That is the question, especially in Philadelphia where a teacher lost her job because of what she wrote on her blog. I don’t want to write about her but about what it means to be writing about education in a 2.0 world. The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Chris Lehmann, who it turns out was quoting Christian Long, in saying that if you don’t want to shout it in a crowded hallway for all to hear, you should not be including it on your blog. Every word that we publish goes out to the world, and when we, as educators, write our thoughts, the audience is not anonymous. The audience has the potential to be full of other educators, parents and as well as the general public. The ability in today’s world for teachers to learn from each other is so significant. We do not need to master it all; we can join together to develop the best for our students. We need to share our successes and our failures, so that we will all become stronger in our practice.
While it can be tricky to write about school and students, it is possible if you are alert. The issue from an earlier post of “First Do No Harm” applies equally here. We must only speak about students in ways that build them up. We must be as fiercely protective of each student as a mother bear is of her cubs. If there is a discussion about fault or something that went wrong in the classroom, it needs to be the teacher who is accepting responsibility. There is plenty to write about how a lesson could have been taught in a better way or what a teacher learned from a mistake.
Sitting in front of a computer makes writing feel very private, almost like writing in a diary. And it can be that, as long as the Publish button is not pushed. It is only the author’s at those times. But the moment that the decision is made to present your ideas to the world, to push the Publish button, the distance and anonymity evaporate. Your thoughts are there for all of the world to read and respond to. That is the wonder and the possible horror of blogging. We each explore and then expose our thinking for all to see. It becomes part of the public record, gone from the safety of our private world.
Unlike in daily conversation, however, as a blogger, I am not there when my words are read. They have to stand alone and explain my thinking. If I rush to send my words out, or if I respond too quickly to an event in my life, I run the risk of speaking without clarity or without wisdom. We need to read and review each post to make sure we are attaining the highest possible standards when speaking about students.
Blogging is a wonderful way for educators to share their insights and frustrations with teaching in the 21st century. We can grow together and adapt to the changing world as we support each other. We just need to remember that our audience has the potential to be vast. If you don’t want your principal, your parent body, your friends to be reading your entries, do not write them, or write them and do not publish them. It is critical as educators that we model the best uses of the internet. We do not want a backlash from administrators, worried that they can not trust their teachers. We want to demonstrate the benefits to our practice and those of other teachers when we listen and learn from each other.