My electronic colleagues worked very hard this summer on issues of inclusiveness, welcoming and participation in our electronic staff lounge.
See, for example, the following people’s thoughts from recent months:
I kept quiet during this discussion because I didn’t have much to add to the conversation.
Now I do.
I think a lot about status in my classroom. As teacher, I have a lot of power to influence the status of my students. By encouraging, valuing and using student ideas, I can help each of my students to be seen by others as a valuable member of our classroom community. By making sure I spread opportunities to speak, and by differentiating the ways that students are able to contribute, I can help to spread status more equitably.
I do this imperfectly, but I do think about it a lot. I like to think that I get better each year.
When I notice that I am doing a poor job of it, I try to change my ways.
An important point is that status is conferred on others by social agreement, and that this agreement is often implicit. While I can influence the status of individuals in my classroom, I cannot impose it and neither can individual students.
Now, it seems that all social spheres have dynamics that involve status.
In any case, our sprawling electronic community of math (and other) teachers (and other interested parties) certainly does. I think that status is part of what my colleagues were sorting out this summer.
If we are concerned with welcoming new people, and with making people feel like valued members of the community, we would do well to make conscious decisions about this.
Here are a few things I do in this spirit:
- Link to the work of others in my blog,
- Comment on others’ blog posts,
- Tweet interesting things others have said (I am more likely to tweet a quote with a link than to praise),
- Engage publicly with new voices (e.g. the dreaded “.” before an @ mention on Twitter makes a response more public, especially if the person being mentioned has fewer or quite different followers from one’s own)
And here is something I no longer do:
- Maintain a blogroll
Don’t get me wrong. If you maintain a blogroll, more power to you. It certainly is a way of conferring status on colleagues, and it certainly can be a helpful tool to those who are new to the world of blogs.
But I found that maintaining a blogroll meant that I was making more permanent judgments than I cared for. I didn’t edit it very often (too much work, and too low priority), and when I did edit, I didn’t like where my mind went as I decided which blogs to include. It felt too much like picking teams for kickball.
When I killed my blogroll a while back (a year maybe?), I pledged to more frequently link and tweet the interesting work of others. That has felt much more satisfying and effective to me.
In sum, you don’t need to do what I do. I don’t advocate that at all.
No, I advocate thinking about the ways in which all of us—high, medium and low status members of this community—can support positive social dynamics in this space. And I argue that paying attention to the ways we influence the status of our colleagues (and of ourselves) is one way to get better at this.