21 Twitter Follower Types and How to Address Them

follow

Though the Twitter “follower” types I present here can be extrapolated to a greater context than Twitter, especially within other social media venues, my use of Twitter has helped me to analyze the benefits and drawbacks of those who follow, mention, list, like, retweet, or reference you and your Twitter account and content in some other way.

For those who are just embarking upon Twitter, it may not occur to you to consider that who you follow, like, or retweet is only a small part of the larger context that Twitter presents for its users. Unless you “protect your tweets,” you and your account are subject to the positive and potentially negative aftermath. Even after protecting your tweets, certain activity can open your shared content to possible criticism or public distribution.

This goal of this blog post is not to intimidate users but to better reveal some of the possible underlying reasons that people or institutions follow one another. With each brief follower description, I present a possible means for identifying and addressing these particular followers. Remember that these are my independent means of profiling follower categories, not specific, well-known or widely accepted types.

Before presenting the types, however, I want to explain briefly how I came to make my informal analyses and make everyone aware that there are some specific, simple ways to manage followers the moment that you become aware that they are following you:

My analyses are based entirely in my own experience and do not reflect the views of others. Having been using Twitter since 2009, I feel independently qualified to respond with descriptions based on my experience without further research; ratings are based on my interpretation of benefits and possible drawbacks of people following me as I have already encountered.

In addition, Twitter presents three different ways to deal with followers who you want to prevent from acting maliciously with respect to your account.

1. Block user: If you do not want a user to follow your account, you can block the user as soon as you become aware of the follower. Keep in mind that followers can track who has blocked them and possibly create other accounts if they are persistent in wanting to access or follow your account.

2. Mute user: You can prevent content from the user from appearing in your timelines and interactions by selecting this for your followers.

3. Report user: You may report users who you feel are in violation of Twitter’s policies by selecting this option.

Twitter has produced this video to briefly explain these three options:


Following are 21 types of Twitter followers to consider as you develop a new Twitter account or review those who currently follow you, as well as general respective levels of threat to your account (on a scale of 1 as beneficial and 5 as detrimental), and ways to identify the type and address it:

1. “Faux-lowers”

Rating: 4

“Faux-lowers” are fake accounts. This means that they do not actually represent the person or organization name used as the handle or identity, so they have a higher possible threat rating because it is difficult to determine whether they are maliciously or whimsically created to misrepresent the entity by which they are named. One can typically identify these by their profiles which have photographs or pictures that are not likely those which would be presented by the authentic individuals or organizations and by particular trends or randomness in the users they follow. The tweets, themselves, also might reveal some likelihood that they do not accurately represent the views of those named as their owners.

If the intent appears to be malicious with these accounts, use one of the previously listed responses in hopes of protecting your account.

2. “Foul-lowers”

Rating: 3-5

Some individuals use Twitter as a venue for expressing vulgar language and ideas or for transmission of inappropriate images. These, which I have dubbed “foul-lowers” may carry different levels of danger dependent on your ethical values in using Twitter; however, they are often professionally detrimental and can often put young and ethically conservative participants in less than desirable situations as they encounter them. Sadly, these users often pollute the Twittersphere for those interested in engaging in professional and educational discourse without the threat of what would typically be considered inappropriate, even by legal descriptions, for those under 18 years of age. They are easy to identify by their posted content.

Though I choose to block these users, they do not always carry a particularly malicious intent and may be unaware of the offense taken by some of their posts.

3. “Fool-lowers”

Rating: 2/3

These users are often rather benign but may post foolish and nonsensical tweets. The cat videos and memes that are rather amusing and carry little to no offensive content are among these users. Some present philosophical quips that are simply ridiculous. They do not necessarily add anything positive except perhaps a humorous or light approach to a topic, but they are very infrequently negative.

Typically these followers pose little threat to your account unless they intend to sabotage your tweets by replying with oddities or by misrepresenting your content, so there is typically no reason to react to their choice to follow you unless you are trying to maintain that only positive and beneficial accounts follow yours.

4. “Fill-lowers”

Rating: 1/2

These users are generally following you to fill a role on their following list. Sometimes it is not so much to even watch your tweeted content as it is to be connected to you or to publicly reveal their interest in what you might present online. Sometimes, in education, especially, these users are very positive and are looking for your account and content to present to others or to inform their own practice. Many times, they do not have a lot of their own original content and may use Twitter primarily to aggregate and organize resources and thoughts related to their interests.

A typical response to these followers might be to generically thank them for following and express an interest in continued collaboration, either in an auto-response or mention publicly.

5. “Fan-lowers”

Rating: 1/2

These followers either met you once or twice in some context and realized that they would be interested in what you had to tweet or discovered your Twitter content through someone and now find what you tweet interesting. These can be very beneficial in spreading or applying the content that you share, especially if you are one of the few whom they follow.

It is good to encourage these “fans” and try to identify the content that you have provided that contributes to learning and growing as a result of your interactions.

6. “Fellowers”

Rating: 1

These are the followers who have elected to follow you because of a fellow interest, as identified in your profile or tweet content. These are usually the most beneficial followers to have and typically result in the development of great relationships that may even manifest in face-to-face interactions and collaboration.

Follow these followers back, and express something sincerely based on their influence on you via Twitter or elsewhere. They will often help you to better connect with other like-minded resources.

7. “Phase-lowers”

Rating: 2/3

“Phase-lowers” are the followers who are in some particular phase of their interests or ideas on Twitter. They are not really beneficial, nor are they detrimental in any long-term sense. They are also not likely to be followers for a very long time. They are interested in something temporarily that is contained in your tweets, but they may shift their focus for their use of Twitter at any time.

It is difficult to identify a “phase-lower” until he or she has un-followed you and possibly re-followed you later. You may follow back or simply wait to see how the interaction unfolds.

8. “Trollowers”

Rating: 5

These are by far some of the most malicious and difficult types of followers. Also known elsewhere as “trolls” on the Internet, they seek to cause problems, often hinging their attacks on misunderstandings, logical fallacies, and manipulation of information to promote discord and confusion to distort the intent of users.

Their malicious purpose is usually very clear in their tweets, and they can be thwarted to some extent by muting and blocking, but if their discourse continues and violates Twitter policies, they should be reported. Often boycotts of these accounts and multiple reports can deter them from having a toxic impact, but these individuals are usually tech-savvy and will find other ways to subvert your efforts, so try to avoid engaging them, when possible.

9. “Fog-lowers”

Rating: 3

“Fog-lowers” have a very unclear intent with respect to their use of Twitter. It may never be clear why exactly they use Twitter. Because of this, they may or may not have an impact on your account.

There is little advantage to investing in these followers unless you eventually identify a reason for their decision to follow you. There is also no reason to necessarily block or mute these users.

10. “Friend-lowers”

Rating: 1-3

These are the followers who are friends in another context and may follow you, not because they have an interest in your Twitter content, but because they want to reinforce your friendship by showing an additional connection to you in the digital world. They can be quite beneficial if they share qualities of some of the other more engaged follower types, but they are not always set to grow or learn as a result of the online relationship as much as they are showing that they will be publicly recognized as those who are connected to you in some way.

Responses to these followers should reflect the same types of responses that are emblematic of your friendship in other contexts.

11. “Fami-lowers”

Rating: 2/3

Unless you have major family tensions, these, too, are not negative and generally support your other existing elements of your relationships, but they allow you to see what your family members are sharing on Twitter and may provide you with something else to say at the next family reunion.

Follow back if you want to preserve your place as a connected family member, but Twitter may or may not have any impact. Consider how your family members would respond to your following back or not; this should best guide your decisions regarding these accounts.

12. “Fear-lowers”

Rating: 2/3

These people usually follow you because they are afraid of repercussions for not following you or of missing out on something you tweeted. Though the motive may seem less than desirable, they are usually little to no threat and may actually turn into positive channels for collaboration once the fear subsides.

Try to reinforce positive interactions and communication with these followers to overcome fears related to not following.

13. “Fame-lowers”

Rating: 3

Some people or organizations follow you in hopes that you will follow them back and build their follower base. You are not obligated to follow them back, and sometimes by doing so, you inadvertently or intentionally provide them with more fame or credibility to those who see following as a sign of support for an account.

Determine whether you want to follow these accounts and whether you want to be identified in relation to their objectives or goals. Many times, if you do not follow back , these will un-follow you in the future.

