Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bloggers Beware.

Dear fellow teacher bloggers,

First of all, high fives all around for sharing your experiences, your struggles and your voices.  Too often teachers are seen and not heard, so I commend you for dusting off the old soap box and telling it like it is.

Howeverrrrrr......

(ahem)

A word of caution when blogging about one's classroom:

Don't be an idiot. 

(Was that too blunt?)

You know me.  I'm not exactly one to be gentle with my words.   Unless I'm talking to little friends, and then, somehow, I am able to sugar coat.  Occasionally.

Regardless, when you decide to blog about your life as a teacher, you need to be responsible.  That means no blogging about the kiddos in ways that are negative, offensive or revealing!!!  No using names or other identifiable features of anyone you work with.  (Bonus- coming up with nicknames can be amaze balls.  Um, "The Weave?"  Best.  Nickname.  Ever.)  Why am I writing about this today? 

Funny you should ask...

I was checking my email and saw something from my uncle who pointed me in the direction of a new teacher blog.  As I was on Mommy Duty, I added checking out this blog to my List of Things To Do During Nap Time (a list that is offensive in length, by the way).  Later, during nap time, I checked my email once again only to receive a link to  this article which describes how the very same blogger my uncle told me about has been suspended for making inappropriate comments about her students. 

In one entry, she writes, “My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

Oh my.

While this this woman may have had a bad day, this was a baaaaad idea.  Sister friend, there are just some things you need to keep between you and your cocktail.  I know we all have rough days where we don't see the point of working so hard or we feel like everyone, including our students, is working against us, HOWEVER, that does not mean that, as teachers, we should go on record and in print bashing our students. We have a responsibility to protect our students and, in my opinion, be their advocates and champions.  It is our job to find something to love about them, find their strength and encourage their success. 

Calling your colleagues lazy, whiny and annoying?  Probably not the best idea although (cough cough) I've been known to do that in the past (WITH NICK NAMES!).  Calling your students lazy, whiny and annoying?  Uh, no.  Just no. 

When we, as teachers, speak our truth through our blogs, we are adding our voices to the conversation.  It is a wonderful thing and can be a powerful tool to share ideas, frustrations, opinions and resources.  HOWEVER, we need to be guardians of that voice (and our children). There are too many haters out there just LOOKING for a reason to point a finger, fire our asses or call us incompetent.  This is a volatile time in education, we don't need to go looking for trouble, my friends.

xo,
Mimi

26 comments:

Sweet Girl Tracie said...

I 100% agree with you. I was also going by a pseudonym until about a month ago. I never actually bad-mouth students, administrators or coworkers.
My blog was initially started to be an advocate voice for people who are unemployed. As you have mentioned in your clear and direct post, I have always tried to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in a situation.

I personally feel blogging is a voice to communicate and advocate for our children. Besides unemployment, I also like to advocate for public school education, early childhood education, special education and the Holocaust. These are important to me and I write to express the ideas and concerns that I would like to see in our country.

Hey, I even was able to find a positive in 1 of my writing posts about either resignation or termination? What would be the best option? It is 1 of my writing pieces and have gotten great feedback on it.

John T. Spencer said...

I made a few of those mistakes early on in my career, though not so much toward my students as much as toward my district and fellow teachers. Over time, I realized that blogs are a public forum. I have to ask myself, "Would my students mind if they heard me say this? Would my principal mind? Would the superintendent mind?"

Safe bet: try being positive about teaching (that's why I have a series called "Reasons I Love Teaching"), reflective and humble.

What concerns me about that situation is that the teacher didn't get a chance to learn from it. Shutting off a blog without allowing a teacher to try again doesn't allow a teacher to grow in developing a public voice.

~A said...

Totally. Bad days are bad days, but fostering an attitude of gratefulness and positivity is important- both as a personal practice and in writing.

Kids may get on your nerves sometimes, but they're kids. And it's never okay to bash your students.

Ayn Colsh said...

Someone sent me the blog post last week and I thought the same things you did. I mostly post about classroom activities and try to remember that parents or coworkers may read it. There are days when I wish I could post my negative thoughts, just to get them off my chest, but as you so eloquently put it, I'll keep them between me and my cocktail! :)

Miss L said...

Amen! My grandma always said, "Loose lips sink ships." I like your "Sister friend..." updated version! Some things are better left for the diary. Like the kind with the little lock.

Kimberly said...

I agree, teachers need to vent, everyone does. But being careless about it in your words can lead to bad results. They were talking about it on The View the other day. http://theview.abc.go.com/video/hot-topics-angry-teacher

That was the first I heard of this. I like that they acknowledge that teaching is one of the harder jobs out there. I know a lot of people that don't feel that way. Blogging is great, people just need to remember to be responsible.

Rachel said...

I dunno...I kind of disagree. Well, I disagree on principle, but I know it's probably not going to change, so I still try to post prudently. But on principle, I believe my job is my job. What I say in my personal life shouldn't matter as long as I do a good job in the classroom.

I know even if I complain about a lazy/whiny student, I still love him/her. Just because you love someone, doesn't mean you always like them or approve of what they do. You're right about the fact that The Powers That Be are always looking for some excuse to attack teachers. As such, they are more than willing to overlook that we complain of these things with love in our hearts. If I didn't care, I wouldn't complain.

Stu said...

Well put Mimi...How many of us have told our students as we boarded the bus for the field trip, "We're representing ABC School today..."

Same goes for the adults :)

I don't believe that we must always be positive. The state of the public education debate in the US doesn't lend itself to feeling good all the time. The so-called "reformers" don't instill me with positive feelings about where we're going as a nation. However, allowing ourselves to express complaints and objections does not mean that professionalism must also be abandoned.

Honest criticism has its place...but our focus must be on making ourselves better teachers, making our schools better places for students, and making our nation one in which public education can flourish.

Mimi said...

I hear what you all are saying about complaining. Don't think I didn't have some negative thoughts about a little friend from time to time - um, we're human, hello?? Buuuuutttt, that being said, I think the kids need to be off limits. Discussing struggles, venting general frustrations is one thing, but calling kids names is another. Granted, I never got to read this post, so I don't know the context, and I'm sure this woman has been totally demonized beyond belief because evidently it's fun to hate on teachers.

Stu said...

I'm not sure if I was clear. I agree 100%...the students need to be off limits.

How would you react to a doctor blogging about his patients...or a police officer writing about people involved in a domestic disturbance (or anything else)...

...or an attorney...postal worker...nurse...plumber...

It's a question of ethics. Our students, their achievement, their behaviors and their families are entitled to confidentiality. Period.

jamie said...

De-cloaking lurker here: great post and follow-up comments.

I agree that “bashing students” is counterproductive to teaching, and prudence dictates the content of posting about what goes on in a classroom. The role and responsibility of a teacher to provide a nurturing environment extends from the classroom to the internet, and there are higher standards for professional conduct to consider.

I had started a blog a couple years ago specifically to document my experiences from a teacher’s perspective, warts and all, and it was quite the learning curve. In retrospect I still stand behind everything I wrote, even if I apologized in retrospect, and still make it a point to never post anything I wouldn’t say in person.

Accountability and openness is a factor too: I always made full disclosure about publishing stuff on-line, along with displaying applicable disclaimers, and (most importantly) respecting the privacy of others – like getting signed releases, asking permission, and giving credit where credit was due. Judicious editing and appropriate timing (as in sitting on potentially controversial posts) were also crucial blogging skills that I learned on the fly, and it helped to bounce things off other people first – again, like a normal critique. Feedback is great, but the point for me was never to get fans or make friends, whether the job is making art, teaching it, or blogging about it.
It was rewarding to many other folks, peers and students alike, some of whom who gained empathy and insights that are relatively rare to read about. It’s one of the reasons I follow a handful of related blogs - like this one in particular - in part to counter the frustrating unicorn farts that gloss over or avoid pointing out the less attractive aspects of teaching.

All that said, maybe it’s because I’m also an artist (and an editorial cartoonist) that I appreciate honest, unvarnished opinions, and think self-censorship either stunts or completely kills off any creative growth. But that’s tempered by how long one’s academic leash is, and how far you want to push the envelope: ultimately it’s a personal call on individual styles of blogging, and like a lot of artwork, it’s all good. Unless it’s really bad.
So I tended to side with the observation you aren’t necessarily doing students any favors by candy-coating the reality of how one’s work is judged outside the classroom. I didn’t pull punches any more on-line than I would during a critique, or a meeting, which probably makes me exhibit A for being an “idiot.” I find it just as hard to humor slackers and cheerleaders for banality on either side of the desk, easel or keyboard.

In the end, I think most of my students appreciated, or at least recognized the fact that I was also coming across as a regular human being full of faults and frailties like everybody else. Sure, I made mistakes all the time, just hopefully not the same ones, and I wasn’t above pointing out my personal failures, especially if anyone else might learn from and avoid making them in their own work.

jamie said...

By way of a post-script, Stu's last clarification bears repeating: that’s an important ethical (and legal) clarification; respecting privacy/maintaining anonymity is part of providing a safe place.
It’s tricky recognizing that voyeuristic line of when going “behind the scenes” versus gossipy tell-alls.

Kratik said...

Very well written.
Agreed.
Blogging helps teachers to communicate not only to the children but the world.

Have you ever felt grateful to your teachers. Well, if you haven't, I sure have.
Read this...
http://kratik1987.blogspot.com/2009/11/two-angels.html

Jennifer said...

Mimi--

Loose lips definitely sink ships. That's why I don't blog about my job! I do complain to my cocktail, and often (though less often than that first year...).

I do want to know one thing, though: when do I get to be anonymous and blend into the crowd? If I don't ever get to, that's fine, but my boss needs to make that known, and I need to be compensated for being on the job 100% of the time. Otherwise, gimme some space!

Mr. Blake said...

I agree with you, Mimi. While it's okay to have some private venting time with a great chocolate bar (my cocktail of choice), public bashing (even generically) of students is bad form. It not only casts a poor light on our profession as a whole (like you said, teacher-hating seems to be a new Olympic event), it also reinforces immature behaviors that we try to teach our students to avoid. We are champions for our students and we must keep things in perspective. Whether we teach preschoolers or high schoolers, they're just children!

Teachinfourth said...

Very well put...one should never go out seeking trouble or they will quite often find it.

Mrs. Lutton said...

You are soooo true!! I read this yesterday and later that day a friend at gymnastics asked me if I had heard about the teacher getting in trouble for spouting off about her kids. I started cracking up cuz I had just read about it here!
People just don't get how important it is to be a serious role model. It is okay to have a voice but not one that damages the voices we should be protecting. Good Lord, if you can get fired over a 10 yr. old pic from college online than spouting off about your kids would be a given.
It's almost comical.

Julie

Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher

JC said...

You might like this:
http://www.e-forwards.com/2010/07/nominated-for-best-email-of-the-year-2010%E2%80%9D/

Take care
JC

Ben said...

This definitely true. I am currently an education major preparing for a career in the PROFESSION of education. It is a shame that a teacher would lose their cool like that. If educators want our field to be looked at as a profession, then we need to act like the professionals we are. Thanks for the helpful blog.

Kellie said...

I'm a History Education Major, and I cannot wait to become a teacher. However, the negativity I witness and observe from teachers sometimes is a total bummer. When I first started observing classes, the teacher came up to me and told me "God bless you for wanting to become a teacher,these students drive me nuts, they don't listen or pay attention." The funny thing is a I had this teacher when I was in the 8th grade and she was my favorite teacher. She had so many creative projects like a history comic book and projects to make posters of leaders. It seemed when I observed her class it was just her reading out of the text book and worksheets. She even came up and told me "I'm not the teacher I used to be." This just made me upset the rest of the time I was there. I just can't help but wonder why teachers forget to look at the good part of their students. I will never forget what I witnessed.

