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Why Teachers Shouldn’t Blog….And Why I Do

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“Natalie Munroe, the 30-something Pennsylvania teacher who got in trouble for anonymously referring on her blog to unnamed students as “annoying” and “lazy” ” (this from The Christian Science Monitor) has been in the news lately (thanks to Alexander Russo, who’s quoted in the article, for the tip).

I’m sorry, I have little or no sympathy for her.

In An Open Letter to Natalie Monroe, Chris Lehman eloquently expressed the reasons behind my feelings — better than I probably could. I’d encourage you to read his entire post, but here’s an excerpt:

You see… you don’t teach English. You teach kids. Flawed, messed-up, never perfect, wonderful, amazing kids.

Every child you denigrated has something wonderful about them, even when you didn’t see it.

Every child you insulted has worked hard at something, even if it wasn’t on the assignment you wanted them to work hard on.

Every child you mocked has aspirations, even if they don’t match up with the ones you want them to have.

Here are the reasons why I blog, which is a list I post a couple of times a year.  I added a new important one at the end.

Writing this blog….

…gives me a little more incentive to be on the look-out for new resources — and pushes me to be a little more creative in my thinking about how to use them — so that I can be a better teacher with my English Language Learner and mainstream students.

…allows me to share resources that non-techy people like me can actually use.  Many people would be surprised at how limited my technical abilities are. If I can’t figure out how to use an application in a minute or two, I won’t write about it or use it.

…helps me clarify my thinking about the role of technology in the classroom. To paraphrase an economist who was talking about the role of the free market, I believe that technology has its place, but also has to be kept in its place. I don’t think computers are a “magic bullet,” and though I believe they  offer a particular “value-added” benefit to English Language Learners, I’m less convinced about their advantages for non-ELL’s. Writing this blog provides me a forum to share my on-going classroom research to clarify this thinking. (See Results From My Year-Long U.S. History Tech Experiment)

…provides me with a forum to clarify my thinking about the on-going classroom management and instructional challenges (see What Do You Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At School?) faced by me, and many other teachers in inner-city urban schools (and probably in many other schools, too).

…helps me develop connections with a broader Personal Learning Network than I would otherwise have.  It’s a privilege to virtually “meet” so many other teachers with wisdom to offer.

…gives me an arena where I can share my thoughts on a progressive vision of school reform.

…offers me additional writing opportunities on issues I have a particular passion about. These opportunities have also included three books published by Linworth Publishing, both connecting my nineteen-year community organizing career with my six-year teaching career. One is titled Building Parent Engagement in Schools and the other is titled English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work. My third book will be published by Eye on Education in April.

My new reason is that I often share what I write with my students. As I wrote in How I Milked A Lesson For Every Last Ounce Of Learning And Why I’m An Idiot For Not Thinking Of It Earlier, sharing what I write about my students with my students is a clear indication that I really do think about them when I’m not in school, that I valued what they say and think, and that I am proud and want to tell others about them.

Sharing, reflecting, challenging, and celebrating — those are the reasons why I blog….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

16 Comments

  1. Those are some of my motivations, too! The student bodies I have taught vary widely, so sometimes my “classroom management isssues” (don’t really like that expression) are different than ones you face, but not always.

    I also write my blog about history in general, not just teaching it or the academic field, so the other two reasons I write are to share things I find interesting and am passionate about, but also to simply keep writing.

    It is ultimitely true that our students may not be as engaged or committed to us individually or our subject, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t committed and engaged elsewhere. I know I won’t be successful with every student, but that is often my fault, or no one’s. History can be frustrating even if it is taught well. Math and science so often have correct answers, but history rarely does. I cannot fault a student who finds that unsatisfying and frustrating.

    Nice read!

  2. A passive agressive rant is not a blogging nirvana for disaffected teachers. I starting blogging again to chart my professional development in a space which could be informed and reformed through transparency and genuine dialogue. I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments above…

  3. Y’know… A few years ago a pro basketball player – was it Barkley? – whined about how he didn’t get into professional sports to be someone’s role model. He took a lot of heat for the comment and later recanted. He realized that, no matter how hard he wanted to be anonymous, he was a public fiure and whether or not he intended it, some kid somewhere was going to look up to him as the very role model that he said he didn’t want to be. He received a lot of pats on the back for stepping up to the plate and realizing it was time to start acting like a grown-up.

    In the case of this teacher, though, it’s a whole different story. Her career – her whole “professional” life – IS about being a role model to kids. (Or perhaps it WAS…) I have no doubt that her frustrations were likely justified. Her actions, however, were not.