14. “Phish-lowers”

Rating: 4/5

These followers are trying to lure you into interest in their interests, which are oftentimes negative or malicious. These come in the form of promised followers or other incredible claims that are unlikely to come as the result of a Twitter interaction with them. They use Twitter as a venue for their “phishing” schemes.

It is generally best to block or mute these users in relation to your account. If they engage in the use of malware or spyware in their links of which you become aware, they should be reported.

15. “Foe-lowers”

Rating: 5

“Foe-lowers” are known malicious threats to your account, either because of their interactions with you in another context or because of their track record on Twitter for attacking users and accounts. Do not trust them, and you may want to monitor their interaction as it regards you.

It is advisable to block these users, but it may behoove you not to mute them to monitor their Twitter behavior, especially if it concerns you.

16. “Foil-lowers”

Rating: 3-5

“Foil-lowers” seek to find ways to undermine what your goals on Twitter. They will engage in conversation and develop support to try to question and attack your views or ideas. They do not always do so maliciously but in the spirit of challenging ideas, they sometimes offend and deflate Twitter users, especially when they provide scrutiny without support.

It is best to garner support for your ideas rather than to take on this type of follower with rebuttals which will not win over the challenger. These may also be viewed through the lens that seeks to refine ideas and thoughts and may not necessarily be negative.

17. “Flip-lowers”

Rating: 1-3

These followers can be very beneficial as they add value to your original tweets, flipping them like houses, but they can also sometimes distort the ideas as they mention you in responses. It is important that you are still recognized as the source of the original idea or resource in some cases, but other times, it may be just as beneficial to generate conversation as it is to retain intellectual ownership of the original idea.

Keep these followers engaged as they “flip” your ideas, adding to the conversations. Also, try to purse their ideas, perhaps engaging in Twitter chats and extended Twitter discourse.

18. “Fish-lowers”

Rating: 1/2

This type differs from “phish-lowers” dramatically in that it is not trying to pull you in to a nefarious scheme, but is trying to fish for ideas and resources, often without reciprocating with new ideas or resources to share. These are followers who are collectors on Twitter, and the more that their collections lead to positive actions, the more beneficial they are.

It is good to try to follow up with these accounts and to pursue their interests to provide even more tools, prompts, and resources for developing the social media relationship.

19. “Fuel-lowers”

Rating: 1+

These are among my favorite followers. They are the cheerleaders and champions for your Twitter account. They see what they like on your account and share it readily and often with endorsements or affirmations.

Be sure that you follow these followers and mention them frequently on Twitter when you know that the content of your tweets will appeal to them. They can be your biggest advocates in spreading ideas and resources on Twitter.

20. “File-lowers”

Rating: 1-3

“File-lowers” use Twitter as a filing system, one to pull together ideas and resources. They often create multiple lists (some which might include you) and use organizational methods to keep up with their tweets and followers.  They may or may not benefit you, but they are not followers who ware likely to pose any threat or risk to your account.

Allow these to follow you, and consider finding out from them what their motives are by engaging them in Direct Messages to discover how they might help you to promote and organize your own account.

21. “Fun-lowers”

Rating: 3

Finally, “fun-lowers” are simply users who use Twitter as a venue for fun, light-hearted access to a variety of resources and ideas. Their Twitter feeds are usually eclectic collections of fun, inspirational, and largely entertainment tweets.

These followers pose little to no risk of a threat, and they are also unlikely to do much in the way of promoting your Twitter account or tweets. They may be followed if their interests or sense of humor matches yours; you might be surprised to find their value in their whimsical approach to Twitter.


This is not an exhaustive list of Twitter follower types, and it is subject to some exceptions, as are most categorical lists; neither is its intention to provide a definitive approach to using Twitter. Instead, I hope this will serve as a reminder that followers are equal in importance to those whom one chooses to follow. You can manage your followers in a number of ways, and doing so can help you to more effectively leverage your social media network for growth and learning.

Some tips for analyzing Twitter accounts to determine the types of followers you have would  be to review whom they follow, who follows them, who has listed them, the content of their tweets, and their profiles. Though these may not fully reveal their motives for using Twitter or following you, it will help you to determine how to respond.