GraceKrispy said...

Hey mimi-- I *totally* agree! I mean, venting is one thing. Venting on a public forum when you're identifiable--- doesn't lead anywhere good!

HappyLittleBooker said...

Totally agree! Somethings, even if they are wearing you down inside, should be said in a public forum. They will ALWAYS come back to you. One of the teachers in my building has a son in another school who wrote on facebook about his "horrible teacher" and was suspended from school!

youngcrosseman said...

I think it is a great thing that you voice your concern. You might save a lot of people who will make this mistake with out even really thinking about how it is wrong. It is important for teachers to understand and respect the students privacy.

youngcrosseman said...

I think it is a great thing that you voice your concern. You might save a lot of people who will make this mistake with out even really thinking about how it is wrong. It is important for teachers to understand and respect the students privacy. -pre-service teacher

ktbug2290 said...

Hello all! I am a future teacher and am very curious. While browsing comments, how do you deal with the daily routine of students. When you have to deal with so much from them, and possible leave the school drained, how do you not go crazy. I'm sure on some days you may take things personally, but what do you do to turn it around?

What keeps you coming back day after day to students that may give off the impression that they don't appreciate you and what you're trying to do for them (which I hope is not the case)?

Thank you so much!

Stu said...

@ktbug2290

When I first started teaching I spent 15-18 hours a day working, planning, cleaning up, fretting, making phone calls, grading and just generally getting lost in teaching. After a few months of this I asked one of the other teachers I worked with how he coped with the burdens of teaching. He told me two words that I have never forgotten.

"You adapt."

Your question, it seems to me is, "How do you adapt?"

There are two things to deal with, I think. First, how do you adapt physically to the stress of teaching. There is no hard and fast rule for this. It depends a lot on your physical stamina, your personality and your personal health. The main thing is to take care of your physical needs -- sleep, good nutrition and health maintenance.

The other part to your question is much harder. How do you adapt emotionally to teaching.

Different people will give you different answers. Some years I did better than others, and that had to do with a variety of factors -- my personal health, my class and the emotional stresses from my personal life.

Just like your physical health, you have to take care of your emotional needs. You can't avoid feeling drained at the end of the school day. It's part of teaching. Unless you're a lot different from me, you also can't avoid taking some things personally, and not just from the students, but from parents, administrators and colleagues as well.

In my opinion, the hardest part of taking care of yourself emotionally is just doing it, and that's where most people lose their way. Stay physically healthy, exercise, help others, cultivate self-discipline (my biggest weakness!), keep your mind active with other leisure activities (like reading, hobbies, nature, etc). Force yourself to take time off, physically and mentally.

Different people handle emotional stresses differently. I think the best advice anyone can give you is for you to reflect on how you handle personal stress now. When something disrupts your emotional equilibrium now, what do you do? Do you go out on the town and bust loose with friends? Do you close yourself in your room with a good book? Do you veg out in front of the TV? Do you sleep, call a friend, take a walk, play video games, exercise?

Those times will happen when teaching -- there's no way to avoid them. Your job will be to adapt. Teaching is a job of daily problem solving. You'll problem solve academic issues and behavioral issues. Do the same thing with your own emotional issues. When you find yourself on the edge stop and analyze your situation. How can you take care of your emotional needs right now? How can you adapt so that you won't find yourself on the edge tomorrow?

I just did a google search for "How do you take care of yourself emotionally" and got nearly 4 million hits. If you don't know how to relieve the stress of your current emotional life, you might look there. Talk to friends and family. Discuss this with other pre-teaching students. Make plans.

As Mrs. Mimi has probably learned, though, preparing for the reality of teaching is like preparing for the reality of having a baby. No matter what you do -- no matter what you expect -- you will find yourself unprepared at some point. The ability to adapt to changing situations is the most important thing you can do. We try to get our students to learn how to learn because we know that teaching is not just a transfer of information. You need to do that for yourself. Learn how to adapt because emotional health is not just a list of do's and dont's.

Good luck.

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