being a teacher, being me, reflection

The Downside to Being a Connected Educator

I have written a lot about all that being a connected educator has done for me.  I have written a lot about how I would not trade it for anything and that I hope others will choose to become connected as well.  I have written about how being a connected educator has enabled me to have connected students, which has radically changed the way I teach.  And yet, I have not talked about the downfall of being connected much.  Not like this, not in this way.

Yet, I think in honor of Connected Educator month, (which is a strange month anyway because aren’t we always connected?), I think it is time to discuss the downfalls.  Those things that I deal with from being a connected educator, because after all, if I am going to encourage others to be connected, I think I need to be honest about all that it entails.

  • You are no longer private.  Of course, you can edit what you put  out into the world, but the truth is the moment you open up your classroom and your thoughts to the world, people will have an opinion on it.  And sometimes that opinion hurts.  Other times it is completely false.  I carefully pick the words I put out there but at the same time, my skin has grown thicker, and yet, because I choose to put it out into the world it seems to carry so much more weight in my life simply because others know what I do.
  • You can get a big head.  It is easy to think that you are more important than you are because of the validation that comes along with being connected.  We are awfully good at praising one another, which is wonderful, but at the same time it can also lead to a false sense of accomplishment.  “I must be doing something amazing because all of these people tell me I am.”  What we forget is that we choose what we put out there, not many share their utmost failures or embarrassing mistakes, thus we look incredible online.  That can only grow as more people get connected with us; our ego ticks upward right along with our follower count.
  • You can get really jealous.  Michelle Baldwin wrote a blog post discussing the identity of teaching and wrote that a problem she had faced was that the more she did, the more she needed to do to feel the same way.  Part of being a connected educator means that you are not just comparing yourself to your local colleagues, but to everyone out there.  So if someone is writing a book, I feel I should write one too, if someone is keynoting a conference, I wonder why I am not.  It becomes this viscous circle of wanting to do more to get more, which is hard to break.
  • You feel you need to be perfect.  I choose to put a lot of my flaws out there because others need to know I am not a perfect teacher, nor do I think I am.  And yet, every time I publish a post discussing my mistakes or screw ups, I cannot help but cringe a bit.  Am I really putting this out there publicly?  What if it reaches some person that will hold it against me?  And yet, I am not perfect, none of us are, but stating that publicly is terrifying.
  • You lose time from other things.  Yes, I choose to be connected but I am well aware of how my habits have changed.  I Vox when I am driving in the car rather than listen to an audio book or podcast.  I check Twitter while my husband is driving rather than speak to him.  I read blog posts rather than books.  And then there is the feeling of constantly needing to produce.  Although I try to not pay much attention to what my site statistics are, I still wonder if they are dipping or if they are stagnant.  Being connected can sometimes feel like a job, and not in a good way.
  • You are perceived a certain way.  I remember when a close friend asked me where I was going with all of this writing about no homework, no rewards, no grades, and I looked at her confused.  Sure, I had written about those things (and continue to) but I didn’t feel like that was all I did.  Yet, the perception of me was starting to take shape and it was feeding itself.  I think this can be both a positive thing and a negative one, after all, we can somewhat control that perception, but from my own experience it is hard to change it once it is out there, and you can feel boxed in.
  • You may forget about your local PLN.  When I first became connected I couldn’t believe the online discussions, collaborations, and profound idea sharing I was having with educators all over the world.  Yet upon closer inspection I realized I wasn’t having those same moments with the people I worked with in my school.  Being connected to a global PLN had taken the place of the local connections because somehow the exoticism of the global collaboration seemed like it would be more beneficial, yet this is not ture.  Being connected does not just mean that you are connected globally, it also means that you nurture your local connections and include those people in your PLN.  Sure, I have had incredible moments online with people I have never met, but I have also had that face-to-face with people I get to work with.  Don’t dismiss the local just because it doesn’t seem as exciting.
  • You think there is a right way.  I used to think that all teachers should be on Twitter, that they should blog, that they should engage in a certain way with others because that is what was working for me.  But that’s exactly it; they worked for me.  Being a connected educator does not mean doing certain things or using certain tools, it means being connected, joining together with others.  Whichever way you are doing it, is probably the right way for you.
  • You may become a target.  I was told once that I had a bulls-eye on my back because I chose to be connected.  When I wrote about being bullied by a former colleague, I cannot tell you how many people reached out to me privately to share their stories.  The biggest thing we had in common was the fact that we were connected educators putting our work into the world.  That does not make it automatic that people who choose to connect will be targets within their districts but it sure does offer up ammunition if needed.

