Dark Side of EduTwitter: Policing, Grading, and Shaming Educators One Tweet At A Time

Sunil Singh

Most of you know the scene between Robin Williams(Sean) and Matt Damon(Will). Those five minutes probably won the Oscar for Robin Williams. Composed. Steady. Vulnerable. Honest.

Searingly honest to the point you could fry an egg on it.

The origin of that park bench monologue was when Damon’s character, Will Hunting, decided to rip Williams’ character, Sean Maguire, by a mere examination of a piece of art that Sean had painted and hung in his office.

…But you presumed to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and ripped my fuckin’ life apart…

Sean Maguire(Good Will Hunting)

Unfortunately, this is a scene that is played out in the world of education on Twitter everyday. Just replace the painting with 288 character or less. I know the comparison is not entirely the same — as some comments/views are clearly unacceptable — but there is a new sport on Twitter.

We All Own a Painting Like This

It’s basically ripping fellow educators on anything from their posts to their views to eventually their brand. It is simply a game of “Gotcha” with strong nods to gas lighting. I myself have been a target of such tweets by the Wokeirati(a term coined by a fellow educator).

It just refers to people who believe they are the most aware individuals on the planet AND need to remind you — in public — with bite-size, scolding messaging on Twitter.

It’s Gate Keeping 101. There is only one journey and one path. Get on it and follow my lead.

I have been called out on equity several times over the last year or so. Even though I am a POC, have worked with some of the poorest/most neglected students in Toronto, and quit teaching partly on being discriminated against for my education views, I still realize that I could have blind spots in equity and many things in education.

But, to skewer any comments/missteps without temperance or understanding that I — like you — have a whole life will never be confused with kindness.

Never.

While there are several examples I have seen over the year, one of the worst ones are the attacks I have seen on Dave Burgess, and his publishing company. The book, “Math Recess: Playful Learning in an Age of Disruption” is published through IMPress, which is a subsidiary company of DBC.

So, even though I wasn’t directly attacked. My family of authors was.

That’s right. Family.

One of the reasons I quit teaching in 2013 — I taught for 19 years, including 5 amazing ones in one of the poorest high schools in Toronto — was that I had no joy left. All the constant testing, deathly boring conversations about assessment — should we make the final exam 25% or 30%, we need to test unit 6, we need to get to 8.4, etc. Everything about mathematics being distilled down to faceless and baseless numbers.

Everything viewed through a lens of performance, accountability, and statistically meaningless bureaucracy. There was even a recent Twitter conversation that there isn’t enough research that testing causes math anxiety?

What planet are we on and what year are we in where this discussion becomes important? It is ONLY important to validate and maintain the CURRENT infrastructure of education. That’s NOT my interest — and NOT of thousands of others.

Which is why my heart started gravitating towards ideas and educators who spoke about the softer qualitative than the harder quantitative.

I have read about half a dozen of the over 80 titles available. All the math oriented ones are top shelf — Instant Relevance, The Classroom Chef, Table Talk Math, and the “Breaker” series — Code and Block.

I am also in the process of reading these two: Tamara Letter’s “A Passion For Kindness” and Elisabeth Bostwick’s “ Take The L.E.A.P: Ignite A Culture of Innovation”

I value these books just as much — maybe even more — in my journey as a math educator these last 5 years. In 2013, I was hopelessly lost and alienated at the end of my teaching career — completely shriveled up

There was an recent article that perfectly summed up what happened to me and what is happening even more today — the taxing emotional labor of trying to do what is best in spite of the system.

I am done with that. I want to be part of a burgeoning collective of wildly passionate risk-takers who are leading with their hearts and not inert data that has a slavish devotion to all things 20th century.

If mathematics is a beautiful garden of flowers and exotic plants, then the nourishing soil, nutrients, and water must surely be ideas/books that speak to all the things that intersect and run tangential to our most courageous emotional sides.

I am fortunate to be part of the DBC/IMPress family of authors. Everything they say about education is what I believe. I am on this ship. Sails have been hoisted.

And, the pirates of education are basking in the glow of kindness and wholeheartedness. Truth pierces both our brains and hearts. But, the loftiest aspirations of the brightest educators in history have always made impassioned pleas to our hearts.

Nobody on EduTwitter will ever be in the same realm as Bertrand Russell. He was a philosopher, logician, mathematician, essayist, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. I am not sure we will see the likes of him ever again. And, I am unsure we will ever see words like his either.

That call is going to be 100 years old soon. What ideas do you think are closer to achieving this goal? The ones rooted in data, research, and testing or the ones rooted in the revolution of the human heart?

Something to mull over — kindly.

Sunil Singh

Written by

Author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics and Co-Author of Math Recess: Playful Learning in the Age of Disruption. Speaker. Buzzmath.

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