I’m very nervous about this post. I am a pretty private person when it comes to my personal life and growth, especially online, but this week I have been faced with some challenging questions. Why am I so quiet on social media? Why do I resist putting myself out there? In order to reflect on these questions, I am going to review the week of classes for EDCI 515 and 568 chronologically, as my progression of thinking has been guided by our daily discussions and guest speakers.
The assigned reading for Monday included Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility, by DeGroot, Young & VanSlette (2015). This article brought out all the insecurities I have when it comes to social media. Will I sound simple or uneducated? Will I make a spelling mistake? Will peers that are reading it judge me? Will some peers judge me on the fact that I am trying to further my practice (yes, I know this would be driven by their own insecurities, but it still impacts my engagement on social media). Do I have significant contributions to professional discussions? At the end of it all, I am left to ask myself why am I so worried about what others think and why am I lacking the confidence to participate? I spent a fair bit of time considering these questions, and the answers are fairly personal, but I am confident that they are not unique experiences so I will risk being vulnerable and just go for it.
As far as worrying about sounding simple or uneducated, my passion drives me in all areas of my life and my passion often supercedes my abilities. I regularly find myself in arenas that I don’t feel comfortable or confident in. When it comes to my teaching practice, I am aware that although I have been teaching for more than 20 years, I only have 10 years of full time service to draw from. I have not stayed in one subject area for very long, therefore have not become an expert in any specific discipline. I started my career in a junior high school teaching math and science for 3 years, then taught Home Economics for almost 10 years while I had our three children. I swallowed my fears and jumped back into high school math 8 years ago, and embarked on teaching senior biology and science only 5 years ago. That’s not very much time in any single area to form much expertise, and someone with more experience could easily disregard what I have to say.
When it comes to peers judging me for going back to school and diving into research, technology, and 21st century learning, I think this is a big influence that limits my use of social media. Where I work, many teachers are quite verbal when it comes to disrespecting the ‘ivory tower’, and professional development in general. Five years ago I helped start a committee that considered collaboration time for teachers in order to help with implementing new curriculum, provide an avenue for meaningful professional development, model lifelong learning for our students, and encourage a sense of community among a divided and often isolated staff. Four years ago, we were able to have collaboration time included in our instructional time. Since then, there has been a significant portion of the staff that has been very public in their dislike of collaboration. Out of our initial group of 4 teachers that started the committee, 3 have moved to other schools or the school board partly due to this conflict. This is where my mantra of “Go with the goers” comes from, but it is challenging sometimes.
Why am I so worried about what other people think? This question goes back a long way to when I learned to really value my privacy. In junior high and high school my family went through some very difficult times when our family business burnt down and my dad succumbed to addiction. Our struggles were often very public, and at one point all my teachers were given photos of my dad to help keep me and my sister safe at school. I did not handle the pressures very well, and drew a lot of negative attention to myself. This negative image seemed inescapable until I moved from Vancouver to Victoria in my mid-twenties. I really valued having a new identity and the opportunity for a fresh start. Significantly participating in an online community scares me. I have valued flying under the radar for over 20 years, and engaging in social media feels like I am willingly putting myself in a vulnerable position by opening myself up to the public.
Two subsequent readings, Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video farmat, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comment, by Veletsianos, Kimmons, Larsen, Dousay, & Lowenthal (2018) and Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Accpetance, and Self-Blame, by Veletsianos, Houlden, Hodsen and Gosse (2018) pushed me to consider my absence on social media further. I have experienced being dismissed and ridiculed for my contributions several times in my career. I am confident it had more to do with the other individuals’ insecurities and arrogance, however it still requires courage to put myself out there. Drawing from the categories of coping presented in Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Accpetance, and Self-Blame, I certainly subscribe dominantly to the strategy of self-protection by eliminating opportunities for harassment altogether. I compartmentalize my professional and personal online identities, I choose privacy options that significantly limit who can see my posts, and regularly draft a post that I delete immediately when I consider how they may be interpreted or what responses they might elicit.
For a long time, it was easy to refrain from social media as my husband is a police officer and worked undercover for many years. Jesse Miller’s presentation on Safety, Privacy, and Professionalism on Tuesday afternoon reinforced all my reasons for minimizing my engagement with social media. For our safety and anonymity, my husband and I both delayed becoming engaged in any social media at all until a reunion brought me to facebook only 6 years ago, and my husband signed up for facebook only 3 years ago. When I recently discussed privacy setting choices with my husband for this progrem, Trevor surprised me and said there was no reason to limit myself to posting with regards to my professional growth. It has been easy to remain silent and disengaged on social media so far, however now I have some choices to make for myself. I would like to get to a place of resistance and acceptance (coping strategies outlined in Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame), however, I am sensitive and admit to sometimes being emotional. The time it takes to rebound from negative interactions is time that I don’t wish to donate. Will the benefits of putting myself out there outweigh the time and energy it will take to digest potential negative responses?
The assigned reading for Thursday was Scholars Before Researchers, by Boote & Beile (2005). This article reminded me of the richness of research and information available that can inform my teaching practice, and I had to admit that social media is a valuable tool for sharing relevant, interesting, and applicable scholarly writing and educational practices. I was reminded that I am embarking on my masters degree to improve my teaching practice, and to enable me to facilitate a richer and more engaging learning environment for my students. Although sitting on the sidelines might feel safe, it is neither fulfilling, inspiring, nor of much personal benefit.
In conclusion, I realize that fear is driving my resistance to engaging in social media for professional development. I have not let fear stop me from doing anything of value in my life thus far, and now that I have identified my obstacle I intend to conquer it. The benefits associated with connecting with a larger community of professionals and the conversations that could result appear to far outweigh the cons of disengaging and remaining a consumer of online content rather than a contributor. I would love to hear about the benefits of social media that you have experienced in the comments! Thanks for listening, and I look forward to our online conversations.