I started writing this blog 3 weeks ago, before the election, before our world was turned upside down, before the Empire. I never finished it. It seems silly now, but I figured I'd go ahead and share. Enjoy.....
A few weeks ago, I sent out a tweet that brought me 4 minutes of minor fame (15 minutes would be too generous). I'm a Social Studies teacher which means election season is always an exciting time for me. I love discussing politics, thinking about politics, debating politics, and most of all teaching about politics. Unfortunately, this election season has been a challenge and certainly not fun. In fact, I've hated teaching about Election 2016. I've hated it so much that I felt the need to apologize to my students for asking them to watch a recent presidential debate. Naturally, being the hip teacher I am, I decided to apologize to my millennial pupils using Twitter. This is where our story begins.
About half way through the second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump I found myself very frustrated. Frustrated that no issues were being discussed. Frustrated that I spent more than an hour watching an overgrown child defend his bragging about sexual assault as "locker room talk." Frustrated that I'd ask my students to watch the debate. Most of all though I was frustrated, saddened really, that this is what has become of political discourse in our country. The same nation that produced the likes of Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Roosevelt, and Reagan, had allowed itself to have its presidential election turned into an episode of Jerry Springer. Out of this frustration I sent out the following tweet:
While my initial tweet didn't get too much attention, a tweet by a student did. A student of mine took a screen shot of the tweet and included it as part of a tweet of his own. Over the course of the next few hours, that tweet got a lot of notice. In fact, thousands of people liked and/or retweeted it.
As a result of the viral nature of his tweet, he was contacted by a reporter from New York Magazine. She asked if he could put her in contact with me, she'd like to discuss my tweet and get my opinion about the debate. So, at roughly 1:00 AM, I was interviewed by a reporter from New York Magazine via Twitter direct messenger. The interview resulted in the following article: Politics Teacher Apologizes to His Students for Assigning Debate Viewing As Homework.
The whole thing was pretty silly. Honestly, it was a little flattering. I'd never had an article written about me before, nor had I ever had anything I posted online go viral. However, over the next few days, I was shocked at the additional attention my tweet, my student's tweet, and the article that followed garnered. I received a phone call from a writer at MSNBC, he was writing an article about teaching the election in the classroom and wanted to know my thoughts.
I learned a lot about online journalism from this experience. Most notably how stories written for one site quickly find their way into others as well. Edited versions of the first article appeared on Yahoo! News and the Esquire website. The whole incident was also part of a countdown of trending news stories on an NPR broadcast.
Speaking of radio, I soon received an email from a producer for "Every Classroom Matters with Vicki Davis" part of the Bam Radio Network. I was asked if I would like to be interviewed for an upcoming episode of their educational podcast. I happily agreed. I learned two things. First, I need a better Skype connection. Second, the podcast my friend and I are trying to start needs some serious work. In any event, here is the podcast.
After one more interview with Newsweek, my fun was over. And the experience was fun, but not for the reason you might imagine. Yes, it was pretty neat to see my name in a minor online publication. Yes, it was cool to hear myself on a podcast. However, the real reason that I found the whole experience so fun and rewarding was because, at least a few people, showed an interest in what I had to say. I know that sounds dumb, perhaps even sad, but it's true. Isn't that the whole reason we post things on social media in the first place? We want people to hear what we have to say? Whether it's a Facebook status about our health, an Instagram picture of what we had for dinner, or an encouraging tweet, we share our thoughts so that others will know them. I sent out my original tweet in a half joking manner and it was shared because a student found it funny. It was, I guess. But it gained traction and I was interviewed because there were a few people out there who felt, for whatever reason, that as an educator my opinion mattered and they wanted to know my thoughts. As silly as that seems, it's quite rewarding.
Derek Trent Ashcraft
A place to discuss, among other things, politics, culture, food, faith, and nonsense.