Fuhrmanalogies: 3 Word Pictures to Enhance our Understanding of Important Educational Issues

I have discovered over the course of my 10 years as an educator and three and a half years as a school administrator that my best way of making sense of the issues that perplex us is through the use of analogies. Though I will provide the caveat that many of these extended metaphors or analogies fall short when extended too terribly far, they do help me to better explain what I am thinking and typically help me to connect with others in discussion about educational topics without obfuscating the general ideas too much. Having shared a few of these with colleagues and having been thanked for elucidating some issues, I would like to share a few in this venue, not to necessarily answer questions, but to engage us in richer, more vivid conversation about the issues that trouble or challenge us in education.

1. The wooden spoon of evaluation: wooden spoon.jpgOur current evaluation frameworks are much like a wooden spoon. A wooden spoon is designed to be used as a tool to mix many small and independent ingredients into a more delicious symphony of flavors which prove the beauty of synthesis. We want to use our wooden spoon in this way, to blend the components of excellent teaching pedagogy and practices that support the whole learner for the optimal educational experience; however, two difficulties arise with this wooden spoon. First, each of us applies a different approach to the use of the spoon, thereby generating a slightly different mixture from the next. Surprisingly, two people using the same mixing spoon and ingredients could produce very different textures and qualities of products. Second, some have a different experience of the wooden spoon, one associated with a corporal punishment context. Therefore, when teachers encounter the wooden evaluation spoon as a punitive device, their initial impression negatively limits their receptivity to see the tool as a constructive piece of equipment. We must be very careful to apply the use of our evaluation tool with the intention of generating the best mixture of elements to produce the finest educational experience for our students and work diligently to eradicate the notion that the evaluation tool’s primary purpose is to exact punitive measures in response to less than optimal observational evidence.

 

2. The bullseye of assessment:

bullseye

We are charged with the complex task of developing learners who are capable of meeting the demands of standardized assessments in our schools much like an archer is charged with the task of placing an arrow within a bullseye to reach the intended target. We seek the items to put in our resource quiver and are occasionally provided with some that are designed especially for the target. Sadly, as we reach for our arrows, we have found recurringly that the target has either moved or has become unclear. In fact, one might go so far as to contend that the target which we initially intended to pursue has changed to look like that designed for a different weapon. We are aware that the target is a necessary end for our challenge, but through the confusion of target and appropriate choice of weapon to send in its direction, we are taking multiple risks in aiming anything in the direction of the target. We recognize that there may be danger posed to those in the nearby vicinity, yet we are urged to take aim and release whatever we might have available in the direction of a general target without much clarification about how the location of the landed projectile will even be measured or when a judge will be able to do so. The frustration continues until we can more clearly see a static target and be equipped with or equip ourselves with tools that are designed to reach it effectively. Perhaps the target will no longer remain static in many contexts, but we would be far better prepared if we knew this at the outset. We will also be reassured when we discover that someone will be revealing to us our ability to hit the target in a timely fashion.

3. The two escalators of growth and achievement:

escalatorsEscalators have the purpose of raising their subjects to a higher point. In order to meet both growth and achievement improvement, we must imagine that students on one escalator have essentially moved their way up one escalator while being transported upward by a strong core curriculum. On the other escalator, we want to see students moving upward more quickly as we are pushing them up the moving escalator in order to draw closer to the height where the other students are found, to close the gap. We want both escalators to raise students, representing growth, but we want to close the achievement gap by providing the requisite RTI push up the escalator for those students who previously showed lower achievement. Ideally, we would be pushing the students up both escalators to the point at which there is little room left before reaching the top. How can we do this? We must be very intentional in our approaches to the differentiated needs of individual learners, and we must be willing to meet those needs and provide escalation forces beyond the typical school day, helping to address both academic and socio-emotional needs that require more support than the scheduled school day will allow.

These word pictures, though admittedly imperfect, should give us some hope that we can make some sense of the daunting issues with which we are confronted in education, and perhaps, through such a depiction, we can begin to arrive at solutions by better imagining the picture that we want to paint for our students and teachers. It is important that we make the nebulous more approachable if we are ever to effectively tackle the difficult issues of education reform.

Inspirational Week as March Begins

Three experiences this week clearly reminded me why it is rewarding to be an educator and important to provide experiences for students whose education is too often limited by life’s circumstances.

