The Self-Promoting Teacher. . .

Darren Draper over at Drape’s Takes has an interesting conversation going right now about whether or not teachers and edubloggers cross the line into undesirable self promotion of their own work in their blogs and in social networks like Twitter.  His central questions—which sparked a pretty strong conversation in the comment section—were:

  • When do a person’s advertisements (on various social networks) for activities they may be promoting become an undesirable display of self-promotion?
  • What are the rules of etiquette – if any – that might apply to the combination of educational blogging and Twitter use?

Being a blogger, teacher and social networking junkie myself, I had to jump in the conversation.  My initial thoughts had to do with intent.  I wrote:

This is a tough one, Darren. For me, it’s not about the quantity of self-promoting posts that one makes.

Instead, it’s about intent. Does the person self-promote simply to get people to see how brilliant they are, or is their intention to draw others into a conversation about their ideas.

In the initial “tweet,” intent may not be evident—but after following someone for a while, that becomes pretty clear. If a person never engages in dialogue with others….never links to others….never responds to others in their blog posts, then their self promotion is singular and isolated—-and offensive.

But if someone who is constantly engaging with others as an equal participant—-and sees the ideas of others as valuable enough to respond to in their own work, self promotion is nothing more than pointing friends to interesting thoughts.

I actually like when the people that I follow self promote their work in Twitter, primarily because I sometimes fail to catch up with them in my RSS feed. The immediacy of Twitter draws my attention and makes their post stand out from the crush that my feeds can become.

Do you think that the idea of “offensive self promotion” takes care of itself in the very act of “following?”

Do we simply “un-follow” those who’s level of self promotion bothers us or whose intent we question?

Better question: Is the standard for reasonable self promotion something that varies by reader?

But then I got to thinking that Darren’s concerns about self promotion seem to reflect a bigger trend towards equality in schools:

Actually, I’ve been thinking a ton more about your post in the past few hours (thanks for the cognitive dissonance!) and I had another interesting question:

Do you think the egalitarian tradition in education causes edubloggers to worry more about self promotion than people in other professions?

I know that in most every building where I’ve ever worked, the “top performers” were always considered outcasts by their peers. They were called “apple polishers” and shamed any time they earned recognition for doing something great.

Sometimes I wonder if the lack of a clear vision/picture of “excellence” in teaching makes it difficult for anyone to “stand out,” which by default means that self promotion is bad.

That’s one that I’ve got to role around a bit more in my head—-but I wonder if you’re on to something bigger than blogging. I wonder if our feelings towards self promotion via Twitter are really evidence of a broader trend towards “false equality” in teaching.

So what do you think?  Do we tend to frown on teachers who appear to “self-promote?”  Do teachers hold one another to a higher standard in the self-promotion department than other professionals would hold their peers?


If we are passionate about elevating teaching as a profession, should we begin to openly recognize excellence and push for more “horn-tooting” within our ranks?  Can we really argue that we’re a profession when we’re not willing to admit that some of us do this job better than others?

Interesting questions, huh?

8 thoughts on “The Self-Promoting Teacher. . .

  1. Gilbert Halcrow

    I think some resistance to share can be about the emotional investment, but the idea that ‘it is finished’ and can not evolve really worries me.
    Digital or analogue this is attitude is a problem. I have worked with colleagues like this whose idea of sharing is to give you their ‘tried and tested’ lesson plan of 20 years and they then politely except your offering, then put it to one side as they disdainfully sip their ‘boiled drink’.
    I think this same attitude digitally goes some way to explain the self-promoting teacher as well. ‘Here’s how I’ve done it the right way!’
    Having a non-evolving scheme of work can occur easily in a content driven system (save for occasional changes in exam questions or actually content) that does not change that much. In the same way as a factory worker skilled in one task on the assembly line had a job for life. In the face of a process/constructivist approach to learning we need collaboration, with peers, parents and most importantly students.
    I think I would sum up the current groups in education as such
    A. They don’t collaborate because it is ‘all about me’ (Some may well have self-promoting blogs)
    B. They don’t collaborate because they are stuck in a ‘Victorian Educational mind-set’; believing that value is only accrued through experience and if you are lucky they will impart their wisdom.
    C. They share and want to share more but their technological capacities limit their digital sharing.
    D. They share, they collaborate, they blog, they evolve.
    Perhaps there is a sliding scale between groups B and C, but I think it gives us an idea where to put our efforts.
    Perhaps this gives us taxonomy to identify teachers within our own schools? Remember look at behaviours not age – some of the most collaborative teachers I know are nearing retirement, who were trained in the constructivist ‘spike’ of the early 70s, before the reductionism/efficiency drive of the 80s and 90s got a hold.

  2. John Holland

    We had a sort of discussion about this stuff on TLN when we went about deciding if we should list NBCT, Ph.D. TOY etc. In a “private community” like a school campus it is not worthwhile to separate yourself from the community with letters but sadly, in the blogosphere it is important sometimes to list your credentials.
    Here is what I put on my blog bio recently:
    J.M. Holland is a National Board Certified Head Start teacher and professional artist. He is a member of the Teacher Leaders Network, an elite group of trained assassins (actually, we really are teacher leaders) who have brains and care about education more than you know.
    I hoped to make my self less aggrandizing while still asserting credibility of myself and my community.

