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Monday, April 13, 2009

Keeping the Poison Pen from Making You Sick



Win-win exists in this world. It does.  Then, why, sometimes do many act like it doesn't?

Some prefer to make themselves feel better by putting another down.  When in fact, by lifting another person up, the good feeling lasts a lot longer.

Others like to hand out criticism like water from a firehose.  When in fact,  criticism is usually better handled privately and one on one if at all.

When Abraham Lincoln died, they found a drawer full of letters.  Critical letters of others that he never mailed.  He thought better of it.

Ghandi said:

"If the whole world takes an eye for an eye, we all walk around blind."
This resonates with me.

You see, if someone seems perfect, you don't know them very well, because the closer you get, the more flaws you see.  Last week when we renewed contracts, I typed up a memo evaluating myself and what I can do better and how we can structure things to help me do a better job.  I don't care if your boss doesn't "do" performance reviews, we all must review our own performance.  It saddened me to see some of the things I "wish" I could make time for.

And yet a "wish" is an excuse.

But sometimes, it seems that life is wasted on the trivial. 

You know, there are a lot of GREAT educators out there doing GREAT things.  Part of why perhaps I've been blogging less here is to have less of ME and more of others.  And yet, this is my blog, and I'm speaking in first person about the observations in the classroom - that is valuable too.  I wish more teachers shared.

I think it comes down to this.  Last week, I had some people criticising our overdependence on "free tools" -- when in fact, we've written grants and struggled to get in-kind donations to help all of the teachers do things for free in this collaboration.

Julie and I are working to take Flat Classroom non profit -- then I had another person criticize because somehow they thought Julie and I were going to turn to making money on this.

Then, yet another person criticized us for working with a well-known author like Don Tapscott on NetGenEd.

While, I had yet another lob come my way over the fact that we're NOT charging and NOT making any money on what we're doing. That we should charge $1000 a per classroom for this and stop "helping all of these people for free." (Something I'm totally opposed to -- our dream is to have a nonprofit precisely so all schools with an engaged teacher and supportive admin can collaborate globally and start their own if they choose without any funding.)

Still yet another said, "you act as if this is the only way - just fade into the woodwork and let others share."

I share this to make a point -- if you look in the criticism you'll see conflicting advice.   There is a time and a point to say,

"OK, this is what we believe in and what we are striving for and here we go!"
There is Enough
  • There are enough classrooms with common mixes in this world so that each person can connect with another classroom and learn something.  
  • There are enough tools out there so that each school could have a different mix of paid and free. 
  • There are tools that schools like mine that cannot afford to pay for expensive services CAN collaborate with the world -- and there are tools that can be paid for for those behemoth public schools here in the states who are not allowed to collaborate outside their districts.
  • There are enough teachers out there to fill up newspapers with the great stories of what happens with learning when technology is integrated effectively.
There is No Perfection
  • Unfortunately, there are also some teachers who could fill up newspapers with horrible storis of what happens with learning when technology is integrated poorly.

  • There are no quick fixes.

  • And no research study I've ever seen says that any method or any technology or any tool works effectively 100% of the time.  This would tell me some teachers may be better off NOT using technology.
     
  • IWB's (interactive white boards) don't guarantee a better classroom, but there are ways that it can improve many of them.
What Twitter Does Poorly:  Debates
You see, these are many things that have come through Twitter in terms of upsetting arguments or debates.  I'll tell you that Twitter is a horrifically POOR place to debate things with fine shades of meaning -- 140 characters is short enough that you're sure to hurt someone's feelings if you debate there too much!

There are some twitterers that have never tweeted me except to say something unkind.

Improving Education
So many of us are dedicated and passionate about improving education where we work, but also to share what we learn with others.  This is a good thing.  It is a joy to know so many of you!

I'm Optimistic on Educators
And I truly want those who read this post to know that overall I am very optimistic and believing in the amazing educators around the world.  All of you I have gotten to know personally are forthright, hard working people who are dedicated to your job and doing what is right.  You are people of good character and you love the students and districts you serve.

So, what I'm saying is really somewhat an observation of an overall trend that I think is emerging -- I don't know if it is a function of Twitter and the evolution of how we communicate or just a function of my own movements through the educational blogosphere and twittersphere - maybe both.

But to me, it seems very often the Poison Pen flies.

And I'd like to say this.

Sometimes HOW we do things is as important as WHAT we do.

Boy, I"ve messed up and offended people before - often, not knowing it.  And I am truly grateful when someone emails me or stops me in the hall and says and says,
"You know what, maybe there is a misunderstanding but when ___ happened, I was quite bothered, is that what you meant."  
This is important to do. It keeps poison from spreading, especially if it wasn't intended.

Keeping the Poison Pen from Poisoning Your Attitude

To me, there are a couple of thoughts I've penciled in my journal over the past few weeks that are notes to myself about keeping the poison at bay!
  1. Remember that Twitterers are people too.

    The other day I was exhausted.  Had been outlining a blog post and was worn out.  Was sitting on the iTouch looking at Twitterfon, seeing all of the posts that everyone else was blogging that night and feeling pretty down.  So, I tweeted something like, "Gosh, I've got a blog post, when will I have time to write it."

    Received a terse response from someone basically telling me to stop twittering and write the post.

    It was a downer.  I was worn out, no laptop near and tweeted back to the person a little more of an explanation.  They never answered.  Needless to say, I felt like a loser!  It really made me feel even more overwhelmed and down. Whether that person meant it or not, I took it that their goal was to make me feel bad.

    I really think twice about twittering vulnerable moments because there are many that would love to take a little jab. 

    Now, that tweet wouldn't bother me right now -- when I'm having a better day and am not worn out -- but then again, I wouldn't tweet that remark aright now either.  When you see someone is vulnerable - even if you hate their guts - they are a person too.  Rudeness brings everyone down.

    Which leads to my next thought:

  2. Choose wisely

    IF this is the only time you really talk to someone, do you really want what you're about to tweet to be remembered by that person.  Do you understand the context of what they're doing.

    Any idiot can tear down a wall -- it takes a masterful person to build them up.

  3. Don't always be on display

    I appreciate private tweets and emails.  Before, I've had struggles and many people responded publicly and it was great.  But to me, I pay special attention to those who take time to direct message me.  Now, not everyone can just because I try to follow everyone I can, but miss people -- but if they reply to me, I usually follow them. (Sometimes Twitter has been dropping my follows, but usually it works.)

    It is ok to privately tweet your encouragement and do it privately.  It is also important that if there is a misunderstanding, as I was having with someone on twitter last week, that you direct message them, or even better -- email them if you can find it. 

    Make peace if you can.  You can disagree with someone without insulting them.  Sometimes you need to talk things out before you publicly embarrass BOTH of you. 

    I rarely unfollow, but when I do, it is often mudslinging personal attack debates that I just hate to see happen. Unfortunately, I've done this myself and regret it later.  Again, life is too short!

  4. Share and Retweet Generously

    It isn't all about you or me or any of us.  Make it a goal to seek out and find new people who are doing great things.  If you have a lot of followers, use those followers for good to support good people and good things.

  5. If you Criticize, Don't Minimize

    If you disagree with someone, fine, but it is abhorrent to me when people insult the professional integrity of those they do not know.  Thing twice about following people who habitually demonize, minimize, and marginalize others, particularly behind their back.

    It upsets me to see it happen.  It is OK to disagree -- it is part of healthy industries of all kinds.  But if you're going to criticize - get your facts straight FIRST and decide if you really want to make an enemy for the causes you represent.  And don't disparage the life's work of many very good people.

  6. Guard Your Heart

    Thick skins are required if you're doing to do anything.  Realize that over time, you'll have to get tougher in order to contribute more.

    It is a TOUGH adjustment from anonymity to making friends (everyone is a friend at first), to having some of those friends betray and hurt you, to finding new friends, to realizing again that there are many great people out there. 

    The 5% Jerk Factor

    I truly think that around 5% of the people out there are responsible for about 95% of the jerk behavior on the Internet.  Don't let those 5% turn you down on collaborating, communicating, and participating.  It is worth it anyway.  (And I am talking to myself here - if I'll just listen to myself!)