Astronomical Aspiration: The first experience that enlightened me this week was the visit to our school by Billy Hix (@billyhix) and his colorful learning experience through the use of his portable planetarium this past Wednesday. Economic limitations often hinder our students from experiencing much of the world beyond their zip code, but Billy Hix expanded their horizons to as far as the outer limits of the universe through the use of some technology that is quite uncommon in most school systems, much less in the homes of our children. He engaged students with stories that made astronomy and Greek mythology come to life, even detailing how the cast of Greek characters interacted in the constellations so evident in the night sky. Additionally, Billy Hix tells his own story of aspiration and its realization in his eventual position with NASA, encouraging students to pursue their positive interests without feeling hindered by others’ limited expectations for them.

hixplanetarium

BillyHixTwitterReplies

The enthusiasm of our teachers and students during and following this event reiterated for me how meaningful an experience can be when those leading it demonstrate how valuable students are and provides opportunities for extending and enriching their educational journey.

Enlightened Shadow: On Thursday, I had another powerful experience as I was encouraged to consider participating in the #shadowastudent Challenge (http://shadowastudent.org/). The pervious day, students in third and fourth grades were asked to submit reasons why they wanted me to shadow them for the day, and through careful rubric-based consideration, I narrowed down the candidates and selected the child I would shadow. I began my day meeting my student as she was dropped off at school (I had initially made plans to meet a different child at her home and walk to school with her, but she was unavailable for the experience). After walking through the front door, we headed to breakfast, and I stayed with her throughout the day until dismissal.

#shadowastudent_presidentproject

I really came to this experience with few expectations but was excited to find that the student whom I shadowed experienced many great opportunities throughout the day. I was impressed by her ability to learn autonomously as she engaged in music theory exercises, research, and applied mathematical principles. I was also pleased to see that what we offered as meals were appropriate. What struck me most was the importance of the relationships established and how these shaped her day just as critically as any academic experiences. I am certain that her experience differed from most days in some respects as she artificially escorted her 6’4″ shadow all over our campus, but her friendships and relationships with her teachers revealed how meaningful social connections can enhance and support students and how the absence thereof can lead to equally negative consequences. Hopefully, the shadowing experience has led to another meaningful relationship that I can continue to foster for the rest of this year.

Valued Voices: My third experience that brought me to better appreciate my role as an educator began Friday, as I joined 49 other educators from Tennessee who came together to comprise the first Tennessee Ed Voice Fellows (@TNEdVoice) cohort. We were met by other national America Achieves (@aaftp) fellows, as well as SCORE President David Mansouri (@davemansouri) and Director of Educator Engagement Melissa Stugart (@melissastugart), who helped to elucidate for us the often obfuscated history of Tennessee public education. Marcus Markle, Program Manager for the Tennessee Educator Voice Fellowship, led the events of the weekend, and brought together wonderful voices and ideas that would inspire me and others to share our voices on the issues that really matter to us in education in Tennessee. We had opportunity to hear from panelists, which included Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen (@mcqueencandice), Representative John DeBerry, Educator James Dittes (@Father_Ahab), and ASD Director Malika Anderson (@Malika_TN). We had opportunity to hear from a number of other fellows, whom I will detail in other blog posts, and these were all very informative and greatly enriched me as an educator.

@TNEdVoice

The biggest takeaway I have after attending the @TNEdVoice meeting is that our voices as educators are not only important to represent ourselves, but to advocate boldly for what is best for our students. Though this is not a profound point, it is one that becomes clearer when one has opportunity to engage in conversations with other educators who are passionate about optimal learning conditions for their students and integrity with respect to educational matters. I was touched by so many stories from the experiences of other educators and, vicariously, their students, but, more importantly, I was empowered to take the next necessary steps in advocating for what our schools need with actionable plans and proposed solutions, and I am now even more willing to share my voice to meet this end, not just for my school and school system, but for students throughout Tennessee and the United States. Though I know this proves to be an exhausting endeavor and it will be met with considerable resistance and challenges, I am willing and ready to join others who feel as passionately as I do about bringing the best learning experiences to our students who not only will shape tomorrow, but who are already shaping today.