  3. Mike

    Ah yes, self promoting teachers. Who doesn’t have a number of them on campus, people whose first, last and only concern is their so well deserved glorification? Can you think about them without feeling at least faintly sick to your stomach? If you can, you too may be a self-congratulating attention hound.
    I’ve always felt that if one is good at what they go, truly good, it’s obvious to everyone. No trumpeting of accomplishments is required, nor will it help. In a very real sense, blowing one’s own horn is destructive to the soul, leading one inexorably toward the dark side.
    If those who are truly competent and innovative are not being recognized and rewarded in a given school, that’s a supervisory problem. Indeed, the problem goes beyond not recognizing and rewarding those who excel, but extends into every facet of the operation of such schools and causes problems great and small. Such issues won’t be repaired by blogging.
    Therefore is blogging, is internet dialogue, of no value? Certainly not. But as in face to face relationships, one must take care not to aggrandize oneself. Avoiding the excessive use of “I” is a good way to start. Another is to avoid listing one’s accomplishments and awards. On the net, as in life, if you’re good, if your ideas have merit, others will know. Doing otherwise, is, to paraphrase Monty Python, merely farting in the general direction of one’s audience.

  4. Ben

    As a newer teacher, I love educational bloggers who share ideas and experiences with the online community. I cannot expect that anything I do in the classroom is going to be any different from what someone else has already tried before.
    To me, it is about finding the best way to connect to the students and help educate them. If one teacher’s experiences about something they did can help me do that, that I say write on! However, and I’m in agreement with you on intent, if the writer is writing just to say “look what I’ve done” instead of “here’s an idea that you may want to use or take parts of” then it’s serving no real value.
    I don’t intend on reinventing the wheel and if I find something that may work more effectively than what I’m currently doing don’t I owe it to the students to become more effective? If something has already been tried and failed, then I want to know about it.

  5. Bill Ferriter

    @headmonkey wrote:
    Thanks for being one of the people and places to explore my educational wonderings! I really enjoy your ponderings and realizations. Keep up the great work!
    Head Monkey—-
    Thanks a ton for your kind words! Like any writer, I’m always jazzed when something I’ve done resonates with readers. Audience matters, right?
    And thanks for jumping in the conversation! One of my favorite things about blogging is the challenge that I get from commenters as they either polish or push my thinking.
    It’s a symbiotic thing, I think!
    Anyway…thanks again!

  6. Bill Ferriter

    Gilbert wrote:
    We need to shift perceptions within the teaching community about blogging and sharing. We need to switch colleagues onto the idea that they are offering up ‘stem’ of practice or thoughts that may get re-mixed and developed through dialogue and adoption in schools around the world.
    This is absolutely brilliant thinking, Gilbert! Completely brilliant.
    I couldn’t agree more that educators tend to see their practices as “theirs,” rather than as strands that can promote ongoing conversations and change.
    The love of the mash is something that educators haven’t embraced yet.
    Do you think that has something to do with the emotional investment that we have in our work?
    There aren’t a ton of teachers that I can think of who aren’t passionate about their practice. After all, to fail to be passionate would inherently imply that you are intentionally hurting the future of children!
    As a result, embracing new ideas—and seeing existing practices revised and polished—suggests that earlier work was “wrong” in some way.
    I wonder if that’s the key barrier to change in our profession.
    You’ve got my mind flying now….

  7. Gilbert Halcrow

    As well a teaching, I enjoy recording music (subtle self-promotion). In on-line music re-mix communities you offer up ‘stems’ (beats, loops, a cappella vocals) for others to mix with further instrumentation and post. Sometime even those remixes are often then remixed 3rd and 4th generations away from the original ‘stem’.
    The transaction from the start for both parties, the poster of the stem and those who download/remix, is explicitly collaborative. The ‘intent’ of the poster and the interpretation by ‘the reader’ is also clear. Unfortunately the edublogsphere while their implicitly collaboration is present the ‘rules of engagement’ is not as clear as other on-line communities
    We need to shift perceptions within the teaching community about blogging and sharing. We need to switch colleagues onto the idea that they are offering up ‘stem’ of practice or thoughts that may get re-mixed and developed through dialogue and adoption in schools around the world.
    The collaborative behaviours displayed by teachers in subjects departments, faculties, year groups and working parties every day in their schools, will find new leverage as teachers more and more understand that this ‘blogging/wiki thing’ is about dialogue not decrees.
    Being involved an academic profession in the analogue world, many teachers carry preconceived ideas about ‘publishing’ that certainly our students do not. I am aware of my own tendency to write to a conclusion like in an essay rather than a question to promote dialogue.
    Also teaching is a practical profession and many teachers I know are actively involved in on-line projects that do not keep blogs. In the same way that not everyone keeps a teacher planner or diary a blog may not be the way people choose to develop their practice.
    We perhaps need to worry less about being self promoting and actively get on with collaboration promoting, on blogs and in our schools.
    I am trying to encourage it within a working party I am involved with, but we also have a forum which appears to be working better as it is tasked oriented – as opposed to the open form of blogging. Does anyone have any examples of switching a colleague onto blogging? What did you do?

  8. Head Monkey

    I am so with you, Bill on the difficulty of relating with other staff members who are not quite as “keen” and “excited” about education as we are. It took me a while to coin my trademark phrase – “I’m okay with that!” I remember one principal telling me, “No one loves a know-it-all!” which my reply was they don’t have to love me, they have to respect me. I am here to be a professional not a drinking buddy. (Although I do really enjoy a glass of wine or two…)
    I find I have educational discourse with my friends that I don’t teach in the same school with (and online) and I only have friendly chit-chat with my coworkers.It seems to be much easier to handle. If they still don’t like me, then guess what? I am okay with that!
    Thanks for being one of the people and places to explore my educational wonderings! I really enjoy your ponderings and realizations. Keep up the great work!

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