In a recent meeting, the Middle School Team discussed how technology in general and social media in particular affects middle schoolers, kicking off what we envision will be a series of deep dive discussions. As always, we will rely on a mix of what experts and the research tell us, and how our day-to-day experience with the students - and conversations with families - further shapes our practice.
Having polished off a delicious blue plate special at Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, I set off back toward Harvard Square. While I was admittedly clutching my phone in my right hand as my arm swung back and forth, as I watched person after person coming toward me staring down at their phones or talking to an unseen interlocuteur, I realized I no longer felt I was missing out on something by focusing on my actual environment instead of my own phone, quickly and frequently opening it up to unlock it and see what was going on in social media world. I wasn’t particularly surprised. But it did make me think about my journey to this point.
Recently, I got called out on Twitter. It used to be, like many (most?) of us, that being told I was causing offense, being racist, and/or hindering the work for social justice would lead me to break out in a panicky sweat, want to figuratively or even literally run away, and/or passionately defend myself as “a good person.” By now, though, it’s happened often enough that I’ve learned to view it positively as someone caring enough to engage with me, to challenge me to do better in their eyes (granting that this is easier to process via social media than in the immediacy of face-to-face conversations). And I’ve learned that at such moments, their eyes are generally seeing things I would otherwise miss and that I really need to know. Trying to remain open to being called out, whether on Twitter, in person, or wherever, has enabled me to learn and grow more quickly and more surely than I otherwise would have been able to - in short, to be a better ally.
If you had the chance to listen in on a conversation between two longtime friends, both of them among of the best known, most respected, wisest people writing and speaking about girls in particular and children in general, you’d jump at the chance, wouldn’t you? I certainly did, attending an event Tuesday night at Smith College sponsored by Smith College Campus School, finding a seat next to our school counselor and my own longtime friend, Ellen Carter (and a few rows behind Julie Mencher, a noted gender specialist with whom our school has worked in the past).
Athletic Director Annie Kandel attended the AISNE (Association for Independent Schools of New England) Health and Wellness Symposium last week. Annie reports:
One of my daily goals is to find at least two interesting things to share out on the school’s Twitter account, generally focusing on pedagogy, social justice in general, and/or feminism in particular. During school vacations, of course, we teachers have a little more time to kick back, and what would often be a simple retweet of and thanks for a given article or blog post, for example, is more likely to turn into a conversation. That’s happened to me several times over the past few days - once on the topic of whether, how, and why to use labels, once on the topic of locking down one’s Twitter account so only approved followers can see what you write, and, intriguingly, once on the topic of whether or not there is still a sense of community in online spaces.
Back in the early 2000’s, when I was a member of the old MiddleWeb listserve, one of the teachers on the list shared that she had been diagnosed with one of the more aggressive forms of cancer. The group rallied to her support, and she continued to share her journey with us as she could, from the classroom for as long as she was able to. Then her account went silent for a while, and eventually a listmember shared the sad news that she had quite recently died. Her funeral was the upcoming weekend, and listmembers travelled from up to several hours away to attend, share with her family what she had meant to us, and support each other.
Such is the power of social media. Few if any of us ever met her in person, yet unquestionably we cared deeply about her. Her family confirmed we, too, had been one of the joys in her life.