Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good evening, everyone. My name is Xmac and I have something to confess. I'm a teacher, and I blog.

The Sunday Times today asks, "Should teachers blog?" I take exception to being singled out for my profession and being questioned for my decision to post my scribblings on-line. The first concern ST puts forward is that it might be psychologically damaging for students to read what their teachers actually think about them. Second is that teachers can get into trouble with the Ministry if they grouse about their work, colleagues and school environment.

The latter arguments could be applied to anyone else in any other profession as well. People in other industries have been fired before, so we've learned to be a bit more circumspect airing our views in the public arena, just in case. Hence, the bland, politically correct points of view I've been putting forth here. Score one for perhaps over-cautious self-censorship, zero for being a sensational, attention-grabbing, audience-attracting sponsorship magnet that will allow me to give up my day job.

The first concern -- about fracturing students' delicate egos -- is a little tougher to address. It really depends on our motivation for blogging. If it's just a carthartic release from stresses at work, then a teacher sending mixed signals in person and on a blog means that neither message has the credibility to be taken seriously. Both messages stem from masks that the teacher wears: suppressed emotion in person, vented emotion on-line, and neither are reflections of honest, reflective thought.

Venomous words can and do sting, but the difference in blogging is that people go looking through search engines for things other people say about them, and when they find unpleasantness they get upset. Isn't that asking for trouble in the first place? Our students need to learn to take honest criticism, but they also have to learn to discern which critique to take with a pinch of salt too.

The other motivation for teachers' blogs is to communicate with their students directly on-line, where everybody 'lives' in the same community as equals. These blogs aren't just random rants about anything and anyone in particular, but they are about reaching out to students with reminders, nags, advice or concerns; establishing a platform for sharing common resource materials; or even showing students that their teachers are human too and that they do have a life after school.

To say that teachers should or should not blog is asking a nonsense question. You could substitute "teacher" with any other profession, and you'd get the same nonsense answer. Blogging isn't a matter of "should/not," it's more a choice of what we do with the technology available, for whichever audience we have chosen to address.

Words can build up or they can tear down. I hope I've been doing more of the former than the latter here for my visitors. That is my choice.

No comments: