What I Learnt From Hosting @EduTweetOz

I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to connect to more educators in the wider world through hosting @EduTweetOz given that my twitter PLN is heavily oriented towards RE (which is a good thing). So it was great to be able to get involved at such a key moment in the term, as we are drawing towards the end of the school year.

There is never a quiet week in teaching, but the week I was hosting @EduTweetOz was a big one to coordinate, with all Religion assessments due in. In some ways, though, this is the calm before the storm, since once they’re in, marking and reporting begins! I did want to discuss assessment and post some examples of great Religion assessments, but time ran short on this one. Other than forgetting to do a couple of polls, I think this was the only big issue I wanted to discuss that I overlooked during the week.

So, what did I learn? In short, an awful lot. It wasn’t always a positive experience. Of course, most experiences aren’t, but it was certainly productive and constructive.

The number of educators that are willing to engage with the @EduTweetOz host is fantastic. The first day I took over, I couldn’t get away from my phone for having interesting conversations with lots of different people. It was great that the vast majority of conversation was helpful and constructive, and most educators are well experienced in knowing how to challenge respectfully. This allows for development of thought and is extremely valuable. Just like we teach the students, it is not only important to think about *how* we teach, but also to understand *why* we do it that way.

That said, I found some of the discussion frustrating, as some people are quick to judge (and let’s face it, it’s easy to do this when we are judging a teacher by their tweets, rather than by personal encounter) without the full story, and sometimes by (deliberately or otherwise) misinterpreting what you have said. The lack of respect for other professionals in these cases really disappoints me. Teaching a subject like religion, I encounter disagreement on a daily basis. It’s the essence of my job – and the exciting part! So I was surprised to find some professionals couldn’t hold a respectful discussion about something on which they disagree when our students can. In such discussions, I followed my mother’s advice – “if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Sometimes continuing to engage only prolongs the agony. If a conversation was not constructive, I consciously stopped engaging. I don’t think any teacher should bring down another teacher (again, either intentionally or not). It is always worth remembering that when we use social media for professional reasons, we must remain entirely professional. If in doubt, follow the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.

Some of these discussions taught me that there is still much work to be done in defining the purpose of learning about Religion. In Australia this may be even more important, where state schools probably don’t ever encounter any teaching of Religion – not many teach the senior Study of Religion. It also reminded me that people don’t agree on this purpose, and although I see it as a purely academic pursuit, others (including some RE teachers) want it to be confessional. So I did not want to have the “Does God exist?” discussion – I believe this question is irrelevant. I rarely have this discussion with students. They know I’m not asking them to believe one thing or another, but to learn about belief systems from as objective a stance as we can ever achieve. Religions exist and as a part of human culture and society, I believe we are missing out if we do not study them. (RE teacher rant over).

In this week I have read more blogs than I think I have ever done in a whole year of teaching (and I read *a lot*). The great range of educators that the @EduTweetOz account follows gave a good variety of themes and topics in these blogs. I was led down avenues I hadn’t even thought of before. I also read a lot of news articles about education and the way teachers and schools are perceived. Through this, I began to understand more about the Australian education system, and compare it to my experiences in England.

The biggest stand-out for me was a re-learning: Teachers need a break. I encountered many hard-working teachers during the week. They were all dedicated to their jobs, committed to enabling learning, and devoted to their students’ every need. This is, of course, highly commendable. However, writing reports at 8pm on a Sunday evening strikes me as overkill. Someone (I forget who) commented that every professional has times of greater pressure where they have to take work home, but I know teachers who do this every night and every weekend. I am not suggesting that they should not do the work, obviously, but I think perhaps teachers need to try different working techniques to give themselves a break.

Now, what works for me won’t necessarily work for another teacher, due to their other commitments, or their productive times of the day, so I wouldn’t dream of giving anyone advice to work more productively (though if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably could all do this). However, I do think it’s important that teachers recognise the need to walk away from the work for an evening, or for a weekend. That doesn’t mean not doing the work, it just means containing it. “But when is it going to get done?” I hear you cry… In the designated time you’ve allocated for it, I reply, when you remember to say no to the person who comes knocking on your office door at that time.

I make no apology for containing my work in work time, when I work efficiently and productively (and longer than contracted, as every teacher in the world does) and having my evenings and weekends to myself. Containing school work to school time gives me the motivation to connect with other educators and develop my teaching practice outside of school.

In summary, the most important learning point was a reminder not to burn out!

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