Happiness is a choice. So is social media.

For those of you who know me, you are acutely aware how much I have recently started sharing my thoughts on teaching, ed-tech, positivity and life in general through social media.  I started a blog called Tech Tuesdays to share tips with my colleagues.  I cleaned up my twitter account and started suggesting official school hashtags.  I’m now active on Google Plus (Yes that’s still a thing) and I have decided I need to massively upgrade my blog.  On top of that I still have a personal Facebook page that I use to connect with friends and family.  Here is where many of you loyal readers (all 3 of you!) will start to ask…

WHY???

And not just why do all of this to begin with, But why would I spend so much TIME doing this (I know some of you are thinking it – WASTING my time doing this).  It’s a valid question.  We all need balance in life (a blog post for the future).  Let me discuss two recent social media news items:

1.  Recently Twitter trended the hashtag #Describetwitterin3words.  The responses varied from the super positive to the super negative and everything in between.  You can check it out yourself

2.  The interim CEO of Reddit just resigned and, story aside, one of her quotes really struck me: “In my eight months as Reddit’s CEO, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on Reddit, The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity.”

Why point out these stories? Because there is tons and tons (and tons) of mundane crap on the internet.  Worse yet, there is a lot that’s downright horrible.  This, my friends, is called humanity.

You can’t pick your family or your coworkers.  You are stuck with them for better or for worse.  You CAN pick who you interact with online.  There’s also no obligation – pick it up when you want.

making-choices-picture

I’ve heard so many people tell me that they just don’t get it.  They just don’t understand the appeal of going online and reading about people, “Doing their laundry” or “Brushing their teeth”… Why is it they always cite household chores??

Here’s the deal – there’s a massive stereotype about social media.  It’s for teens.  It’s self-indulgent and narcissistic.  It’s encouraging kids to be bullies.  It’s a government conspiracy to track all of us and sell us more crap…. on and on.

Now, there’s an ounce of truth to some of those.  Here’s the paradox I can’t get over.  If those ideas bother you then you should do something about it! Choose to use social media to connect with other educators.  Choose to use social media to teach your students.  Choose to use social media to spread positive vibes and model decent digital citizenship for the next generation.  It is NOT all stupid human tricks and funny dog videos (but hey, that’s fun too).  Do you like to write? Start blogging.  Twitter CAN be a form of writing.  There are tons of naysayers, but you are telling a story when you post online.  We desperately need quality passionate people to add to the digital world.  Moreover, your kids will be on there whether you like it or not.  Wouldn’t you rather have a firsthand understanding of the best way to utilize this tool so that you can teach the next generation? Don’t sit back and complain about the negative impact social media is having on society.  As educators we not only have the opportunity to impact change in this area but I believe we have a moral obligation to do so.

I’m a big believer that you have a choice in all things.  You have a choice to be happy.  It’s not a state that you arrive at.  You have a choice to complain or to be positive.  You have a choice to use social media for good.

My favorite T-shirt

                  My favorite T-shirt

Here’s the rub – most of you reading this already know this.  So I’m issuing a challenge to you:

Make it a goal this coming year to get 1 unconnected educator online.  Don’t worry when people sarcastically ask if you are going to tweet from the meeting you are in (because you probably are).  Flood the online world with so much positivity that the next generation won’t tolerate the bullies, the flamers and the trolls.  You have a choice.  

Change. It’s hard. Even when it looks easy.

I’m willing to bet you’ve been on a diet.  I’d also venture that you stumbled somewhere along the way.  Sneaking some ice cream late at night, a slice of birthday cake in the teachers lounge, hey, it’s Friday, I EARNED this doughnut! Being on a diea64fb82c-c6c6-470a-9101-7e404411d5d6t is rough.  It’s restrictive and you are literally fighting your biological tendencies to eat as much as you can and move as little as possible.   Yet you know, somewhere deep inside, that you should eat more vegetables and fruits and less junk.  You know you want to look better on the beach and be able to keep up with your kids.  See the thing is, at least for many of us, we grow up without too much concern for how we eat, then BAM, we start gaining weight without realizing it.  All of a sudden you are hauling the laundry up the steps and you’re out of breath.  Maybe you change, maybe you don’t.  Some say it’s easy, you just have to decide you will do it.

If you’ve lost weight and most especially if you have kept that weight off, you very likely have had that moment.  That moment when you just KNOW – I am doing this!  I am doing this for my spouse, for my kids, for my teammates, for my dog, for my parents, for ME.  For me, a huge motivator was reading these lines by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, creaters of the Whole30 eating model:

“It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your ‘struggles’.”

Thats great and all.  In theory, it’s not hard.  But it is hard.  Change is hard.  Even for the people that make it look easy.  The first step is just committing.

Then you fight and scrap and sacrifice with all you have to make sure you get healthy.  You go to the birthday party and politely say no thanks to the cake.  You get up at the crack of dawn and go for a run… before anybody else in your house is even awake.  You spend hours preparing your food for all your lunches so that when everybody is running to the fast food joint for a quick lunch you are prepared.  And then it happens. You feel it.  Not just the weight loss but the utter joy and energy that have returned.  The struggle that was so hard is now a memory and you are living the life you feel you were meant to. BxNWTDmCIAAv6-0

You got through that messy part.  That’s where most people stop.

As teachers we need a diet.  We need to have a collective moment that we are going to do this.  Not for the politicians and their mandates or the testing companies and their profits, but for the children we have devoted our lives to and for our very selves and the dignity of our profession.  We need to make a commitment that we are going to fight through the “messy part” over the next decade (yeah, I said decade) as technology continues to become more pervasive and students continue to look less and less like the kids we remember ourselves being.  They deserve this.  WE deserve this.

It is easier to stand in front of a room and demand cell phones and lecture than it is to have kids on laptops working on different projects at the same time (and no, I don’t mean that teaching is easy in any format…).  It is easier to give everybody the same worksheet than it is to give kids a choice in what they want to learn about and to (dare I say it) let them use their cell phone in class.  It’s easier to just eat the birthday cake too.  Anything worth doing is… look, you get the point right?.  You have heard this before.  But now is the time.  There’s no starting tomorrow any more.  We need a collective wake up call.  We need to realize that this change is both easy (in the sense that you just have to decide) and a feeling that it is insurmountable because it requires such constant vigilance and support and learning.

Here’s the good part – we are all in it together. You do not have to go it alone.  Even if nobody in your school wants to help you (and I doubt that) you have to world of teachers on Twitter, Voxer and Blogs.  I’ve met a lot of them.  They are awesome and they want to help you.  Yes, YOU! So put down that cookie and start tweeting.  The kids are coming for you and they’re eager for change.