My Google+ Lesson Today Turned into a Bigger Lesson than I planned

Today I demonstrated Google plus to my students as we compared and contrasted Google Hangouts with Skype and Oovoo. As I went into Google plus, I just happened to be there as Stephen Downes pointed out a grammatical mistake I made on my Leadership post yesterday.

My students said:

“Hey, Mrs. Vicki, is that guy talking about you?”

Oops. He was. I had made a grammatical mistake (again.)

Stephen Downes‘ Google plus post about my mistake.

I don't want to debate my mistake here. I made one. Period. I aim for zero grammatical mistakes and this mistake wasn't in the original post but came when I went back and tweaked the post this morning – as I often do when I think I've written something I like. I didn't proofread after I made the correction and thus embarrassed myself greatly, especially because someone of the stature of Stephen Downes caught it and let everyone know. I totally goofed up.

Quite a debate with those who know more than I do about grammar has ensued, and yet, I don't defend my grammar. Here was my final comment on Google+ about why this particular post made me so incredibly angry.

I am not qualified to debate grammar and will let those more studied in the field do this. I do know subject and verb agreement and if I had proofread more thoroughly I would have caught it. Again, +Stephen Downes the issue I have here is that you called me on a mistake but did not tag me in the post, thus denying me the ability to 1) correct myself 2) learn from this and 3) include me in the conversation. It came across as a behind the back jab. THAT I made a mistake doesn't make me angry at anyone except myself – but with what I've been through lately including a pretty bad illness – I'm going to cut myself some slack and hope that the meaning behind my words is powerful enough to bring people back to my blog.
What made me angry is that you didn't tag me in the Google plus post and I found this by accident.
Thank you +Keith Hamon for sharing your thoughts. You are more qualified to discuss this than I am.

I was angry because this “felt” behind my back. He didn't tag me and so I might not have seen it. 

So, as my students watched me make the first response and fix the original post to correct myself. We finished up and then discussed what we have learned from this. Here are their findings:

  1. Making grammatical mistakes can harm your credibility. (A good lesson for students to learn.)
  2. There are people who will publicly embarrass you when you make grammatical mistakes. (They were angry that he did this to me, but I told them that because I have put myself out there and am writing for  a larger audience, the expectations are higher for me. Although I certainly have excuses, I will make none. The mistake was mine and mine alone and I DO know better. I have to continue to try to be better.)
  3. When you talk about someone on a social network like Facebook or Google plus that it is BAD MANNERS to not tag them in the post. We discussed what would have happened if I hadn't been online at just the moment Stephen wrote this and WHY that made me angry.
  4. Sometimes when something is new even experts make mistakes. I pointed out to them that Stephen Downes is someone that I respect a lot and learn a lot from his blog. I consider him an expert in the field of educational technology. I also think that from now on he will double check his tagging of people in Google plus as I will also work harder to do a better job of proofreading. One mistake does not write his expertise off in my book – hopefully one grammatical mistake will not write someone off in the books of my readers. If it does, then so be it. I feel like people deserve the benefit of the doubt.
  5. A typo should not discredit someone's entire statement especially when written by a single author. When Stephen says the following statement, he misspells my name (I guess he didn't proofread either) – does that mean he doesn't know what he is talking about either? Of course not, he made a typo. Why does this bother me? Because failure to align subject and verb demonstrates that the writer quite literally does not know what he or she is talking about. Vicking is talking about”
  6. Making social netiquette gaffes can also harm your credibility.
  7. The standards you use for others will come back to you eventually. In this case, in the same post. He publicly called me on grammar and as he did, he made a social media gaffe, so the public timeline also was told about his gaffe because he had made the conversation public in the first place. I hate it was public but it is OK in retrospect as there are a lot of teachable moments here.
  8. You should always fix your mistakes if you can. Mistakes are human but not fixing your mistakes is unprofessional. Fix your mistakes, try to make things right.

I find it ironic that this whole thing started on a post on Leadership that I wrote On Leadership and the error was made in a piece of the article I wrote about criticism being doled out.

Now I have calmed down from my anger. (And yes, I was angry — at myself for the mistake but mostly because of feeling like this was behind my back! I don't do social media during the day and it was just a fluke that I was online when he hit enter. I would have NEVER known. Who knows where this would have gone by the time I found out. I would have appreciated at least an email that he was ranting so I could go back and fix it.)

Now, I'm glad it happened. I hope that Stephen knows I continue to respect him and I hope he will admit his mistake as I have admitted mine and that we can go forward as fellow flawed human beings and continue to share these teachable moments that invariably happen.

Don't Let Your Fear of Mistakes Keep You from Putting Yourself Out There
I also hope that those of you who write will not be afraid of writing because you know you will make mistakes. We all make mistakes — even well educated people. One mistake does not disqualify you from living or else we'd all be dead. We have to swallow our pride and back up and see what we can learn.

Remember your noble calling teacher and that it is OK to put your own mistakes on display to make a teachable moment for the students you love!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere