Twitter Backfires!

It all started two months ago when I caught three girls cheating on a test. I made a poor decision and ripped up their papers in front of the class. Those three girls have been inciting the rest of the class for a couple months to near rioting. This class has been very difficult to deal with despite many long talks with many students. It is very frustrating. These students know exactly how I feel. Well, they should know. On Friday we had another talk about how they should behave and what is expected of them. Yesterday, I posted this on Twitter:

Whenever my students need an assignment, I direct them to my website and tell them to print things off my calendar. I have found out that a lot of them get to my Web site via search engines. What do you suppose is one of the results when you search for Jethro Jones? It is not my Twitter page. Nor does it rise to the top when you search for my name and Twitter. But somehow, the above Twitter post was one of the top results because one of my students asked me today, "Mr. Jones, why do you think we are your worst class?" I asked why she thought that, and she quoted the above Twitter post nearly perfectly and told me that her mom found it when trying to find my website. My class was surprisingly good for the fire drill, even though I didn't expect them to be that good. So, one other girl asked why I hate them, and after being corrected, asked why I dislike them. I made sure that those were their words. I explained that they are my worst-behaved class. It doesn't mean that I hate them or dislike them, but it does mean that they drive me crazy and that they can be very annoying. I told them this. I have not kept it a secret from them before now, and I have not tried to hide it from them. As I said, we have had many long chats about this. This girl's mom was not upset or so the student said. She thought it was pretty funny, actually. The students were good today after another long chat. They also were much better at keeping the others on task.

Now that you have the background, here are my thoughts. First, Why were they so upset about this despite the nearly hundreds of times I have talked to them about it? They all knew about the Twitter post before they came into my class, because this girl probably told them all about it in first period. I think they were upset because it was public on the internet, and people could find it. They knew they had the fire drill yesterday, and so they finally understood that I thought they were my worst class (despite the fact that I have been trying to tell them that for weeks). Second, it is hard for these seventh graders to disassociate negative things. Just because they are my worst class does not mean that I hate or dislike them. They don't understand that (hopefully) adults can separate the two feelings. I told them that they annoy and frustrate me, but that as soon as they are doing what they should, those feelings go away. Third, how in the world did she find that. My website was above all the possible Twitter statuses even when I searched for "jethrojones twitter". I guess she could have found her way to my blog but I don't know. Crazy. Fourth, this has definitely reminded me that what I write is available and can be found. I need to remember that. I don't usually post anything controversial, but even things like this, that can be found by the mom of a student in that class, are fair game.

So, the real question is should I protect my updates so that I can't be found on Twitter or searches?

Have a Good Life.


    I've never taught in the public school, but something that I've noticed is that Teachers seem to forget that students are clients. In the business world and the instructional design world the person you give your service to is the client--the customer; and the customer is always right, right? ;-)

    I guess it's easy to forget that the people we serve are the ones having to deal with us. This is especially hard when students are forced to go to school. Students have to be there, teachers have to make sure students learn; the whole thing is messed up. It's the stupidest business model every constructed (except, maybe, for social security).

    So, I know you think you're doing right by telling the class they're the 'worst', but if you think about it, would you want your waiter to tell you you're the worst table he's had that day? On the other hand, is this a serious enough issue to apologize for? I don't know; but I would be surprised if my son's teach said his class was the 'worst'.

    And, just as a note, I've put my foot in my mouth a lot worse than this, so I'm not judging, I'm only commenting. :-)

    Chris, the big fallacy here is that education is a business. It is not. It is an entirely different entity. I know that there are some that think Education is a business, and they won't like this comment. You can't run a school like a business.

    I don't think that I am doing right by telling them they are the worst. It is a horrible way to manage a classroom and it all started with calling those girls out for cheating. That was a big mistake, and I should not have done that. It undermines everything that I have been working for this year.

    I wouldn't care what the waiter said, because I would just not give him a tip. You can't do that in education. We are not paid on the quality of service we provide (isn't that awful?) and so it doesn't matter how mean I (or worse teachers) am.

    I have put my foot in my mouth worse than this as well. :)

    So, if you don't run a school like a business, how do you run it? This is a very sincere question. What has BYU taught you? What is education administration?

    On May 1, 2008 at 2:06 PM sylvia martinez said...

    I think the kids responded because you revealed yourself as a person and for some reason, it broke through their consciousness of you as "teacher".

    Even though you may have said similar things in class, kids hear "teacher speak" in everything and tend to discount it. It's the same reason they are surprised to see you in the supermarket.

    Chris - That is a question to be answered in another post.

    Sylvia - Thanks for the great point. I hadn't really thought of it like that, so I appreciate the input. It does make sense, and it may have even worked to my benefit, because good behavior is on the rise, now.

    I really appreciate your candidness and honesty. My perspective is not so much that you called them the worst class or lost it with them but of the public nature of your comments.

    As Chris, I not judging because I've been guilty of the same but while I might say a lot of things to my family that I'd never say in public and also with and to my colleagues.

    To me it's understanding the public nature of the web. I still struggle with this and while not every online conversation is meant for everyone, it is open to everyone.

    So my take is I might not apologize for saying it but would apologize for saying it in public.

    Just my 2 cents.

    I like the point Sylvia made and I think it ties in with what Dean said. You became a person when they saw the public comment, and it hurt because it was public.

    My own birth children often drive me CRAZY. They know this. They also know I love them. But if they saw me put a Tweet out that said they were being horrible, it would hurt because it was no longer in the family. Luckily, they're young yet and don't know about Twitter, because I do use it to vent. :)

    I'm glad you brought this up. I'm conscious of what I say about my district, my teachers, my admin because I realize the public nature of my feed, but I hadn't thought about being careful about talking about the students.

    I think the apology for the public nature of the post might be helpful. And maybe you can be sure to say something positive publicly, even if you're not sure they'll see it.


    My thought is that lots of teachers use in class complaints regarding class behavior as an attempt to motivate them. They're often not really the "worst class" but teachers call them that to motivate them to improve. I've had multiple worst classes in one day.

    For the students to see that this wasn't a motivational ploy but really how you felt (b/c you didn't even expect them to see it) makes a difference.

    My thoughts anyway.

    Might it help to make a distinction between them and their behavior, and you and your emotional response? I see a lot of generalizing here from both sides. Surely your students will also read this blog, and all our comments? They should. I would if I were your student. I would be looking for whether you really hate us, whether we can really get to you emotionally, and if so wonder who's out of control here, you or us?

    You want them to separate whether you dislike them from your disapproval of their work (at least, from the plagiarism example, I assume that's what you're doing), but are you modelling that? *They* are not annoying, but perhaps certain behaviors or their refusal to understand class parameters are. Be specific in your criticism. Explain what you mean by "worst" in terms of standards, not emotions.

    I hope I'm not sounding too harsh here.

    Well Jethro, congratulations on your first super comment thread. :-)

    Hmmm...maybe the answer is here: