With schools placing an even greater emphasis on “interconnectedness” and “global citizenship,” I can think of no better professional-development tool for teachers than writing and sharing their ideas online.
Along these lines, I propose a new school position (perhaps “education outreach coordinator”) to teach faculty and staff how to write effective posts, pitch stories to media outlets, and actively engage on social media. This coordinator would also teach basic code, and how to create and manage individually-operated education sites. I imagine that such a position would operate independently of the communications office, though collaboration would likely prove beneficial. In addition to being an avid blogger him or herself, the education outreach coordinator should have immense classroom experience to offer better support and guidance to others.
The benefits of this position are enormous, both for the school (which would receive positive attention through enhanced teacher outreach) and for the writer (who would benefit from professional growth and possibly even accolades). For example, in large part because of my own blogging efforts, I was tapped as a Teacher of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools. In turn, this has opened many other doors, including freelance writing for The Atlantic and Edutopia. This spring, I will present on self-directed learning at SXSWedu, the biggest conference on educational trends in the country.
I’m not at all special, nor do I profess to be any better at teaching than others, but I’ve managed to promote my school and myself because of my passion to write and share. I imagine the education outreach coordinator would be responsible for the following:
- Hold workshops to teach how to write effective blog posts.
- Hold workshops to teach how to pitch stories to larger media platforms.
- At one’s request, edit stories or offer suggestions.
- Encourage writers to ask for a second opinion before posting stories, especially those which might present one’s school in an unfair or overly negative light.
- Continue to write, serving as an example for others to follow.
- Help and encourage teachers to attend and participate in education conferences.
Once you leave the classroom, I believe, you lose your credibility and relevance as a 21st-century educator. The education outreach coordinator should also teach journalism, as well as two classes in any core subject.
I can already hear the naysayers, who object to teachers being expected to share online on the following grounds:
Teachers aren’t comfortable sharing their thoughts online, and writing anything would take hours.
My response: If a struggling math student told his teacher that nightly homework proved too laborious, or that it took too long to complete, in most cases, that student wouldn’t get excused. Instead, I hope that student’s teacher would continue to work with him, helping him master not only content skills, but also finding a sense of enjoyment and relevance in the subject. Along these lines, I feel strongly that all teachers (not just those in English and history), should work on improving their written communication. Judging by what I’ve seen, I would love to read more posts and articles by high school math and science teachers, whose ideas are just as crucial and appreciated, if not more so, when it comes to helping students master 21st-century skills.
For many teachers, writing is a chore. We shouldn’t force teachers to do chores.
My response: For many students, learning math, English, history, science or language is an even bigger chore, but teachers persist in encouraging kids of all ages not only to stick with it, but also to find practical ways to share and demonstrate mastery of knowledge. With respect to sharing ideas online, schools must expect the same from teachers themselves, all the more if we strive to foster more globally-minded, 21st-century learners; digital communication resides at the epicenter of everything.
Teachers are simply too overworked. We shouldn’t give them anything more to do.
My response: All of us find time for what’s most important in our lives. I don’t mean to propose that every teacher share online every day (though if you do, that’s excellent). I also empathize with teachers who have over 200 students. But even if just once or twice a month, in some way, shape or form, teachers should want to engage the online education community. Teaching as a profession should mean that much. It’s at least that important.
What do you think of creating an education outreach coordinator position? Should more teachers share their education thoughts online? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.