“Just Don’t Share That Twitter Stuff…”

March 11, 2017

Recently I consulted several mentors of mine to gain advice about preparing for administration interviews. Cumulatively, they voiced a myriad of tips and wisdom for me to take along on this journey. A couple of suggestions were, “Tara, just be YOU and show them what you do!” “Make sure to know their system statistically.” “Share all of the wonderful ways you lead, coach and mentor teachers.” As one after another offered their knowledge from experience, one stood out to me. “Tara, just don’t share that Twitter stuff you do. You don’t need to talk about that. Tell of REAL experiences with REAL leaders in education. You know what I mean? I know you love that Twitter stuff, but it isn’t necessary to share in this type of setting.”

Granted, I highly respect the educators I sought out for counsel; they know what’s best, right? After hearing these suggestions, my blood did NOT boil, nor did I immediately defend myself. Instead, I tried to understand better. What experiences have they had with connected educators? 

Why might this individual 1) discredit the professionals on Twitter or 2) expect me to be anything less than the REAL me?

I think they meant well by sharing this information. However, it seemed as though they wanted me to answer the questions to please my audience. Which left me with a couple of burning questions, “Do I want an administration job that bad? Would I want to lead a system knowing I’d need to omit a chunk of who I really am?”

As I got in my car that day, my head was spinning. While I’ve only been on Twitter for about eight months, there is NO way I can deny my professional growth from collaborating with my professional learning network. No doubt that isn’t the “whole pie” for Tara Martin, but it’s every bit a part of the REAL me.

*Side note: I had a Twitter account for a while, but literally had to hack into it eight months ago, because I had forgotten the username and password. If I remember correctly, I had about three tweets and could count my followers on one hand. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that I became a connected educator and REALLY understood what this “Twitter stuff” was all about.

I began to reflect on the new and better things that I’ve developed from becoming a connected educator. What characteristics of an Innovator’s Mindset have I developed over the last eight months?

• Met George Couros who taught be about possessing a Digital Footprint and joining Twitter for EDU. At this point, I began to grow a connected network of educators.

• George influenced me to take a risk and create my professional digital portfolio to reflect and share my experiences.

• Read The Innovator’s Mindset, my first “Twitter influenced” educational book.

• Met Dave Burgess who encouraged me to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN).

• Experienced “professional development on steroids” via weekly Twitter chats and empathetically began to understand others’ points of view, globally.

• Joined #IMMOOC 1 to network with educators around the world.

• Encouraged and empowered others by hosting Twitter chats, a risk-taking experience for me.

• Connected with many of my PLN members face-to-face at conferences.

• Took a risk and began speaking at conferences outside my district. I LOVE it! 

• Networked with educators across the nation by hosting Voxer book studies.

• Found a Problem- “Put cell phones away! No Snapchat!” So, I created a solution to the problem called #BookSnaps , a way to use Snapchat for EDU-Awesomeness. 

…and this list can go on for a long while.

How was I supposed to leave that CHUNK of my professional growth out of an interview conversation?

What does a girl do in a situation like this?

Easy. Be REAL!

The Interview Process

During the interview, I shared my enthusiasm for education, my hands-on experiences in leadership as well as the “connected educator” influences. In fact, a slide of the Innovator’s Mindset landed in my “Top 3” characteristics that describe ME. Why wouldn’t I? I gave examples of how possessing an Innovator’s Mindset has enhanced my performance as an educator and empowered those within my influence. The conversation led to sharing a little bit about #BookSnaps and stories of how students around the world are connecting to text–21st Century style.  Needless to say, the innovator’s mindset was interwoven throughout that entire conversation.

At the conclusion of the interview, I opened my heart with a few statements, “Do we want to be good? Or, do we want to be great? I believe if we want to be great we must tap into students’ passions, their strengths. We must help them develop an innovator’s mindset. Why? The future ahead of us is full of uncertainties, but there is one thing of which I feel sure. Smart machines will quickly take the place of “making the grade” and “meeting the standards.” However, I firmly believe robotic devices will NOT be able to replicate the individual passions of every student, every educator, and every human. I can’t imagine that ever being the case. So, how might we prepare students for the future? But more than that, how might we prepare them for right now? We must help them develop an innovator’s mindset, and I’m eager to actively take action to add passion-led learning back into our school system. I realize we need balance, but I want students to not only learn but LOVE learning.” 

Let’s just say…”that Twitter stuff” certainly had its place during this process. After two rounds of interviews and the only candidate with no administrative experience, they offered me the job. Why? “Your passion for education is contagious! We want more of it!” To me, this meant, “We want the REAL you! YOU are the missing puzzle piece to our team.”

George said it best in Part 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset, “As you push the edges of the norm with your innovative ideas, hold onto your conviction and passion. If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?”

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  • John, Mayor of VocabularySpellingCity March 23, 2017 at 6:48 am

    I suspect that one element of this advice is about how most people react to public speaking or public writing. Remember, the single greatest fear in adult Americans is public speaking…ahead of spiders, heights, and death. And many adults don’t like to write. So many people I suspect think of Tweeting with fear: it’s public and it’s writing. So I suspect that many people saying to not worry about tweeting or discussing tweeting are somehow channeling their own fears….This is all easy to forget when you are immersed in the blogosphere…

    • Tara M Martin March 23, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      So true, John. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michael Buist March 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I just can’t wait to read your book someday and #BookSnap it. And I’ll post your wise words all over Twitter.

    • Tara M Martin March 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      YOU ROCK, Michael. Hopefully, that will be at the end of this year *fingers crossed*, and it’s great to know I’ll have at least one reader. Heart you! PLN-buds-for-life!

  • Kristin Edwards March 12, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Tara! Way to go! Your passion is contagious! I am excited to follow your administrative journey with you. I can’t imagine not talking about “that Twitter stuff” it has definitely made an impact on me as an educator and ITF.

    • Tara M Martin March 12, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      Thank you, Kristin. You’re too kind. I’m thrilled to learn and grow from YOU as a connected educator!

  • Ian Guest March 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Tara,
    First of all, congratulations on your appointment; well done indeed. Thanks for this post in which you make a number of observations which are doubtless interesting to most folks, but especially so for me. I’m conducting doctoral research into teachers’ use of Twitter in support of their professional learning. Hope you don’t mind me asking a couple of questions?
    You mentioned ‘risk taking’ a couple of times; were you risk *averse* prior to Twitter, or did it just extend your (prior) willingness to take risks? How did it do that?
    A second one if I may? Do you think that you (and the 1000s of other educators on Twitter) have particular *traits* that made you amenable to giving it a shot eight months ago, and subsequently make such a personal success out of participating?
    Would be really grateful for your insights.

    • Tara M Martin March 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      Ian, thanks for your comments.
      To answer your first question, no. I was not averse to taking risks before becoming a connected educator. However, by being connected, I developed a new meaning of what ‘risk-taking’ might look like. As I gained new knowledge, read more educational books recommended by my PLN, met the authors of these mind-blowing works and actually saw what educators and students were doing around the globe via GHO or Skype, ‘risk taking’ gained a whole new dimension for me. Before, the system constraints would squelch my ideas, but now it’s as if my mind sees no limits. Now, I think, “How do we make that happen?” “How might I engage my PLN for help?” “In what ways are educators around the solving this?”

      As for your second question, the only trait I believe one needs to join Twitter is an open mind and willingness to try something new. Once connected, one will find ‘like-minded’ educators. That is the beauty of building your PLN! You decide with whom to collaborate. It’s like your professional Pandora, because it’s based on your interests, your philosophy, and your professional growth needs. Granted, I enjoy adding individuals to my PLN that think differently than me, as well. It stretches me to see other points of view and helps shape me into a better educator.

      Hope that helps.

