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Why This MAT CEO Quit Social Media Completely

In a world where social media is king, Helena Mills has taken the bold step of deleting it from her life entirely...

  • Why This MAT CEO Quit Social Media Completely

Just finished Friday revision session with my Year 11s. All 30 turned up. Pizza all eaten. Stunning young people. Now finally off home.

Tweeted on Friday, 7.55pm

I’m sharing this random message with you, because it’s typical of the tweets I see from many young teachers in my organisation on a regular basis.

Or, should I say, I used to see – because I de-Twittered myself two years ago. And, I must say, I’m in heaven.

I started to reduce my Twitter habit as part of a New Year’s resolution in January 2017, realising that my obsession with tweeting about work and reading other people tweeting about work was not actually helping me to do any work.

And it certainly wasn’t helping me to read, quite an important part of my work as a GCSE English teacher.

My reading capacity was rapidly becoming limited to 280 characters of Twitter twaddle.

So I informed my colleagues I was just going to retweet when one of our schools or children had done something.

Undue pressure

Although I found this an improvement at first, it still wasn’t enough to prevent me from sneaking a look at some of the twits on Twitter, debating about this and that at 11.00 at night, when I (and they, for that matter) really should’ve been going to sleep.

So, in September 2018, I took a giant click for the profession and deleted all my Twitter accounts.

Why, many people asked?

I suppose the trigger was a conversation I had with a new head of faculty. She’d been working so hard, transformed results, but felt demoralised. I asked why she felt so deflated.

Eventually, I uncovered that despite all her efforts, a senior leader had suggested it was time to raise her profile on Twitter, saying, “You just don’t tweet enough, all the things you do with the children; people don’t know about it.’‘

Unfortunately, I realised that senior leaders, including me, were probably putting undue pressure on young teachers.

The job’s hard enough without having to remember to put everything you do in a day on social media!

Still connected

As teachers and leaders, we are constantly telling our pupils to put their phones away and pick up a book instead.

However, many of us, myself included, were perpetuating a desire for them to see themselves on social media, telling them things like, “I’ve just tweeted our class doing extended writing.”

These days, if a child or group of children has done something exceptional, I will send an email or write a letter of congratulations.

It’s got so much more meaning and depth to it.

Besides, I’ve come to realise that most of the parents in the community we serve don’t use Twitter, and it’s not the platform of choice for our students, either.

So, has my Twitter-free world diminished me in any way? Well, my lessons are still up and down, as every teacher knows they can be.

My pupils are making good progress; I find far more interesting things for them to read now.

The 10 schools in our Trust, BMAT, are doing well, and I’m confident I know what is happening in our schools and the many things our staff do to support our children and their families.

I am reading so much more and, probably most importantly, I am getting more sleep.

So, no. In fact, I guess it has improved me professionally.

I leave you with a recommendation. I have just finished reading How Much Land Does a Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy.

It’s a story about greed and one man’s game with the devil.

Take a look for yourself, and you may find yourself asking the question I did: how much social media does a teacher really need?

Helena Mills CBE is CEO of multi-academy trust, BMAT. The trust has 10 schools – both primary and secondary – in Essex and London.

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