Thornhill Community Academy’s straight-talking headteacher Jonny Mitchell showed the world what life in the classroom is really like in the award-winning TV documentary series Educating Yorkshire.
Now he writes exclusively for the Reporter Series.
Every week he will give us his take on life in and outside school from his hometown in Dewsbury.
I would hate to be accused of being a lefty. Sometimes it happens.
Then again, over the past four weeks or so I have been accused of being all sorts, including – from various sources – a communist, fascist, a neo-Nazi and a Tory.
Just to set the record straight, I am none of these. Neither in my personal life nor in my professional life. Neither am I particularly controversial. I do, however, have opinions, and that is, after all, what I have been asked to share each week in this column.
Preamble over… on with the piece.
I had a surreal Twitter exchange with a journalist from another part of the UK a couple of weeks ago, who took pleasure in telling me what I believed in and what I agreed with, including the abolition of rigour in education.
Unusually, I fed the troll and went back at him. There was a bite, and further condemnation of my attitude towards my job and my position.
I re-tweeted the message and went off to my nice, warm bed, and forgot all about it.
To my amazement, the following morning, hundreds of Twitter followers had sprung to my defence and, mostly using appropriate language for the forum, lambasted my sparring partner for his total misunderstanding of what education is actually about.
I must confess, it felt very special to have all these people, whom I have never met, fighting my corner.
In fact, some of them had previously tweeted negative comments about me or the school on the back of our documentary. So it was refreshing to see that people can look beyond previous issues and react differently.
They say that brevity is the soul of wit, and Twitter can certainly prove it. You only have to read James Blunt’s Twitter feed to know why. Even when the tweets are profane in the extreme, his responses are hilarious. Amongst the best is this one: “...your music makes me want to cave my own skull in with a hammer.” His response is brilliant: “Be my guest!”
Of course, it can be used for foul means as well as fair, and the rise of social media generally, certainly amongst the younger generation, has caused untold mayhem with cyberbullying, an issue hat all schools are having to respond to, and quickly.
You see, it is so easy to use, so convenient, so immediate. Once it’s out there, it’s hard to get back.
Lots of parents will be completely oblivious to what their children are doing online, because they don’t know where to look or what they are looking for. BBM, FB, Twitter, Snapchat, MSN… the list goes on.
And kids really can be outrageously cruel – if parents need advice about how they can minimise risk, there is a wealth of information out there (on the internet of course) and schools will all have policies which govern social media and cyberbullying. In fact, increasingly, schools are running evening sessions for parents to help them understand the dangers.
For want of space, I can close with the advice from a certain police force on Twitter recently: “If you are being bullied or intimidated on Facebook, take this advice: Close your account!”
Perhaps not helpful to be so crass and direct, but certainly advice worth taking for those who genuinely don’t know what to do.