 

 

 

5 Areas in Which Balance May Not Be Easy, But Should Be Carefully Considered for Schools

balance

As I consider where we must put our efforts this year in educating students, I recognize that there are important areas in which our efforts must be to reflectively analyze our approach to strike a balance; such a balance requires ongoing investigation of both quantitative and qualitative data, some of which is not easily obtained. These areas, in particular, though I would like to see as areas in which great clarity can be attained, are somewhat perplexing and require consideration of multiple perspectives that take into account far more than a single data set can provide.

  1. Technology: Proficient and meaningful use of new technologies requires access to such technologies, both physically and in terms of skill development, and the use of technology should lead to significant and transferable learning experiences. Nonetheless, other skill development is necessary, and technology is not infallible in its uses and technology can both positively empower and unfortunately negatively enable certain behaviors related to education and learning. Some assistive technologies, when used with students who do not need them, can actually hinder students from achieving at a higher potential.  For example, a student who can read fluently and quickly who uses a “read-aloud” feature available in a technology-rich environment may be slowing down his or her reading and preventing the child’s potential development of more sophisticated analytical reading comprehension strategies.  Technology must be used as a capacity builder and experience enhancer rather than as a convenient tool or resource for simply accomplishing the same learning tasks and producing the same educational events with a different means of delivery. Many new technological advances in augmented reality, virtual reality, wearable technologies, and some that have not even been yet developed will impact education, and it is very important that our students are immersed in some use of these technologies only insofar as they enrich their educational experience and lead to their meaningful and relevant exploration of other venues and educational experiences. Students will most benefit from their own personal investment of time and effort in development, innovation, and active presentation of discoveries related thereto and should be supported in environments that allow for this.
  2. Family “Enrichment”: The family is both the greatest potential support for a student and the greatest possible determiner of the child’s sense of direction and ambition. Our role as educators is to empower a family and the constituent students therein; our role should not, however, be to undermine family values that may differ from our own if such values are not in some way harmful or detrimental to the children. We have to be sensitive to cultural differences that exist from one family to the next and be aware that differences in preference do not dictate a need for serious intervention on the part of educators in the affairs of the family. We can influence and educate the entire family insofar as we consider the well-being and best interest of all of the family’s members, but we should not impose our own sense of ambition or culturally defined desires and measure of success upon others. The balance can be struck when we provide multiple experiences that reveal what we see as valuable in our cultural framework, but we must be careful not to tout all of our practices as superior such that we inadvertently alienate the families whom we serve. If we are to reach our children and their families, we must be careful not to denigrate but should instead appreciate what their families have to offer, especially as each provides an identity for its children.
  3. Quantitative Data Analysis: Quantitative data are driven by so many different programs and variables in our present data-driven world that they can certainly present a piece of the puzzle which is the whole child, but they can by no means represent the entirety of a child’s academic or socio-emotional disposition in isolation without consideration of the multiple variables that impact them. Should poor test performance alone indicate to us that a child has a low or high academic aptitude? Absolutely not! However, should poor test performance (on more than one occasion) indicate to us that the child struggles with the assessment? Yes. Our daunting but imperative charge is not simply to use the data with a simple “if, then” approach but to decipher the data and to determine what contributed to the data. Too many of the contributing data are often only available to us through speculation about home conditions or demeanor during testing, which can be skewed and perhaps misleading. What, then, do we do with assessment data? Begin to assemble a puzzle with flexibility in knowing that the pieces (like standardized assessment data) can change and that the picture we want to assemble is that of the child’s greatest potential, not necessarily the picture of perfection. Nonetheless, assessment data should not be dismissed and should help us to better identify where a child has some needs, especially in the context of assessment.
  4. Recognition and Celebration: It is so important that we recognize and celebrate the achievements of our school families; however, if we do so too often for everything, we find ourselves in a place where such recognition is not distinctive and becomes disingenuous. The parody in which “everyone gets a trophy” has some merit in depicting the importance of sincerity and expectation in recognition of accomplishments and how too much praise can be trite and forgettable. When something truly spectacular happens, it should be treated as such, given its respective impact upon the person who accomplished it and others. Too little recognition of successes can lead to a stagnant and unappreciative school culture in which few strive to achieve because of the absence of an impetus for doing so. A school in which rewards are given even to those who do not display effort is one that presents a false sense of accomplishment. We can promote growth mindset, but should do so only through an authentic lens, not through a sympathetic view that causes our praise and recognition to be stripped of significance.
  5. Transparency: Transparency is essential to a system that acts with integrity, but too much transparency can sometimes lead to misgivings about decision-making and overwhelmed recipients of too much information. It is important to be transparent about the actual status of a situation or the motives behind a decision insofar as such transparency will help to keep people informed, safe, and not blindsided by something that concerns the well-being of the children and their families. Certainly, the premise underlying FERPA and HIPPA laws recognizes the need for children’s and families’ respective privacy and though both impose some difficulty for transparency in some situations, they more often protect people from too much information being shared with unrelated parties. Being candid and sincere is critical to building morale, especially with those identified in leadership roles within a school; humility and receptivity to multiple perspectives are key to a successful school if they are used to better inform decisions on the school’s behalf. Without some level of transparency, neither of these is possible. The best basis for transparency is a need to be honest and forthcoming about the issues that impact those with whom information and views are shared in a way that serves to maintain the well-being and success of each child and school stakeholder. May some question who is to determine what is in the best interest of these parties? Of course, but we must act with integrity in making these decisions and provide transparent responses in ways that serve and support the mission and values of our schools.

Too often, I am afraid that we inadvertently oversimplify some of these issues by committing to programs or initiatives without fully considering whether our approach is appropriate to the context for which it is intended. As one who likes to commit fervently, wholeheartedly, and zealously when I am convinced that a plan of action is the best, I must be careful to remember that extreme approaches, though perhaps exciting, are not always prudent and that caution must be exercised so that all involved parties are treated with a purpose that extends beyond my own frame of reference, ultimately to benefit our students and larger school family.

Intentions to Blog in 2016

With the pace of communication and information dissemination increasing so rapidly, especially with digital venues, I find it sometimes difficult to justify posting thoughts or resources to a blog. I typically feel that a concise discourse or a shared resource on Twitter will suffice to connect with fellow educators, but I also recognize the value of sharing one’s voice more extensively on issues about which one is passionate. Hence, I have decided to to blog more again this year. My WordPress account has remained dormant for quite some time, and though this has not caused me to engage in fewer conversations or stifle my voice in other venues, I want to re-engage in this practice of communicating via weblog to intensify my focus and transparency about what drives me in my journey as an educator, hoping to connect even more meaningfully with others who share my passion for best practices, innovation, and reflection on optimal education for all students. Though I can’t promise any particular profundity in my remarks, I look forward to once again sharing my voice as throughout this year and learning from the many who inspire me to persevere in a challenging and rewarding profession and calling.

Setting the Stage for RTI

I must preface this lengthy analogy with the assertion that I am not an RTI expert, and I write completely based upon my own informal, independent research on the subject within my experience as both a regular high school classroom educator and an elementary school administrator.

Having been a theater teacher and school theater director in the past, it occurred to me today the similarities between the RTI provided during the rehearsals for a production and the RTI provided in our general education programs.

Too often, we consider effective RTI too difficult a requirement to incorporate into what we are already doing to support our students. To be quite frank, I think what intimidates us most is the re-prioritizing and re-organizing of what we have held onto for many years because we naturally teach how we were taught or through the lens by which we experienced education, and the unnatural integration of some other support system is uncomfortable, and skeptically, we doubt its effectiveness since it is neither what worked for us nor what we think has been working for our students in years past.

To break down RTI into what I see as the same process as preparation for a theatrical production, it is important to set forth some disclaimers. RTI requires that all students have a role on stage in the final production and that all students are expected to perform their roles so that the “show must go on.” Though the federal “No Child Left Behind” program faced much scrutiny for being somewhat idealistic and for its flawed and inconsistent support for implementation, insistence that all students receive support academically such that they will be best equipped within their cognitive means to perform successfully is both equitable and imperative. No child will should be or will be hidden in an effective RTI implementation. With this being overtly mentioned, RTI should not set out to be a Comedy of Errors or Love’s Labours Lost; instead, the production should reflect more of an end that All’s Well that Ends well.

