Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blogging: Can we really say what we want to say?

This post is a response to the recent news of a local teacher whose blog posts about students have resulted in her suspension from her position.  It hits very close to home, as I taught at the middle school right next door for five years in the beginning of my career.  Haven't seen the news?  You can read it here.   

My first response to reading the article was, "She should have known better than to post such things in a public forum."  While I still believe this teacher showed poor judgment, I am growing even more disheartened by some of the comments being posted on the news websites.  Commenting on this teacher's bad judgment is one thing, but some have berated her to such an extent that they have actually done precisely what they condemn this teacher for doing.  This has become a cycle of put-downs, slurs, and general nastiness.

As a former teacher, and one who plans to teach again in the future, I can't help but feel let down by some of the comments that criticize teachers for lack of professionalism; after all, the blog in question was created by one teacher, not all in the profession.  One comment read:

"...this is one more reason our teachers are losing respect from their students and parents. In the old days, and I do mean old days, teachers were considered professionals, that was before Unions took control. Then teachers became just working people like everyone else. They would Strike for more benefits, and were not concered about their students, but more about money. Now with a teacher posting blogs like Monroe did, only puts some thoughts in parent and students minds, that to the teacher it is only a job. They are not teaching for the love of working with children...."

This comment saddens me, and makes me wonder if this person holds some deep-rooted feelings about teachers and unions, and is simply using this incident as a forum to comment on larger issues.  In any case, I choose to remember my experiences as a teacher.  I have fond memories of students and parents, while I also remember those that caused grief for seemingly no reason.  Similarly, there are those in the public who slander teachers for various reasons, while a great many respect us and value the positions we hold.  It is no use to focus solely on the negativity.

I also take issue with the notion that teachers must love their students, and all teachers must be called to the profession much like those called to a life of religious service.  The commenter certainly hints at the fact that those who do not love teaching or working with children cannot perform their jobs adequately.  This is a tough one for me, as I actually greatly enjoyed my work, and thoroughly cared for each of my students.  However, I was a single woman without any children of my own at the time I was teaching, and now that I am a mother with a family of my own, I know that when I go back to teaching, it will be with a different set of priorities.  My family will be number one.  Always.  Period.  That does not mean I will not love my job and care for my students, but it does change the fact that teaching will not necessarily be a fulfillment of my life's dreams, but will be a way to use my skills and intellect; likewise, no one can ignore the fact that an additional salary helps a family greatly.  We do work for money, after all.  All of us do.  

So, this teacher took issue with the sense of entitlement she saw among her students.  I have seen such things as well, and was bothered by it too.  I have done my fair share of end-of-the-day complaining to colleagues, friends, family, my husband, and I doubt there is a single person out there who hasn't complained about their daily grind, no matter what it is, or how much they usually like it.  We can't admonish this teacher for her feelings.  We simply can't.  But we can take a lesson from her, and remember to take our frustrations to appropriate outlets, or better yet, to use them to make a change for the good. 

The other major issue I have considered over the past few days regards the right we all have to express ourselves through online forums.  Whether blogs, Facebook, comments on news articles, emails, etc., teachers do have the right to write what they wish.  The workplace cannot dictate whether or not a teacher is permitted to have a Facebook account, just as teachers and school officials cannot dictate whether students have cell phones.  There can (and probably should) be rules and guidelines to help all use the media in a responsible way (i.e. students should not carry phones to class, teachers should have private FB accounts, etc).  When it is my time to return to the classroom, I wonder if someone might happen upon this blog and question the personal nature of it.  Is our blog offering too much information about me and my family that students and their parents can access?  I wonder who defines "too much" and to what extent would a future employer encourage me to stop posting or delete the blog?  These are just thoughts, and no one has hinted at such a thing ever happening to me specifically, but I do wonder.  

As I read over my post, I am questioning whether I should publish this.  Is this something that could come back to bite me?  I cannot say what the future holds exactly, but I know that I don't really want to be a part of a world where a thoughtful analysis of a topic cannot be expressed.  This is something I genuinely encouraged my students to do in their writing, even when their opinions differed from mine.  There are probably those out there who disagree with me; no doubt there are.  If they happen upon my blog, they are free to comment and question in the same manner in which this post was written.  All that considered, as soon as I am finished proofreading, I will hit "publish post" and I suppose the world will continue turning. 

So there you have it, my two cents on this topic.  I'll be back to photos and videos and Luke's milestones soon, but I simply had to share my musings on this subject.

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