I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Twatching Me…

[Apologies to Rockwell for the title.]

So… this Tweet popped up on my Twitter feed yesterday:

@chrislehmann Smh I hate to admit it but you were right Mr. Lehmann. Staying positive was the right thing to do.

It was from Dalena – a senior at SLA. She’d been really negative on Twitter for several days, and I worried that negativity was more than just manifesting on Twitter, so I sought her out on Wednesday to just check in. Sure enough, she was feeling the combined weight of school and life and was convincing herself that her life, to quote her, “was always going to suck.”

We didn’t talk long, and I certainly didn’t offer up any brilliant new insight that other teachers and principals haven’t offered up to students who were feeling bad about life before. We talked about how negativity can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and talked about finding good spaces, and working hard to stay positive, even when you don’t feel positive. Again, nothing earth-shatteringly awesome. And honestly, when we ended the conversation, I wasn’t sure what I said made any difference to Dalena at all.

And then, the next day, that tweet showed up. And I tweeted back that she made my day, which she favorited and retweeted, because, as it turns out, we both cared that we made a difference for each other. And that’s kind of awesome. And even more awesome was when she stopped by my office today for a quick follow-up talk and a hug.

I follow every open Twitter account my students have. Any student who friends me on Facebook, I friend back. And yes, SLA students tweet and post all sorts of things I really don’t want to see or know, and trying to figure out how to filter that and decide what to do with all that information is a challenge. But the purpose of following the students isn’t to spy on them to get them in trouble, but to look after them, and be more aware of who they are and what they need. And importantly, I’ve also virtually watched dozens of Philly pro-sports games with students, celebrated triumphs, and been a virtual shoulder to cry on. And they have been for me as well. They have cheered on Jakob’s soccer games, favorited Theo’s drawings, and enjoyed the SLA photos that pop up on my feed.

The kids love to tease me that I’m twatching them, but at its best, doing a quick skim read of what kids are thinking and feeling allows me to care for them and approach them when they don’t even know they need it. And what always humbles me and makes me smile is when students are willing to tell us – social media or face to face – that those moments matter to them as much as they matter to me.

8 thoughts on “I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Twatching Me…

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the positive spin on connecting with students on social media. It’s no different than a conversation in a local mall or at a sporting event… In taking the time to show students you care! And it is so fundamentally different than a conversation in a local mall or at a sporting event… In that social media extends our reach beyond just coincidental, physical-world interactions.
    You truly make a difference, in your school, to your students, and to a great many of us in your PLN.

  2. My friends always find it odd that I can be friends with my principal and teachers and that we have a mutual following on twitter, and I know at times that I have regretted it, but you’ve always been there between court and English Benchmarks. And I’ve always really appreciated it. Maybe not at that moment, but I’ll get around to it. I still don’t always appreciate everything you’ve said to me or made me do, but at some point I guess I’ll have to realize that you were right.

    But, reading this I realized it never occurred to me adding you, or any SLA folks, on facebook or twitter would ever get me in trouble or that you would ever “spy” on me. I guess that goes to show how much I trust you guys. Anyway, Lehmann, you’re the best. And yes, all of your staff is cool, not just sorta cool.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Serendipitous too. A handful of colleagues and I (District-level Instruction Coordinators) visit schools for lunch with kids each Friday. Today, in a middle school, we had a great conversation with a sixth grader about the benefits of skateboarding and why and how he was planning to organize a school-wide club as an sixth grader. He was well spoken. He detailed the neighborhood “skating team” he organized back home, and told all about his team website, Instagram account, etc.

    Dying to see some of the gnarly shots he hinted at… we visited the public Instagram account while sitting with him. Pretty cool.

    Unfortunately, after handshakes and goodbyes, he shortly left to head back to class. At that point, we noticed the content of about half of the remaining posts. I’ll just leave it at the fact that, he’s a humorous young man… but some folks would be rather blown away that a sixth grader’s sense of humor could be this “edgy” or “adult-ish.”

    And there’s the rub. Like you, I too have long practiced an open policy of transparent following. This all reminds me of this post: http://nashworld.edublogs.org/2010/08/29/how-close-is-too-close/ Someone needs to be able to provide a bit of trusted and kind judgement to some of the things students are permanently pinning to their virtual identities. The tough thing about today is that I don’t really have a relationship with this child beyond the drive-by visit today at lunch. Students I saw every day were a different story. Via that relationship, it was easy to have some quick, gentle, -yet crucial- conversations. I can honestly say that I’m batting .1000 in being told “thank you” in some way for those discussions.

    Kids want to be shepherded a bit through this world by the adults they value. Thanks for pointing out this rather gray and fuzzy topic. I feel that it is a really important one in a really important time in history.

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