    I’m a huge fan of the First Amendment and the Five Freedoms it preserves. But one has to keep in mind that the Founding Fathers intended it to protect public discourse and keep legislators informed about issues affecting The People. The protests in Wisconsin currently are a perfect example of the intent of the First Amendment. It was NEVER intended to be used a shield for irresponsible ranting and raving. And it was NEVER intended to allow professionals to behave like the children they are supposed to serve.

    Blogging is a wonderful tool for learning. To the Education Professionals out there, please: Keep it professional.

    Be a grown up. Be a PROFESSIONAL.

    Think before you post.

  4. Larry,

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this:

    I’m noticing that more and more cases of cyberbullying are being punished by school administrators but being overturned in the courts. The courts argue that cyberbullying that occurs outside of school and doesn’t interfere with school shouldn’t be punishable by schools.

    Why then, if a teacher chooses to blog about anonymous students, is she not being protected by the same courts? Isn’t it really just a form of cyberbullying?

    I’m not saying what the teacher is doing is right or wrong, I’m more or less commenting on the principle. I don’t want to start a huge debate about teachers rights and blah blah blah, but something doesn’t seem quite right about the way this system is set up.

  5. Well put. While teachers surely have the legal and constitutional right to express themselves, I believe we should hold ourselves to a high standard of positive thinking in public, at least where our own students are involved. It just doesn’t seem right to criticize students in a public way. The one thing that concerns me, though, is that actions like this might set back the perception of teacher blogging in general.

  6. Thanks for this post, Larry. I am so very glad that you blog. Because you blog to share, you blog for me, and for many many others; and I’m grateful!

    Thanks, too, for sharing Chris’s eloquent response to Nalalie. These are words worth remembering–every day.

    Sometimes it is harder to accept the reality that everything Chris says about the learners we support is equally true of the colleagues we work with. I believe that we teachers are just as flawed, messed up, imperfect, wonderful and amazing as the learners in our classrooms. I think the edublogosphere can help us to remember this as we interact with each other.

    –Paul

  7. I think we often don’t think (… I could stop there…) about the fact that when we put our thoughts into any form of electronic media, they are now out there for all to see. It comes down to the old school letter writing habit of putting it down and coming back to it; re-reading it and then sending it. If there’s any question about what’s being written there’s probably a reason we’re feeling that way. Pause, take a deep breath, then re-read it before hitting that submit button.
    I’m glad you took the time to write this and to hit the submit button.

  8. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments.

    I’m not questioning the right of any teacher to blog and say what she/he wants. However, there are many rights that we all have that are better used with discretion.

    Larry

  9. As a teacher in a small rural town with a population of about 7,000 citizens, I know that I am living in a fish bowl. I knew that when I went to university to earn my degree. It comes with the territory of being in education. It’s part of being a professional. I don’t dress,speak, or make public displays that are not good examples for students.

    When it comes to being professional some things are better left both unsaid and undone! In my opinion, blogging negative statements are included in those categories. Blogs are public! I can appreciate the frustration of said teacher,but discretion should be part of every teachers’ “code of ethics”.

  10. Larry, I am so glad that you blog. I thought a lot after reading your posts. When I was a student in China, none of my teachers had teaching blogs. Actually, they did not encourage students surf the internet at all, because they thought students are too young to control themselves, thus students would spend too much time playing games or chatting online. That becomes my belief gradually because I was raised in that culture. However, I begin to think that teachers need a way to reflect what they have learned from teaching and from the students, to share ideas and thoughts with other teachers and students and to show who they are in their blogs. As a Chinese student, I thought with typical Chinese logic in the first semester after I came to the States. I respected my teachers but do not have any involvement with teachers after class. I worked very hard to reach my own expectations which I thought would also be my teachers’ expectations. I was very tired in that semester. I knew my teacher’s blog but I never viewed it because I think blogs do not have any influence on learning or on teaching. One day, I accidentally opened my teacher’s blog, and to my surprise, I found that my teacher is a very lovely lady, although she is a little bit tough in class. She has a bunch of ideas about teaching, she posted reflections about her teaching, and she does not have such unreachable expectations to students as what I thought before. After that, I dare to talk with her after class and ask questions during office hours. In sum, blog is a very good way for teachers to challenge, reflect, show themselves and communicate with students.

  11. This is why I *don’t* blog – because I don’t express myself nearly as well as Larry or Chris or many of the other bloggers I read. Otoh, I enjoy reading, thinking, and responding.

    This is well-said. Teachers *do* live in a fishbowl, and though Natalie Monroe thought what she was posting was private or hidden (originally, anyway) she should have been savvy enough to know that nothing on the internet is truly private. What she posted was hurtful to single students (as mentioned), other students (who wonder what she was really thinking about them), her colleagues (what are they thinking about students), and all teachers (tarred with the same brush).

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