My sister called me early one morning to inform me that my brother had just left a message on Twitter. He was at the airport, enjoying a delectable omelet, waiting for for his flight to embark. He was visiting us from New York, much to our delight, and I guess this cholesterol-laden breakfast delight became Twitter-worthy news. I rolled my eyes. Twittering about eggs, ham, and cheese. Ironically, it seems as if most Twitters are about as trivial. With the advent of Twitter, we now know when Lebron James buys new shoes, Lady Gaga has personal issues with Jerry Seinfeld, and Madonna has a successful bowel movement. Or, in my case, when my brother eats an omelet.
To blame Twitter for its nugatory usage would be as pointless was as blaming the pen for writing imperfect, nonsensical prose. Twitter is a platform, an open slate waiting to be properly implemented and utilized. And some educators are doing just that, while others wring their hands, anxious about parting with the communication ways of yesteryear.
As an educator, using Twitter can cut down on the individual phone calls parents have to make regarding a child’s classwork and homework. Pre-Twitter (and before the vast assumption that every household had a computer with internet access) teachers nationwide would post assignments on the chalkboard (another relic of a bygone era) in the hopes that students would copy and complete them and share them with their parents. In retrospect, I am not far removed from the Nintendo-playing, Garbage Pail Kid collecting days of my youth. Nor do I have trouble remembering the conversations I had with my parents who asked me, on a daily basis, if I had any homework. “No,” I would tell them, when in all actuality the answer was an emphatic “yes, but I would much rather play Super Mario Brothers than complete intermediate algebra equations.” I would strive to keep these conversations blissfully short, then with fingers crossed, would ask to play on the Nintendo. A flourish of trumpets with a “yes” answer, a big raspberry for a “not today” reply.
A twittering teacher can cut off most of the surprises parents feel when they discover that indeed, little Michael did have homework assignments stashed deeply into the recesses of his knapsack. There was a test on Greek Mythology last Tuesday and he was supposed to study in advance for it. The simplicity of just adding such information to a Twitter page remains invaluable. A link to the oft-updated Twitter page can be provided to parents either through a beginning of the year phone call or e-mail.
And what problem does this ultimately resolve? Ironically, as an educator for over a decade, I have been blamed by parents countless times for students not completing homework and falling behind in my classes. Playing the preconceived role of “educator as parent” and shifting the responsibility to the actual parents is an article for another time though. To quote an age-old adage that teachers can attest: “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” With daily (or weekly) postings regarding classroom activities on a Twitter account parents can receive a much deserved record of the goings-on in a classroom. It can also be a form of accountability for the teacher who makes every effort to communicate information to the parents.
Naturally, it is irresponsible to assume using Twitter solves all problems. The notion does not come without perils. Not everybody has a computer with internet capabilities, and parents will claim they have no access to one. There exists the possibility of a misplaced Twitter web address as well. From the teacher’s standpoint, providing an up-to-date Twitter page will be one more thing added to an already insane workload on a daily basis. But these minor negative situations pale in comparison with the positive ramifications by using Twitter as a parent portal.
Some Twitters serve no purpose other than to entertain. Others, to feel close to family members far away (hope the omelet was extremely satisfying, Rich). I can faithfully follow the thoughts and actions of celebrities such as Will Smith or Miley Cyrus if I wish. But most importantly, I can utilize Twitter in a productive and positive format that keeps parents properly informed regarding work in each of my classes… Assuming, of course, they take the initiative and check.