This hashtag is thrown around all of the time by educators on Twitter (myself included), but what does it really mean?
Does it mean that I agree with you?
Does it mean that you gave me an idea or inspired me?
Does it mean that I am cheering you on?
You see, the danger with #bettertogether is that it can become an echo chamber. We all need our tribe, our people who understand us, our people who will encourage us is whatever we are doing. It's nice to feel accepted and understood, especially when we sometimes feel like we are in a constant battle against time, rules & regulations, and models of education that we don't agree with. Yet if we only interact with those who agree with us, we risk getting stuck in a rut.
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." ~Proverbs 27:17
I'll admit it, sometimes I can be a little obnoxious because I don't mind playing the devil's advocate. I want to ask those questions to push and prod and poke, with the goal of making us think more deeply. I also don't want to be afraid to ask the hard questions - to ask about the true purpose of what's going on, to challenge others if their ideas are more show than substance, or to hold people accountable when necessary. It's not always easy to do this - it feels risky. And the only way for it to work is with a foundation of respect and understanding that we trust each other and we trust that we are working for the common good. Without that trust, it quickly can degenerate into taking things personally or creating an "us vs. them" mentality.
What if #bettertogether meant that I will push back on you if I see something that doesn't quite fit?
What if it meant that I will ask you to justify your idea, so both you and I can understand it more deeply?
What if it meant that you have permission to do the same to me?
Does this feel a little uncomfortable to you? It certainly does for me! But, this is the true power of #bettertogether. when we not only celebrate our successes, but also challenge each other to grow. It is easier and more comfortable to gravitate toward those who will always cheer us on and give us positive feedback. It requires vulnerability and courage to go to someone who is not afraid to push a little or who feels differently than you do about a certain subject. The world is not made up of carbon-copy people - we will run into opposition at some point - isn't it better when it first comes from a friend? We don't do each other any favors by solely cheering each other on without digging deeper.
It's not always easy, but this is the way for us to truly be #bettertogether.