Why should teachers have to hide behind their blog?

In seeking out beginning bloggers this year on my quest to encourage and help. I came across another great blog Reflection 2.0.

However, after starting to blog, the author says:

“Wow, yesterday was a huge one for me in blogging education. I cried out for help on whether I have a right as an educator to blog about my experiences, and was given many resources by my PLN.”

And you’ll have to read her blog for the cries of caution coming from the blogosphere and twittersphere.

Then comes the part that looks as if it were written behind the walls of a communist society:

“After reading all of this, my bravado fled and all the horrible images of being ushered into an administrator’s office and told I’m fired started flooding my mind. I tend to react to things fairly quickly, so I changed the name of my blog to Reflection 2.0 and changed the email address in the about section. The part that killed me the most was removing a bunch of the links (still some out there I didn’t have time to get) to my classroom blog – I’m SO proud of that, I hate not being able to link to it. I know there are still some things here that could lead back to a pretty definitive ID, but at least it won’t be quite so glaring. If you have a bit, check things out and do the legwork to try to hunt me down! Let me know how long it took :-)

For the record, though, I HATE doing it this way. I use this blog as a way to connect with my PLN and who knows, maybe make valuable career contacts for the future. I’d like to be known for my contributions to the blogosphere, and it just seems kind of wrong to be doing it without full disclosure. As you may remember, before all of this yesterday, I was all excited about putting my picture up on my About page! Now, I do know that if I were to change my content and just do a resource-sharing blog with one cool 2.0 tool a day it wouldn’t be such an issue. I don’t WANT to do that though. I probably wouldn’t blog at all if that was what I had to do. “

I highly encourage everyone to go over to Reflection 2.0 and Read her post “Hiding Behind My Blog.

Here is how I respond to this:

“I was up front with my administrators about my blogging and signed up the curriculum director as one of the first readers of my blog. I asked her to let me know if there was ever anything she was uncomfortable with me blogging and she never has.

It is important to remain a professional at all times and never give away the identity of your students. However, just remember that there is great opportunity on the positive side. I’ve gotten over $80,000 worth of grant money in the form of software and services from companies who believe in what I’m doing that have benefited my students!

There is an incredible benefit including the new students that have come to the school because they are particularly impressed with our technology program. Parents expect technological excellence and you can be proof of that.

As long as you keep private internal issues and don’t air your “dirty laundry” you should be fine, however, I’ve been completely open with my administrators from day one. There is a lot of fear out there and I think it is unfounded IF teachers learn to blog as professionals.”

I am extremely disturbed by having to go to the level of being completely anonymous in order to be a teacher-blogger.

If we are to model the future for our students and we have to run and hide, what is that. Notice, I do not blame the blogger. Instead I applaud her/him for opening up and talking about what is happening and the process of thought.

Free speech is a right for all of us, however, remember as a professional, I am to protect the privacy and sanctity of my classroom where the students are protected. I am to be a professional in my disagreements with administrators and represent my school well. I believe in on-campus accountability and set up e-mail blog subscriptions and signed up my curriculum director as one of my first readers.

When I became more popular, I went and talked to my administrators about it. When I spend a lot of time on a blog post, I print a copy for my peers who know that they will not find them mischaracterized in my blog posts. I have an unfair advantage in that their side wouldn’t be told if I were to do such a thing. I take it very seriously how I act here and WANT to be held accountable.

Because I blog publicly, my school has been in numerous papers and magazines including the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Wired News, CNN Money, and countless others.

Does it make me nervous? Yes, especially at first. However, I believe we need teachers who can model how this can be done professionally. I hope eventually Reflection 2.0 will work it out with her administrators that he/she can blog “publicly” and not have to hide.

What do you think?

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19 thoughts on “Why should teachers have to hide behind their blog?

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you here, Vicki. I wrestled with this when I first started blogging, and I feel that, ultimately, I want to be held responsible for what I post. I try not to air any dirty laundry, and I try to be as professional as possible at all times. I believe that I am building an online resume of sorts, and view everything I post as a part of that resume. Thank you for your consise, well-written sentiments – and for making me think.

  2. It’s not about blogging.

    We live in a society where you must earn a living or face starvation, homelessness, or worse.

    This means that you must do what you’re told, or face being fired, and thus not able to earn a living.

    It is this system of extortion – comply or die – that causes teachers to be forced to blog anonymously not anything inherent in blogging itself.

  3. Vicki,

    My administrators are aware of my blog. Although they never discuss it with me, I know that my superintendent occasionally reads my posts.

    I’m a tenured teacher with only a little over a year to go before I retire. I would caution any untenured teacher to think long and hard before making any statement on a blog that might conceivably be interpreted as derogatory to his/her district. Our union has warned us about using email at school; blogging hasn’t been discussed because it’s not even on the radar here.

