Trolling the Trolls

Hey, that launch of the @POTUS handle sure was something, wasn’t it? It sure launched Internet trolls to spew copious threats and racist vitriol from the shadowy depths of their keyboards… it got Dave Orphal thinking about the trolls he’s met as a teacher leader.

It’s not like President Obama hasn’t experienced this before with his @BarakObama twitter handle, but with the launch of @POTUS yesterday, the internet trolls spewed copious threats and racist vitriol from their shadows.

It got me thinking about the trolls I’ve met in my work as a #teacherleader.

One time, I got a shout out from a colleague on Facebook. He was dealing with all of the usual anti-teacher nonsense: teachers are lazy, work short hours and have months of vacation to work on our tans, get paid too much, and have jobs for life no matter how awful we are. You know the song.

My friend was doing the exact same thing I tend to do, with similar results. He was trying to educate the troll with facts, illustrations of the real workday and commitment of teachers, and his personal stories of success. It was working about as well as all of the times I’ve tried the same tactics, #notatall.

What to do?

My friend has solicited my help, but had so far failed to win his internet flame war.

I tried something new.

I agreed with everything the troll had said. Why not? Teaching is so complex a profession, I can find a hundred examples of the stereotypical “bad teacher” just like I can find hundreds of examples of the stereotypical “super-hero teacher.” These stereotypes exist for a reason.

I knew that if I tried my usual tactic of combating his facts with facts, I would end up in the same quagmire as my friend. Like I said, with such a complex profession, there are more than enough facts from which one can cherry pick all the data necessary to prove any point.

So I agreed with the troll, and I ask him for help.

“You have so many examples of what’s wrong with teachers these day,” I told him, “and so many ideas for positive change, WE NEED YOU! Please, please, please, quit your job right now and join me in Oakland Unified School District!”

It was like I had put a flaming bag of poo on his doorstep.

The troll was furious! He claimed I was mocking him, #iwas. He claimed that I wasn’t adding anything to the debate, #justreflectinghiswords. He said I was trolling him!

I sent him a link to Oakland’s EDJoin pages.

What’s the Point?

  • Don’t feed the Trolls: I make it a habit not to read anonymous comments on my blogs and articles. If they’re not willing to stand up behind their comment, then it’s just not worth my time.
  • There are, and will never be, one-size-fits-all solutions for education: We work in a complicated system, with thousands of shortcomings and millions of ways to improve. Rather than dream up silver bullets, I spend my time making the positive changes I can at my locality.
  • There are best practices, but they are in the eye of the beholder: When I find success with something, I write about it and share it on this blog or in on-line magazines. Some one out there may be thinking about a similar situation at their school, and find an idea that they want to try. I don’t pretend that my successes should be scaled-up. I’ll let you decide that. Like the slogan goes in my 12-Step program, “Take what you want and leave the rest behind.”

These tips help me keep my sanity and serenity as I walk through the internet valley of the trolls.

How about you? How do you deal with trolls?

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  • LizPrather

    It’s Never About Education

    Great tips! Regardless of the topic at hand, be it education, politics, religion, music, culture,etc., trolls have one agenda – to unleash fury, negativity, and vile bile into the air.  Whether they’re mad at mom or dad, life, God, fate, or whatever,  the anger is never used as a catalyst for self-awareness, growth or reflection; it’s just used as a multi-purpose frying pan on which to sizzle the unfortunate person who has tendered a good-faith opinion in the marketplace of ideas. 

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