Failure is good: Twitter changed my thinking

The first day back at work is a challenge. The routine has been broken for six weeks and all teachers, even the best teachers, alter their habits. Note that I didn’t say “pick up bad habits” because if you’re reading this from the outside (i.e. you don’t work in education) our bad habits tend to be things like working late into the night during a school term, getting possessive over cups in the staffroom, drinking too much coffee. During our recuperation these bad habits drift away for a while, but they always come back.

So a failure at some point today is inevitable. I take it as a good sign that my failure appeared at the beginning of my day – the unset inset alarm! It’s always more complicated with family and the resulting panic instantly sent our stress levels (myself and my partner both work in education) through the roof. In the past I have rocketed out of the door and would run (uphill) to make my train – I’ve never missed it in two and a half years. If it had been a day where my students could be arriving to an empty classroom my decision may have been different but today I stopped, took a deep breath and thought about the impact of following the trend: I would arrive at the station (in 10 minutes or less) feeling rushed, stressed and out of sorts. My partner would be left with the chaos of feeding and organising two young children before getting herself ready and driving to work in the opposite direction. She would arrive rushed, stressed and out of sorts too!

I made a decision: who would I let down more by not making that train? My work colleagues and managers who were due to collect in the assembly hall at 8:45am to refocus on another school year or my partner and family who I’d just spent a lovely summer with? It was quite easy – I stopped pulling on my jacket and got stuck in to helping out. This made their morning routine less rushed and stressful and in turn my partner kindly drove me to the station to make the next train in good time. I bought my season ticket and sat on the platform working out the rest of my day. I knew that the consequence of my decision was that I would arrive at least five minutes late for the inset day but the advantage was I would arrive calm, prepared and therefore more productive. I had made the best out of the situation.

Some of you reading this may be wondering why I’m sharing this, or perhaps stating the obvious choice. Some of you might be questioning my professionalism! I’m not afraid to hold my hands up to a failure – nobody should! Can I also explain that it’s not in my nature now to wait, I’m nearly always in a hurry to do something – to tick another task off the to-do list – and I will try to succeed at something until it is no longer possible due to events out-with my control. Something wired in my head instantly makes it feel wrong to choose to miss that train. But I do it anyway – that’s new.

I think it’s the Twitter effect. About a year ago I joined Twitter while looking for websites, blogs and books on Games Based Learning for my CPD. I followed a few people who were heavily immersed in the world of GBL. They recommended and talked to others, my Twitter PLN grew. They made me think differently.

Via my Twitter PLN @stevebunce (a worthy #ff any day of the week) introduced me to the works of author and enterpreneur Seth Godin. I’m listening to one of his audiobooks at the moment: “Tribes – We need you to lead us” (visit this link for a free legit copy). As I was travelling to work, late but unstressed, Seth said something which really had an impact:

“Sit in, lean back… but don’t do nothing”

This phrase may have inspired @colport when he first used the hash tag #ukedchat to provide a more local focus to teachers participating in the worldwide #edchat. I was vaguely aware of #edchat but as it usually took place while I slept it didn’t appeal to me. #ukedchat takes place on Thursday evenings between 8 and 9pm and the tweets posted using that hash tag are then archived for posterity (because now it is so busy you need to read up on the posts you’ve missed later!). Ian Addison is one of a number of people who blogged about #ukedchat and nicely sums up the effect of this frenetic discussion:

“I still get people wondering why I take part in CPD outside of normal hours, but you know what? #ukedchat and Twitter make me think a lot harder about my teaching than any course I’ve ever attended.”

I agree with his statement but want to add that it does more than make me think harder about my work, it has impacted how I interact with others. I think the most affecting thing about Twitter and #ukedchat in particular is the generosity and openness of those involved. Everyone shares their ideas – good or bad. Failures are as welcome as success stories. This overwhelming goodwill is infectious and I found that when I returned to school I was less inclined to be protective of my resources, teaching methods, ideas and opinions – that’s new too. I recommend you try #ukedchat if you are involved in education in any way. Whether pitching in to the conversation or sitting back to reflect, if you’re involved you have chosen not to do nothing.


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