Sometimes I feel like I am living in two worlds: the Real World and the Virtual World. In the Real World, where I am “mum”, I get my kids up and off to school every morning, I do the washing up, I dig on my allotment, I help to run a preschool, and I spend a lot of time at my desk writing books. In the Virtual World, where I am “Sue Cowley”, I am an education author and speaker, and I have almost 10,000 followers on Twitter. Sometimes the two worlds collide, as they did at today’s Festival of Education. It was absolutely lovely to put flesh and blood faces to names such as Rachel Jones, Debra Kidd, Iesha Small and David Rogers, among many other lovely people. Sometimes meeting people you ‘know’ online is a bit weird, because it is like seeing the movie of the book, where the film is not at all like you imagined. I would like to formally apologise to Tom Starkey for going on about him having the wrong colour hair. (It was definitely black in my overly vivid imagination.) I live in hope that one day I will finally meet the obviously wonderful Nancy Gedge at one of these things, and also the totally amazing Jules Daulby.
From time to time I have to give myself a break from the Virtual World, for fear that it will drive me mad. When I get to the point where there is a very real danger that I will stop biting my tongue, and say what I really, really think, then I know that it is time for me to step away for a while. I’ve taken June off Twitter, which ironically means that only a handful of people will ever read this blog post, because Twitter is basically a way to get everyone to listen to what you want to say to them, even if they didn’t actually want to hear it. (This lack of readers is absolutely fine, though, because (a) I mostly blog to offload, and (b) I wrote this blog to pass the time sitting in a traffic jam in Bristol, on my way back from Wellington College.)
Often, I find that the Virtual World is very different to the Real World, in the ‘feel’ that it gives you about what most people think. Often, those with the loudest voices seem to win out. In the Virtual World, people argue endlessly over which method is ‘best’, while in the Real World, they just get on with doing the job. (In fact, I think the search for the ‘best’ methods has sent us all a bit mad, because everyone is trying to win an unwinnable argument. I also strongly suspect that some commentators wish to push their preferred methods onto everyone else, and guys, I’m telling you now, that just ain’t gonna happen.) In the Virtual World, some people hide behind anonymity to use a rude, patronising or aggressive tone, whereas in the Real World, it is rare for anyone to speak to me in a way that I find upsetting. In the Virtual World, I’ve been called a phonics denialist (LOL), told that I glory in ignorance, and have been accused of letting down the poor with my soft biogtry of low expectations. Truly, I am evil. Personally, my take on such things is this: if you aren’t brave enough to say it to my face, then don’t say it to me (or anyone else) online.
When I come back to Twitter in July, I’m setting myself a very clear goal. I am going to use my energy like Rachel Jones does, to spread love, and positivity, and great ideas. I am going to steer clear of unwinnable debates about ‘teaching methods’. And I am going to strip my timeline of anyone who is rude, to me or to anyone else. Yes, I know that people say you should ‘follow people you disagree with’, but for me, that way madness lies. We only have a limited time on this planet. How silly it would be for me to waste my time getting cross and upset, when I could use it to spread hope and joy. And on that note, since the sun is over the yardarm here in the Real World, it is time for a cold beer. Cheers! 🙂