  7. Filter Yourself When You're Down

    When you have tough times in your life, beware of people who are consistently poison.  Just as germs spread - so does cyncism, bad attitude, and rudeness.  It is like a virus.

    When you are upset about something in your personal life -- it is OK to unfollow people temporarily. It is ok to take a Twitter Fast and not get on twitter.

    Take a break.

    You have enough toxic people in your life than to have to soak yourself in the foul bathwater of someone else's bad attitude on the Internet!  Get out if you have to - at least for a little while.

  8. Don't write or tweet when you're mad

    Perhaps this post has been waiting so long for this very reason.  Once I blogged when I was very angry and then took it down. I was mad at a vendor and yes, the vendor was wrong -- but it doesn't fit with the goals I have for this site.

    Why I write!
    If nothing else, I want the people who read this site to find some encouragement.

    Ideas to help them teach others better - whether they are in a formal classroom, in business, or just a stay at home mom. 

    Ideas to use technology to improve their lives or just to make it in today's world!

    It has a mission.

    Now, your mission may be to expose all of the horrible evils in the world and to dish out criticism of everyone but yourself. And if that is your purpose -- then, I'll leave you to fulfill that purpose. There are plenty of negative people out there who want to read that sort of thing, I guess.

  9. Understand the Power of the Pen

    Every reader is a gift.  They give you the gift of followership, subscription, and their time.  Treat them as a gift. 

    Understand the honor that they give you when they believe what you write is worthy of their time.

    What you post is IMPORTANT. Sure, if I had guest bloggers, my stats would be higher and somehow I may be higher in the rankings - but that is not for me -- I want people to know what they are getting when they are on Cool Cat teacher and that I never blog for the sake of just blogging but that there is something important to share.

    For me, writing is intentional.
      It should have purpose (even sometimes just to have fun.) 

    Whatever reason you write, understand that writing has POWER.  Videos have power.  Podcasts have power.  You can improve, change, and do things.  Perhaps most importantly, you can help the person on the other side of that computer screen have a better life or you can ruin their day.

    You can be poison or you can quite literally be a healer and helper.

  10. Forgive and Move On

    OK, so if someone insults me, oh well.  I don't like it. But, we're all a lot of very different people in this world and we'll all get along with some and not really like others.

    It is hard to forgive.  I want to dwell on that tweet, that email, that unkindness.  I want to stew in the juices of my own internal poison.

    But it is not healthy.  It is not scriptural, for those of us like me who are Christians, and it is not a good way to live your life.

    Whatever your faith, I"ve heard that when you don't forgive someone that it is like tying a dead body to your back -- the person who wronged you doesn't care -- but it is debilitating for you.  You're only hurting yourself is never more true than this matter of forgiveness.

    When I find myself dwelling, I literally look ahead in life at my tombstone and picture in my mind -- at that point, when I am on my deathbed, what will I remember.

    I will remember the times with my family and how I helped someone make someone else's life better.  The people who did something wrong to me won't even care or think about it on their deathbed -- THEY DON'T CARE. Most people who are jerks, don't see anything wrong with it and DON'T CARE!

    So, why on earth would I ruin the life I have by worrying one second about what they've done to me.  Thinking that everyone has to love me and think I'm perfect is the worst form of being self-centered.  When you try to please everyone, you don't please yourself.  IN fact, it is a perfect path to poisoning your own life.

    Sometimes it takes a big old bite of humble pie for me to admit to myself that in the grand scheme of things I'm really not just that important.  And yet, I know that I have a purpose and that God made me -- that is my self worth factor -- not what all the other people on this planet think of me.

    As far as it concerns me, be at peace with all men.  Do what I can, when I can and that is enough.

Probably, I'm the only one having trouble with this.  It could just be that it is APRIL and April is a rough month around here.

Or it may just be that someone out there needed to hear this today and that is why I'm sitting here during the pouring torrent outside, pulling these words out of my keyboard.

Whatever the case may be -- find encouragement - if you're having a rough time -- we all go through them and this too shall pass.  We all bear criticism and we all go through such things.

My dad says that the only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, be nothing, and try nothing. 

If you're criticized, you're in good company.

PS. And before you criticize - I've just discovered that Firefox spellcheck is acting up today.  Sorry for the typos I just fixed.


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