It turns out that this blog is five years old. I haven’t really done as much with it as I had originally hoped; only a small number of posts, but gaining increasing readership as my Twitter follower count has increased.
I feel I’ve come some distance in that five years. Professionally, I’ve moved from the dark authoritarianism of a school locked in a dance macabre with a system it doesn’t understand, into the paradoxical forward looking freedom of an independent cathedral school, steeped in history and tradition. Personally, I’ve come through a heart attack and, 18 months later, a cardiac arrest which gave me a nudge into a seeing things differently. Academically, I’ve moved away from thinking Facebook groups might improve learning, to trying to construct a Foucauldian positioning of education discourse on Twitter. And virtually, I have engaged with the most extraordinary group of people from whom I have learnt more about teaching than during my three year B.Ed, or any CPD since. I’ve observed this network of teachers, governors, inspectors and academics grow in number and in influence, with policy makers and the inspectorate engaging with classroom teachers and senior leaders in ways which were unimaginable less than a decade ago. The network now straddles the space between virtuality and reality, with teachmeets and events such as ResearchEd providing platforms to meet and share ideas, evidence and hashtags in real time.
I attended my first ResearchEd only last year, meeting in flesh those names that have become figures of my adoration. And that they recognised me by my Twitter handle was the strangest feeling. It was a phenomenal event, attended by hundreds of people in their own time at a weekend. Attendees and speakers had travelled from across the globe to share in healthy debate, not tainted by hostile divisions but rather united in a spirit of belief in the power of education.
But the virtual network isn’t all smiles and winks. It is a mirror-world, and it has its dark corners in which lurk the nasties and the strange. In recent weeks, I was labelled an alt-right, pseudo-trad, fascist for daring to query ideas about differentiation. Elsewhere, schools claim great things and their detractors label them nazi. The language of edutwitter is both enriching, and morbidly fascinating. It rewards and punishes. It offers the promise of gold, and delivers tin. And I love it.