with your loved ones. Your job should not come before your health, I hate to hear colleagues put off doctor visits because of work. Stop doing that. It is not fair to you nor your family. I hear so often of my coworkers and my PLN going through depression and anxiety (myself included) and I worry if a lot of it is because we don’t turn our jobs off. Being connected keeps it on longer than we have in the past. We have to remember to live life. To laugh. To make friends, not just colleagues, friends we can laugh and cry with.

My challenge to you, chose one social media platform this month and use it for YOU. Either for entertainment or to connect with others on a personal level. Choose one, instagram, Pinterest, Facebook (that one is hard for me because so many of my friends are my PLN), a chat app whether Voxer, WhatsApp, Messenger, heck Snap Chat if you want, something you have wanted to try for FUN. Don’t feel bad about it. Don’t get sucked into work on it. When I joined Pinterest (over 3 years ago) I promised myself it would be for ME. I promised I would never use it for education. Now I do follow a few educators on it, but if I click on the links, I save them to bookmarks not to my boards. I always giggle when I see an educator follows me there because unless they like cupcakes, pretty fonts, and shoes they are going to be very disappointed. So find your place for you to be you. You are everything that makes up you, not just your profession.

So be a connected educator, but don’t be an obsessed educator. Use your connections to make deeper friendships based on silliness or hobbies not just on education. Be a person, not a just teacher or parent, be you! Hi, I’m Amanda Countryman Dykes, I love baking, creating art of any kind, and have an addiction to shoes. I am a parent to 2 brilliant yet hilarious kids and a spoiled rotten dog. I’m an educator who has a passion for seeing technology used correctly and while being invisible in every classroom. I’m a connected educator who learns how to be better at what I do every day. That’s who I am. Not just a middle school teacher. You are so much more than your job. Kids of America (or whatever country you serve in) deserve leaders who know themselves first. Be YOU first. Isn’t that what we tell the our students every day?! Take your own advice. Enjoy the good things in life as well as what is going on around us. Lastly, I’d love to hear what platform you used for more than seriousness this month!

14 thoughts on “Are You a Connected Educator or a Connected Person?

  1. This is a great post. I’ve been that person who worries about posting the “wrong” things to Twitter, because 98% of the people who follow me expect something related to education. However, I also consider much of my PLN like friends and family – and wouldn’t I want to share my randomness, my personality, and personal milestones with my friends and family? This is definitely something to think about. I tend to share my personal on Facebook and my professional on Twitter, but those 2 platforms are home to entirely different groups of people. Maybe there is room for more cross-over. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  2. In 2003, I joined my first message board. I started communicating with a group of people who shared the same passion as me: scrapbooking. I had no one in my “real life” to talk techniques, products, ideas with, because none of my friends were paper crafters. I quickly became quite attached to this online community of women, because we shared ideas, posted our creations, critiqued and praised one another, and it was one of my most treasured times of the day. Now, ten years later, I have a very minimal online presence in the crafting world. I have a Tumblr where I post finished products, but it’s not been posted to in a long while. I used to have a blog where I’d post my layouts and write about them and share. I used to submit to publications and I was on a few design teams for online scrapbooking companies. I feel really sad that I’ve lost this part of me -for whatever reason, when I became “a presence” in the educational technology realm, I let that other side of me go. (And, to be fair, I just didn’t have the time to commit to creating anymore, these other projects took precedence. And let’s also be fair that it’s hard to carve out crafty time with a baby at home!) I didn’t want people to Google me and find my scrapbooking layouts. Why?? Would that have made me a less effective educator in others’ eyes? Doubtful. But it was like, as you describe, Twitter and ed leadership blogging and everything else became this all-consuming phenomena for a few years and it was like everything I posted and everything I did had to be related to my role as the tweeting principal. I have two Facebook accounts. One for my educator connections and one for my family/friends that existed before all of this. Why?? I have been meaning for a long time to close one of the accounts and just find my true friends through my personal account. Just haven’t made the plunge. Part of this is because I know some in my family would prefer not to have their photos and other personal tidbits of their lives “out there,” and I need to respect that. So I have to find a balance. Thanks for making me think through all of this, Amanda!

  3. Great post Amanda. I agree that we need to have fun in our profession. We are more than teachers. We are sons or daughters, mother or fathers, brother or sisters, husbands or wives. We are human! Being connected is key to our profession, but we do need to know when(and how) to disconnect!

  4. I have a post sitting in “drafts” that was going to say the same thing – although not as brilliantly as you said it. For the last 18 months I have reduced my Facebook time to once every other week or so and I have reduced my time on Twitter (as you have probably noticed) so that I could devote more time with my family. And, for the last 18 months or so I’ve beat myself up for not be as connected as all of the “Great” educators out there. There are some truly inspirational things going on in our connected world but they pale in comparison to the inspirational things my wife and son are doing. Loved the post and it reminded me of the time many years ago that we spent “together” at #uneducon.

  5. This is the first post I’ve read this month that I wanted to reply to. I’ve glazed over dozens of blog posts and hundreds of tweets so far this summer because they are solely educator related and it’s tough for me to buy into that mindset at this time of the year. Every summer I slide happily into full ‘me’ mode – I have time to bake, sleep, read and be with my kids. I really don’t want to think about work. I love my job, but I’ve never figured out how to do it efficiently – meaning to do it the way I think works best for me, I put tons of time into it which is time taken away from things like baking, sleeping, reading and my kids. So, summer is the one time of year that teaching is not a priority. Yet I still love being connected online. My connection just shifts a bit to reflect the current summer state of mind.

    And I will share that my favourite platform full of baking, knitting, art, books, jewelry, shoes and more (with a bit of the educator me in there too) is Pinterest. You’ve encouraged me to spend a bit more time there in the near future – thanks for that :)

  6. I appreciate this post, Amanda. Finding balance is so critical to being a truly connected educator. We have to be able to connect with ourselves, our interests and hobbies, and our friends and family in order to be a more interesting person online.

    I recently resurrected my year-old Instagram account, as I hear it is now all the rage. Instead of another educational channel, I am using it to post images, comments and questions about one of my hobbies (gardening). I started following other connected educators, instead of gardeners. I don’t know any yet! :-) However, this wasn’t a bad thing. One of them (Bill Ferriter) helped me identify a tree in my yard based on the leaf art my kids and I created and posted. It is important that people see you as a person, as you stated.

    The more connected I become, the more blurred is the line between home and school. This had led me to get away from all connections once a week. William Powers, author of Hamlet’s Blackberry, refers to these as “tech sabbaticals”. Shut off the wireless if needed, but refrain from hopping on social media for a day. It has helped me appreciate my connections once I get back on.

    Again, very nice post Amanda!

  7. Thanks Amanda for making us think and reflect on our engagement. I tend to focus on having different uses for SM to ensure I can keep focus and also to allow for a separation. I would always hope that personality and spirit can come through in professional dealings as well.

    I think with education as a passion it is something we all commit, willingly to engage in these conversations and participation from SM. I know I get a positive flow from many professional interactions which is an energy boost that I can then transfer into my home life, but setting some protocols for time and place is important.

    Your post has me reflecting on those.

    Roll Tide.

  8. I am worried that followers may feel that I am cluttering their timeline if I talked about my personal thoughts, happenings, etc. Currently, I address that, by using different spaces for personal and learning-related discussions.

    I have my friends and family in Facebook – so my facebook conversations are completely personal. I share non-learning, non-work stuff in pinterest.

    I use twitter just for ‘learning’ related stuff.

    But, I do understand that when we share liberally, we let others understand us as a person.

  9. Just what I needed today, Amanda! I find myself drawn to those on SM who share their personality as well as ideas – for this very reason. Balance is the key! With lots of my summer devoted to professional learning time, which I do love, I’m saving much of the last three weeks for ME! Off to dig out that pretty yarn that was tucked away during the school year, or to pull out the boxed up stamps and papers to make cards, or to finally read that thriller I keep pushing aside in favor of YA or children’s lit….

  10. Why is it that everything you have said or written in the last month has made me cry? :-)
    In other words, you are so in tune with the things I need to be reflecting on in my own life. I identify as an educator first and human being second. That’s SO very wrong, and it’s taken a toll on me and those close to me in so many negative ways.
    While I do use SM to connect on a personal level with many people, I get blinders on when it comes to my professional life. I feel like I really know who “Mrs. Baldwin” is, but I kind of forgot who “Michelle” is. Working on that.
    Thanks for writing something that seems so simple, yet is so very important… and for doing so in only the way you can.

  11. I love, love, love this post! I’ve been wanting to write about this for awhile and now you’ve inspired me to think more deeply about this.

    Like Matt, I recently resurrected my own Instagram account for the person of just being ME. I follow other educators who also share their personal lives as well as just random awesome people. I’ve got my FB page, Pinterest, and Twitter to be serious…and honestly, I’m trying to be a little less serious there, too.

  12. I am one of those who use SM to connect professionally, but I also have my personal space where I “disconnect.”
    I rarely put anything personal on my educator SM space, because the purpose of it is education-related topics.
    The same way someone else may be passionate about shoes, a person could feel about education.
    Just because we don’t see them being a “regular” person on SM, doesn’t mean they don’t have a space for that somewhere else, or better yet, in “real life”, they just choose not to share it in their educator space.
    So, the next time you look at Twitter, Voxer, etc… and the person shares an education topic, they might have sent it via Hootsuite. While you’re reading it, they are sitting on a beach telling dirty jokes with a friend. :) It is possible to be both, a connected educator and a connected person.

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