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Learning at its Best

A Hijacked Hashtag and Student Voice

On an edgy Friday night, as I prepared to plan lessons and update my data, I created an e-card stating, “I became a teacher so that kids can pass standardized tests,” said no teacher ever. I tweeted it out with the hashtag #SaidNoTeacherEver. Soon, others joined me and eventually it started to trend.

A few hours into it, students began to add their voice. As the students “stole” the hashtag, I first felt upset, embarressed, even betrayed. They were being uncreative, repeating the same ideas without using an RT. They were being crude, making references to teachers having sex with students. They weren’t following our edu-etiquette that I’ve grown used to.

Then I listened.

I re-read the crude posts again. When the initial shock wore off, I began to see myself in those tweets. I was that crude. I was that rude in high school. And the danger in social media, in the ticker tape of conversation left behind, is that the digital footprint (or digital tattoo) doesn’t let kids make mistakes. If future employers want to make judgmental statements about what a seventeen-year-old writes as he’s still trying to figure out the best way to use innuendo, maybe we shouldn’t be lecturing kids but questioning the policies of transnational corporations.

I thought about my own kids and what they will write someday. I thought about myself and the lack of complexity in being able to speak my voice in a world where social media was almost non-existent. It had me thinking, too, that I often talk up “student voice” as something that is deep and profound. I only tell the stories of the brilliance that defies stereotypes of youth. But what do I do with the streams of information that confirm these stereotypes? What about the student voices where they are acting like sixteen year olds trying to figure out how to use humor?

I noticed, too, that the teachers in the social media echo chamber do not represent many of the teachers in our public schools. I kept reading tweets like, “No homework today,” or “Maybe you should enjoy the holidays rather than do my classwork,” and I cringed. I wanted to fight back saying, “Not all teachers are like this. Some of us don’t give homework.”

Eventually, the crude tweets wore off and the tone shifted. That’s when I saw the pain. I saw tweets like, “I won’t think any different of you now that I know that you’re gay” and “I won’t ask what you did to bring on the bullying.” Another read, “Amanda, I noticed when you were gone for ten days and took the time to ask why.” I saw tweets that reminded me just how painful the system can be and how rare it was to have a teacher who saw me as a person.


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


One thought on “A Hijacked Hashtag and Student Voice

  1. Right on, John!When I retired, former and present students & parents signed a keepsake booksharing their memories and good wishes for me.None of them wrote the phrases below!#ThingsstudentsneversaytoteachersThanks for helping me get a good score on the state test.I loved all the time spent teaching us how to game the test.It was great to learn about how to fill in the bubbles completely.All that irrelevant homework taught me so much.I rather enjoyed being assigned a book way below my reading level.Your bossy, controlling personality really helped me feel comfortable in class.I can appreciate a teacher who doesn’t allow her students to talk to each other in class.Completing the end of the chapter questions made all the difference in my learning! Instead, they referred to how well I listened, took time with them, shared a personal story,helped them understand, noticed them, stayed after school to offer support, volunteered tomeet them off campus to talk, called their parents with good news about their improved behavior,allowed them to eat lunch in the classroom, taught them to believe in themselves, encouragedthem to stand up for what they believe, showed them compassion, respected them, laughedwith them, made special signals to those who easily got offtask, sat down on the floor with them,inspired them to be better and serve others, showed up at school events, and so many othercomments that continue to touch my heart. Yes, teaching is so much more than words can ever express. Sandy Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2012 22:10:34 +0000 To:

    Posted by Sandy Hume | October 4, 2012, 7:47 pm

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