      • Ian Guest March 14, 2017 at 4:57 am

        Thanks so much for your response Tara; I really appreciate you finding the time and providing such valuable feedback. If I could just ask one more thing?
        You’ve echoed the views of a number of other people who have similarly sought balance between connecting with like-minded colleagues, and yet being challenged with different views. That provides a degree of tension I suspect? Would it be fair to say we like *some* challenge, but would be understandably resistant if it attempted to fundamentally shift our worldview? So I guess I’m asking, how do we find the balance between finding our ‘tribe'(?), and exposing ourselves to sufficient dissonance to enable us to learn?

  • Jerri March 11, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Excellent post, Tara! I enjoyed reading your insights about the interview process. We must include this in Edgy Educators! So proud to work with you!

    • Tara M Martin March 11, 2017 at 10:19 pm

      Thank you, Jerri. I’d love to share! Can’t wait for the filming of Edgy Educators this month. I love learning from you and Anna.

  • Gilles March 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    “…I created a solution to the problem called #BookSnaps ,” That is a great idea and I will try that! Great post Tara and very strong points. I was told and you probably read it many times, people who don’t understand the Twitter stuff, they always going to put it down or trash it. Great post and interesting journey!

    • Tara M Martin March 11, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      Thank you, Gilles. I agree. In fact, I didn’t understand the effectiveness of Twitter until last summer. I had an account but had never actually used it; I think I had less than five followers until June 2016. That’s when I began to realize the power of connected collaboration with educators around the globe.

      Oh, and can’t wait to see your #BookSnaps! If you have any questions, let me know. 🙂

  • Amanda Funk March 11, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I am sharing this with teachers!! I’m going to add my own… I began IMPORTANT discussions around how we as teachers perceive our students because I found a book recommendation Twitter #ForWhiteFolks. I interacted with the author and we bounced ideas on how to facilitate sensitive discussions. I found BOOKSNAPS and excited teachers which then excited teachers! I could stop there but like you, my list is long and impactful, not only for me but for those around me!! Sometimes I get comments about being on a twitter but I stand by my connected PLN!!!

    • Tara M Martin March 11, 2017 at 11:56 am

      Of course, Amanda. Please do. I wish others could see that it’s more than another social media hang-out, it’s learning and growing with every click. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without my PLN. They are my peeps, and they challenge my thinking. I LOVE that I don’t have to wait until the next conference to be inspired; EDU-Awesomeness floods my tweetdeck, daily.

  • Susan Aplin March 11, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for sharing your story! I treasure the connections I’ve made and new things I’ve learned via my Twitter PLN. Congrats on the job offer! I can easily see why someone would want you on their team.

    • Tara M Martin March 11, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Thank you, Susan. I seriously don’t know how I thrived in education without my PLN! I’m grateful we are connected. Keep changing the world!

  • Joe March 11, 2017 at 10:41 am

    As someone who is almost finished with their admin, I really enjoyed reading this! I will be in this position of preparing for interviews in the not-so-distant future, and I was able to take a lot out of your blog. I have been connected for about 5 months now, started a blog, am moderating a Twitter chat next week… and it has completely changed me professionally. Thanks for posting this, and good luck in your new endeavor!

    • Tara M Martin March 11, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Thank you, Joe, for your kind words. My only advice is to be YOU. The REAL YOU! It’s truly what everyone wants, and it’s what we do best. That interview felt like a two-way street–the WHOLE time. It was as if I was interviewing them, too. More importantly, it was as if we were collaborating and sharing ideas. Being connected has helped me gain confidence while challenging me to think differently. Through weekly PD aka Twitter chats, I’ve been able to keep current educational practices at the forefront of my mind, which made this whole process much more fluent.

  • Steve Wyborney March 11, 2017 at 10:23 am

    This is a wonderful post, Tara. I am so happy to have the opportunity to learn from you and with you. Our growth is propelled as we contribute to others. Thank you for contributing to my journey!

    • Tara M Martin March 11, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Thank you, Steve. I’m grateful to learn and grow from YOU, too! Love your statement, “Our growth is propelled as we contribute to others.” Honestly, I couldn’t agree more.