Don’t take this post the wrong way, I love being a connected educator, but I am not a fool when it comes to the downfall of it all.  I struggle with many of these things regularly and yet every time I run into something negative, I consciously reaffirm my decision to be connected.  The positive outcomes will always outweigh the negative, but let’s not fool ourselves that being connected is always a magical thing.  It can be, but it can also be hurtful, brutal, and time consuming.  And yet, I wouldn’t go back to how I used to be; the benefits have simply been too great.

PS:  To see great reasons for why you should become connected, check out Angela Watson’s post 

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

43 thoughts on “The Downside to Being a Connected Educator”

  1. What an incredibly honest reflection! I love being a connected educator but I often feel pressured or guilt when I don’t or can’t participate. Or I find I start too many things but cannot possible complete all of it. I’ve had to scale back this year and really focus on some strategic things. Being connected has been a game changer for me but I understand that it’s what works for me and not all.

  2. Reblogged this on 1B4E – Shivonne Lewis-Young and commented:
    Pernille Ripp’s blog is one of my favourites. I always find my self nodding in agreement when I read her posts. This post about the downside of being a connected educator was not any different. I never really put words to the idea of downsides but they are certainly there. Thanks for posting this Pernille!

  3. Love, Love, Love this post…..but don’t let that give you a big head. : ) You nailed it. So many of the things I had thought about and so many I hadn’t, but you are right on. I especially like the one on your local PLN and the importance of connecting and having those conversations with those who share our kids. It is amazing to connect globally, I for one have learned so much from a teacher in Wisconsin and others around the globe, but if I am not connecting and having these conversations at home and bringing these ideas to life in the halls of my own school, I am not having the impact I need to have. I also love the reminder of the time being connected can take from the other things and people in our lives. Thank you, Pernille!

  4. I think another thing I would add would be the feeling I always need to be available to my online network. Not only do I feel a responsibility to be online sharing and connecting, but I also have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that if I stay away too long people will forget about me.

  5. THANK YOU so much for sharing this post. Many many of us feel the same! Your being open to share both helps us realize we are not alone — and yet also urges us to be honest with ourselves on what the cost of “connecting” can be or has been!

    If I might expand on one thing you mentioned — the “being perceived”. … and with that comes the feeling that people “know us” — enough that certain expectations and liberties might be taken. I find that when I attend conferences now, people feel they “Know” me — but they only know the educator me — the one who often is very comfortable behind a keyboard – but in actuality — in face to face conditions often is shy, quiet, and one who really likes small conversations the best.

    AND —I have to say THANK YOU for mentioning being connected to your PLN yet not being connected with your own campus. FOR ME — that is huge! and needs to be mentioned over and over and over again. I say to everyone (and also myself) — if you can connect with the world — but not your own campus — don’t look to see what is wrong with them, but start to sincerely examine what YOU might be doing wrong.

    Thanks Pernille!
    Sorry if I rambled.

  6. So true. It’s not all rainbows and cupcakes! It’s hard work and like all things that take time, there are trade-offs that so many people don’t mention or consider. It also depends on what you want from the connection! If the desire to connect is to grow as a professional and to keep up on what is happening, then you may not as compelled to blog or seek out opportunities to speak at conferences.
    Thanks for sharing that being connected isn’t as simple as sending out a few tweets and the occasional blog post. Great post!

  7. I love that you mentioned the jealousy that comes with the territory. Do you realize I’m jealous of you?!? Great post, thank you very much!

  8. Connected [consumer/producer] educators. The commodification of teaching and childhood converge and it’s not always clean, clear or effective. Nice work … more and more people are talking about this — and that is a good thing.

  9. Pernille I always enjoy your blogs. Some of your points are spot on for me. The one that struck home the most was that I do feel that being a connected educator is the “right” way. I think it comes from a place of seeing how much benefit it can have for educators. The old adage of ignorance is bliss is definitely true in this case.

  10. “You lose time from other things.” My husband is in the room watching football. I am in my study reading your blog post.:) I love watching football with my husband, but look what I am doing instead! smh

  11. Great Blog! I also have another downside- “Pinterest Syndrome”. This is along the lines of jealousy/loss of time, but it’s more like the feeling that your head is going to explode because you see so many good ideas through your PLN but you can’t possibly do them all!!!

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