I’m A Celebrity, Keep Me In Here!

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Has social media made teachers celebrities?

Once upon a time, and before social media, ‘famous’ teachers used to be a handful of respected writers, commentators and top contributors that were regular columnists for the Times Educational Supplement, the Guardian or teaching magazines.

Unofficial spokesman for teachers, the late Ted Wragg was a hero of his day and teachers gravitated to the TES to read his astute and witty sharp-shooting musings and erudite insights. He was an astonishingly brilliant writer, widely respected for his scholarship and knowledge and writing for newspapers gave him was a ‘celebrity’ profile within education.

Getting your foot in the door and writing for newspapers was a tough nut to crack back in Ted’s time and being a celebrity teacher was the stuff of dreams. For most, it meant being recognised in your mufti at the local supermarket. Social media has changed everything and has opened up the once impenetrable journalistic doors to anyone. Blogging teachers are furiously pumping out words ten to the dozen and saturating websites with their own thoughts, feelings and vexations.

It doesn’t even matter if your writing is total haggis as someone will read it, like it, be offended by it, comment on it or tear it apart. This is all fine because you’ll get noticed, your online statistics will look good and you’ll enjoy a splash of celebrity. Before you know it you will have followers, get invitations to ‘speak’ and even get ‘papped’.

If your writing is anything even close to Ted Wragg’s level then you can expect selfies on the red carpet when you rock up at your next conference gig and ordinary teachers will just want to be ‘near you’ to feed off your aura. Ask Sir Ken Robinson!

Everyone is a writer now, celebrity teachers and educational egos are everywhere and the Global Teacher Prize can even make you a superstar of the profession.

Brand And Sell

Consider this example;

In South Korea, Cha Kil-yong sings with famous actresses, works out of an office in Seoul’s exclusive Gangnam district, endorses brain-boosting drinks, and takes home an $8 million paycheck—all in the name of teaching math to high schoolers.

According to this source, these apparent celebrity teachers in South Korea are not your regular teachers who work in schools! No. They have their own brand and merchandise. “Lecturers are going online, donning costumes and singing with celebrities to get their academic messages across – and making a lot of money in the process.” (The Independent).”

Celebrity teachers in South Korea like Cha Kil-yong and Kim Ki-Hoon have found a niche-market for tuition.

I can also see something similar with Canadian-born, Lilly Singh; a self-made blogger who I have shared with my Twitter followers before. Singh publishes her own videos on YouTube and has nearly 13 million subscribers with 2.3 billion total views! The impact of her videos clearly reaches countless teenagers on topics ranges from teaching, after-school studying and bullying.

The Web 3.0 Teacher

The internet revolution has been massive and Mark Anderson has blogged about the Web 2.0 Teacher and how teachers have adapted web 2.0 tools for blogging, tweeting and using educational apps and tools to reach students in and out of classroom hours. He left the reader with this question; “What’s next in store for Teacher 3.0?”

Teacher 3.0 is the confluence of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and education technology where colleagues reflect, share and contribute to discussions and resources for the profession in order to improve themselves, as well as help others at the same time. Celebrity sometimes follows.

When I first started blogging, it was merely a platform for me to place my thoughts online. A matter of reflection; a diary of sorts, knowing that one or two people may read what I’ve written. I never in my wildest dreams expected blogging and tweeting to be exponential as it now is today. A reason for this could be that there are more teachers than ever before using social media to inform their own practice; to connect with like-minded individuals beyond the school gates.

As bloggers we have the capacity and the potential to raise the profile of teaching so the profession itself enjoys celebrity status.

I believe we all have a responsibility to upgrade the image and status of the profession.

If we cannot rely on the government or national tabloid papers to raise our status, then just like what we’ve all done with Teachmeets, taking CPD into our own hands using social media, with the help of significant profiles, all Web 3.0 teachers can make the profession shine.

We live in a landscape where teachers can choose to tweet or blog; teachers who can play their own part in connecting with colleagues online. It so happens, those teachers can also do their bit to raise the profile of the profession using social media. And we have mechanisms to do this more than ever before.

We can be a powerful force to drive teaching excellence, by taking charge of our profession’s destiny. This won’t happen if we berate each other with our differing views on education, or if we continue to allow the media and politicians to get away with provocative headlines and sweeping generalisations.

For us to raise the profile of the profession and for us ALL to become Web 3.0 teachers, we must mobilise each other and stand up for what we believe in.

We can do this by joining the Chartered College of Teaching, the professional body dedicated to helping us be the best we can. By supporting each other through the chartered college, we can all work together to ensure that teaching is the real celebrity.

This blog was written with the support of John Dabell.

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