Where’s The Love? Culture, Connections, and Social Media in Education
Where is the love indeed?
We need human interaction. Like, NEED it. Neuroscientists have declared that human connection is as important to survival as food and shelter. It is a basic human necessity. But, does what we do, how we connect with each other within the field of education count as filling that basic need?
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How we Connect
For some, a typical school day doesn’t include connecting with anyone old enough to vote. In fact, for many educators, unless they seek out connections with peers they won’t find it.
We work through our lunches and squirrel away every second of planning time. When your job is never done it’s sometimes hard to justify strolling down the hall to chat. Sure, we make great effort to connect with students – but does that fulfill our need to connect the same way as talking with someone who gets what we are going through does?
So, when we get a chance to sit down with our colleagues, it is often within structured time, such as professional development and staff meetings. If your experience has been at all like mine, then you have participated in numerous “icebreakers” – a forced social experience, often painful to participate in, wherein you share about yourself (usually in some sort of game format) under the watchful eye of a speaker or administrator.
Who likes these really? And, who really, really thinks this is actually connecting?
And then there’s the big one. The elephant in the room. Social Media. Right?
Almost everyone participates in it, but is it connecting?
Social media, for most people, represents the glossy surface of life. Rarely do we get real (or want to see/read it) on social media. Instead, we see Pinterest classrooms and happy, shiny people who both inspire us and sometimes make us feel less than.
But we also know it’s not real – social media is a curated version of reality.
For the majority of people who use social media, it isn’t a place to express their pain points and it doesn’t represent a space to make real connections.
Sure, social media serves a purpose. And, yes it does offer us a way of sharing that benefits us and our students. It provides a way of reaching out and a platform to gain knowledge and experience – in many ways we are better for it.
The question remains though, does it scratch our itch for human connection?
No Judgment Here
So, I am in no way passing judgment on those who partake in social media. I am kind of everywhere on it myself. In fact, if you want more from Joy in Teaching here’s a whole lotta buttons to click:
Getting Really Real
The truth of the matter is we know we need human interaction, but we may not be really connecting when we interact. Between the micromanaged intensity of the school day’s schedule and the glossy surface-connections of social media we aren’t encouraged to ever really get real.
Teaching is a tough profession. There are a lot of rewards, but there are a lot of occupational stress (you can find some right here). There are paint points – and yet we rarely give space to openly discuss them within the profession.
The Importance of Connecting
We KNOW how important this is. We KNOW that we are better AND schools are better when relationships are built and connections are made. This is why we spend so much time and effort in our classrooms building a positive and respectful culture. We want our students to be a community of support – and yet many of us don’t have one ourselves.
In fact, here’s an article in which neuroscientist, Matthew Lieberman, asserts that schools would actually “would perform better if they were structured with an understanding of our social nature.”.
Developing a Culture of Connection
When teachers lack a space to speak their truth and to express their pain points an effort is required to build a culture of connection.
- Develop your own support network within your school – consciously make time to talk with each other and give each other the support and encouragement you need.
- Talk to your administrators about developing a resilience-building culture (you can even drop Joy in Teaching’s name).
- Join a group of like-minded group people online in a private space (maybe the Joy in Teaching Facebook Group?)
- Find people in your personal life who are willing to lend an ear to the stresses of your day – don’t keep it all bottled up
It’s not about complaining – it’s about feeling heard and knowing that when things get tough you have support. This is an important piece of developing resilience against burnout and an essential piece of teacher retention.
If you are looking for more resilience-building strategies I recommend What’s All this About Teacher Resilience? And Why It Should Be a Priority In Every Single School and 8 Tips for Stronger Teacher Resiliency