Your Back-To-School Messages Are Hurting Teachers

Retweeting chirpy clichés only puts more pressure on teachers — and ignores the real problems

Shanna Peeples
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readAug 5, 2018

--

Art by Shanna Peeples

TToo many people outside of classrooms spend too much time telling people inside them what to do. Once you leave the classroom, it’s tempting to want to share all of your advice with others.

Trust me, as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, I see the irony in writing this. Much like the overweight track coach sitting in the shade of a blistering Texas afternoon punctuating commands for runners with sips of iced tea, I feel I’ve reached a point where I have to admit that I’m not exactly part of the game I’m trying to coach.

As a grad student at Harvard, I have privilege that insulates me from the repercussions of certain opinions (and even from writing something like this). No district will censor me, “counsel” me, or reassign me for what I say.

This privilege means I have a responsibility to say things that others can’t. The realization hit home for me as I sat across from a teacher friend at lunch recently. I listened as she told me how she really wanted to quit teaching. Everything she said sounded so familiar.

Social media is where teaching starts to feel toxic.

The reasons for her distress ring true for most everyone who teaches. They center on difficulties with other adults, especially those in charge, and with student behaviors.

However, because this person is seen as a leader among her fellow teachers, she feels increasingly isolated in her distress. Part of what fuels that, we both agreed, is the need to be a presence at conferences and on social media, settings where your own problems often take a back seat to educational issues and policies.

But social media — social media is where teaching starts to feel toxic. This is particularly true on Twitter, where some flagship chats have all but devolved into cult-like and clique-y echo chambers.

“Edu-celebs” who dominate the platform are part of the problem. For a place that initially seemed to offer an opportunity for teachers to find each other and share resources, Twitter has devolved into…

--

--

Shanna Peeples
Human Parts

Ed. Professor | Harvard Ed.L.D. | 2015 National Teacher of the Year