Before tackling the Tiers of tears, it is important that RTI be systematically organized, especially to handle the uncertainties of the implementation and to establish and maintain momentum throughout the process for all students. The cast must be committed to an excellent production at all levels and must not intend to ride on the merits of previous productions nor be discouraged by the previous failures.

As with any production, a director must fully engage and monitor fidelity within RTI, but a plethora of other experts must be consistently involved in orchestrating what the director has designed. The director (oftentimes a school administrator) must always be receptive to the concerns and difficulties expressed by those orchestrating the plans and responsive by adjusting resources and strategies to best equip the cast members for the final production. Costumers, a stage director, stagehands, set designers, and various “behind the scenes” personnel must be working collaboratively with the director(s) throughout the stages of preparation for the production. Every angle of the production must be considered analytically so that even unexpected mishaps can be averted.

Another element that must be clear is a script, schedule, and date of production that reveals the full scope of the timeline and rationale for RTI. Without a coherent sense of the date of production or the script beforehand, the backstage staff will wander aimlessly from one standard to another without a clear sense of the overall goal.

Once the vision is clear for all participating, other pieces need to be set in place and appropriately adjusted during rehearsals or intervention/extension times. The prop master is perhaps one of the most important roles in tier two and three interventions. This person ensures that the appropriate tools are available to the teachers and students for effective “performance.” One can not expect to place the same props in the same place for everyone and to see all roles performed with proficiency. Every student plays a different role in his or her aspiration to be part of a successful production. This is important, too, that each student recognizes his or her individual performance as a critical component of the school performance.

In implementation, RTI must continue to focus on specific hindrances from the conveyance of a coherent message, both by its individual constituents and as a production company. One of the sharpest criticisms that I have made of my own analogy here is that it focuses too heavily on an end product or comparison of the performance to the assessment; however, it is important that the assessment is seen formatively in the same way that theatrical performances are seen as formative assessments of whether or not preparation for the production was appropriate.

If we were to extend this analogy too far, certainly it would fall apart on multiple other levels, but my reason for explicating it in this way is primarily to demonstrate that RTI is not simply a one size fits all program, nor is it possible without multiple levels of support. Its primary purpose should be student learning irrespective of an assessment-based production, but those who know that the show will go on in spite of any difficulties that may arise may use this analogy and develop it more coherently such that they can reveal the need for meticulous planning and attention to detail. I have attended and have been a part of both dynamic and flat performances, and having been responsible for producing plays myself, I know that the attention paid to the initial schedule and during rehearsals to the details of each individual’s performance in the form of progress monitoring makes the difference in what we will see when students are expected to perform.

Twitter Tapestry

As I continue to peruse Twitter for all things edtech-related and concerning Tennessee education, I have expanded the group that I follow immensely. I am reminded of the statement that Adam Taylor (@2footgiraffe) made about how Twitter is like a waterfall from we must only expect to get a cupful of information or collaboration at a time. When I initially began following some fellow Tennessee educators and education enthusiasts, I found mostly people promoting their own interests and blogs. Though this still continues on a pretty large scale, I have found others who are also engaging in more altruistic collaboration and an interest to share their successes, struggles, and discoveries in the world of Common Core State Standards and other education-related subjects.

I have begun to follow more administrators around the world who are experiencing all sorts of results of integration of RTI, Common Core, and various other initiatives. Despite the frequency with which I monitor Twitter, I do scan tweets fairly rapidly, looking for particular noteworthy items, especially those that I think will appeal to and engage or inspire my followers. I re-tweet far more than I originally tweet, thus reducing the attribution of much ingenuity to myself, but hoping to be relied upon more as a disseminator of useful tools than as a source of great profundity (which I feel is quite difficult to express in 140 characters, anyway).

For those who continue to be intimidated by Twitter or who are still convinced that Twitter is simply a celebrity venue for communicating their mundane experiences and gossip throughout the day, I would encourage you to look beyond what can be potentially an overwhelming flow of random chatter and to avoid the Twitter litter typically produced by sophomoric casual conversationalists and predatory saboteurs to see the true resources and tools that are shared daily and motivation of fellow educators who are in the trenches seeking the same goal, what is best for our children. I would advise those just beginning their Twitter journeys to find a friend who is already rather Twitter-savvy to assist in what may seem some simple strategies to focus on what you may really be seeking.

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