The Tiny Educator Syndrome

Target On My Back Lone Survivor Lasts

I know what you’re thinking. Okay, no I don’t, really, and after reading the title, you may be wondering what I could possibly be thinking. Tiny Teacher Syndrome? Is that a thing? Well, maybe not officially, but hear me out and then decide.

This idea for me started with the yap yap dog and today’s sermon at church by my preacher, Jeff Wofford. He was talking about the Tiny Christian Syndrome, and as he talked, I saw some educational parallels. Some. A few. Okay, one. It all comes down to the idea of going it alone. We aren’t alone, and as educators, to consider yourself on an island or as a singleton, (while you may be alone in your building in what you do, you aren’t alone in the nation or world) or a Lone Ranger, is completely a choice. Technology connects us in amazing ways, so to continue to isolate ourselves as an educator is purely a choice we make.

They Got Me In Their Sights

So, the yap yap dog. This isn’t breed specific, but think of a small dog that thinks it is the toughest dog in the house. My high school coach always used to remind us about that Mark Twain quote. You know the one. (If not, see below.)

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Mark Twain

I went to high school in a small rural district in Missouri, which happens to be the district where I am currently teaching. When we played bigger schools then (and even now), our students tend to forget the wisdom of Mr. Twain, but those yap yap little dogs, they know. The world is just a nip away from being theirs. Our coach reminded us of that all the time. We could defeat those larger schools. A nip here, a nip there, and constant yapping could make the difference in a championship game. The volleyball or basketball world could be ours (the sports I played in high school).

No Surrender No

So am I saying a Tiny Educator is like a yap yap dog? Yes, and no. I’m not saying that this type of educator has an annoying “bark,” or inflated ego, and I’m not making short jokes. But the mentality that we can go it alone, that we can take on the educational world by ourselves, and that we need to outshine everyone, that is what I am coming after in this post. You see, until the fall of 2016, I was in that group, to some extent. I thought I was doing pretty well, the top of my game, doing great things for students, and I didn’t put in requests for funds to attend conferences because others needed those worse than I did. How naive and like a yap yap dog I sound in that statement! Those were my thoughts, though, until I discovered the educational power of being connected.

Trigger Fingers Go

My district colleagues are probably tired of hearing about Twitter, and while that is the platform that launched me into the amazing world of educators around the world, it isn’t the only platform available. If Twitter isn’t your jam, then look for educators on the platform that is. Once you find them, discover those who are your people, interact, share with them what you do, and take time to see what they’re doing in their classrooms, schools, or districts too. I recently heard an educator espouse a viewpoint that I’ve encountered many times during my 23 years of education. I’ve taught in 2 states and five districts, so I know it isn’t the attitude of just one educator, and honestly the attitude was around prior to the explosion of educators connecting on social media. It also isn’t just found in education. The idea that if the teacher down the hall, in that Twitter chat, posting on Instagram or on Facebook is doing amazing things, then suddenly it’s a competition. Suddenly we aren’t happy with them or ourselves. What is being shared may not work or be appropriate for our own students, so we stew. Sometimes, we might complain to others or add comments to a post that could take that teacher down a notch. Sometimes we just have those thoughts but don’t express them. Then it happens. We successfully turn the awesomeness into being a fault. That teacher down the hall, in a chat, or posting to Instagram and Facebook needs to stop or be stopped.

Living the Dangerous Life

Don’t give in to the mindset of the Tiny Educator. Our power is amplified by sharing and discussing together. The more we connect with each other and connect our students with other students across the nation and world, the better all of us become. So what if that activity won’t work for your students? Celebrate with that teacher who dared the criticism to share anyway, in the hopes that one teacher somewhere was looking for just that spark of an idea. Look at the awesomeness that is shared with the idea that somewhere in it can be a nugget that leads you to awesomeness that will work in your own class, building, or district. Get connected on social media with educators who share your likes, subjects, passions, and philosophies. (Does this mean there isn’t room for pushback? Of course not! Just remember to be professional and kind as you do it, and then receive it the same way.) Connect your students with theirs. And please, go to conferences. Once you have an online professional learning network, you’ll discover that conferences are now better than ever. Suddenly you’ll be in a session and someone or several someones will know your name. Strangers (by site) will fist bump you between sessions, ask if you’re wearing a Pear Deck shirt (it seems scary at first but just roll with it) at an Ed Camp in a tweet, and hug you. Yes, you will be hugged. Your online PLN will come to life. Suddenly it will hit you, that the old elementary adage is true: sharing IS caring.

Subheading titles are from Skillet’s Feel Invincible lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, BMG Rights Management

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