Thanks to @paulbogush for inspiring the idea for this post. Check out his viewpoint over at Blogush. Same title, different perspectives. Which do you relate too?
I live two separate lives.
I have my at-school-I'm-a-teacher real life.
Then I have my I'm-a-teacher-slash-twitterer-slash-blogger online life.
Do they collide?
I think of my online-teacher-life as a secret nuclear weapon for my at-school-teacher life. I go through school life and encounter many scenarios, events, projects, problems, issues, etc. I go online and I present these to my people. I get responses, advice, feedback, new ideas, directions, help, support. I go back to school armed with all this useful ammunition, waiting to fire.
Online I am courageous- think anything, ask anything, debate with anyone, read, click, ask. In real life I'm like the cowardly lion- skipping along in arms with a few people who might protect me from all the scary stuff.
Why do I turn to my online world but not my real world? Why do I have to go online when I could receive these same resources from the people I walk past, eat lunch with, and park next to?
Part of it is my own insecurity. I don't want to be made fun of. I don't want my colleagues to know how nerdy I really am. [Although a lot of them were my teachers so they already know.] I don't know what they will think. I don't know how to explain why blogging and twittering is cool to the other teachers. I don't want to hear the negativity as they shoot down every new idea or positive thought that I have. I definitely don't want to hear their suspicions of why I ask questions, try new ideas, or ask others for advice. Who does she think she is? I bet the administration has her on their side. She thinks she can do anything because she's young. New teachers with all their _______. She thinks she can change the school. Is it evaluation time already?
The other part is pride. I'm a first year teacher. I want to prove that I am just as good as [if not better than] everyone else. So I keep my secret weapon to myself. Inwardly, I want them to wonder how I got so good. I am proud of what I can do that others cannot. Is that terrible or normal? I know it's honest. Why does my success depend on the failures of others? That goes back to my insecurity. My success should be based on the progress, improvement, and risks that I am taking. I can have success at the same time that others around me are succeeding.
How does this relate to the classroom? Maybe a better question would be how could this not relate to the classroom? Students feel the same as I do. Instead of sharing their secret weapon, they keep it all to themselves. And why? Having a secret weapon makes them valuable. Why? It sets them apart. No one else has it. Or so they think. What happens when a secret weapon is no longer a secret? Is a secret weapon as powerful without the secret?
Two things make a weapon powerful: the power of the weapon and the skill of the weapon's operator. If we all shared our secret weapons, we could increase our own skill in using the weapon which automatically increases the power of the weapon itself. What do you call a group of powerful people with powerful weapons? An armed force.
How are we arming our students? If we aren't arming them, then who is?
My colleagues, or for comparison sake, my "teachers" aren't arming me. My online world is. Same for the kids. We aren't arming them. They are going online to their safe world to spend time with those who can give them their own secret weapons. They use them at school and we are wondering where in the world they got them. They belong to a world we have no knowledge of.
How can we as teachers create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their secret world? How can we share our own secret weapons and secret world? I bet some of you are thinking, "But I don't want to share my secret!" Why? We are afraid if one of our colleagues gets ahold of our secret, that they will take it and become better than us. We want to get paid more but we don't want anyone else to. Or, we're afraid they will laugh at us or criticize what we have come to depend on. [See above insecurity] We are placing our value in the secret of the weapon instead of our skill in using it.
Sharing my weapon does not take away from my value. I am still unique, even if my weapon is not. If we teach our students that the value of success lies in the skill of the weapon, then it's no longer as important to secretly acquire it and keep it all to ourselves. What takes priority is that we are acquiring new weapons, new skills, and interacting with different people in different worlds. If that's not 21st century skills, then I don't know what is.
Integrating technology is the lion finding his courage and taking it back to where he lives. It's not just using new toys but literally integrating our technological lives into our ordinary day-to-day lives in order to be more successful in each separate world. . That's the secret weapon.