    Teachers surrender a lot of First Amendment rights when they enter the educational system. There are some valid reasons for this, including confidentiality, but it’s still a fact of our professional life.

    diane

  4. All –
    Don’t worry, I’m not under attack! Vicki and I are talking and I’ll be posting MUCH more about this. In the meantime, why not head on over and give me some advice after giving Vicki your 2 cents 🙂

  5. As a PA teacher, I have had these thoughts as well.

    I am sure I am the only teacher who blogs professionally and this is a pretty conservative area. I would like to think we could talk about issues that bother us in our blog and offer professional criticism and other viewpoints/ideas.

    Here, people will criticize behind backs and be unprofessional. Granted it is not a permanent record that way but it makes my blood boil.

    I am not going to discuss students by name, discuss internal issues, or lead the mob against my district. What has me worried is how do you know it won’t offend someone? As a professional, we have rights to an opinion but how do you know the rug won’t be pulled out from beneath?

    As usual, your professionalism shines through. I started my blog as a record of what I am learning and working through to become a better educator. I really didn’t think someone would object to that.

    Something else to think about! I have shared with a few higher ups but not the Superintendent.

    I think it is important to model professionalism and conversation for our profession and students.

  6. Vicki – Blogging is like any public forum and you can/will be held accountable for what you say or write (and we should be). Most industries including education, have published standards of conduct that employees are expected to adhere to. Usually as long employees stay within those standards problems are few. I am sure you school district has one.

    Vicky I believe your advise is spot on — that as long as Reflection2.0 author is up front, follows the school district’s standards of conduct and maintains confidentiality, airs no dirty laundry etc. she should be fine.

    But at times I have found the educational community more touchy about criticism or progressive ideas, than the military and I retired from there 10 years ago.

    So from a fairly new blogger also, my advise to Reflection2.0 is to enjoy your writing, listen closely to those like Vicky and go where your conscience leads you. — Harold

  7. Sadly I know how she feels. I work in a district where our technology coordinator is an IT person, and has no real clue as to the educational possibilities. In fact, within the first two years of working in the system he confronted my desire to help the staff in my building (my masters is in technology) and our relationship has been strained since.

    We are REQUIRED to go through our coordinator for everything. Not even the principals have the ability to post on our school site. Believe it or not in our user agreement form we as a staff are told we are not to use personal blogging sites at school. I had to ask specifically if the “blog” I established for my courses, which provides tools to my students, was allowed. He thankfully said yes; I was prepared for a battle.

    The filter system is setup in such a way that I do not have to worry about legal issues since 90% of the web 2.0 sites are blocked.

    I am frustrated beyond belief, but have worked around many of these problems by using coding on my private site when possible. If I can not code it on my server, then the kids just cannot use it at school.

  8. I agree that professional is important and that “airing dirty laundry” and betraying student confidentiality is unacceptable.

    However, as Harold points out, schools are notoriously sensitive.

    For example, if Arthus (or one of his collaborators at Students 2.0) were a student at my school and I blogged about any comments he might make regarding teachers, courses, discipline issues, etc. I would open myself up to censure, and possible reprimand, for portraying our school in a negative manner.

    Again,I advise a new teacher with no tenure protection to consider carefully what material to include in a public posting.

  9. Vicki–

    If I had it to do over again, I think I’d blog anonymously.

    I thought about it for a long time before using my real name in my blog URL, and finally plumped on the side of openness.

    But life changes on you.

    I don’t want to start a new blog to write about some stuff that I would not want associated with my public identity.

    I might, though.

  10. I think that many of the times educators who get in a rut do so because they are frustrated with situations, leadership, something…but are torn between being open and honest and the “implications” that it may have on them if they post their honest thoughts…let’s face it…transparency is tough, honesty is transparent..The reality for me (and yes Vicki, perhaps I am an idealist too) is that teachers and administrators want to do right by kids…by getting out of the echo chamber, by taking the risk, isn’t that what we are doing?

  11. Vicki, I agree with you. When I began huffenglish.com, I obviously made a conscious effort to be who I really was and not hide. I have also made conscious effort not to speak negatively about my students or school. Frankly, I get tired of reading that on some other teacher blogs anyway. The point is that as teachers, we do feel like our freedom of speech is curtailed. I wouldn’t trade the connections I have made through blogging for anything! It has been amazing, especially in the last year. At the same time, it’s frustrating to read stories like this. I feel for the teacher. I understand her decision, but I wish she didn’t feel she had to make that choice.

  12. Susan —

    I’ve been chatting with the blogger concerned and think that this is an issue we must talk about. Thank you for sharing what you do.

    Stephen —
    Yes, you can do what you are told and face being fired, however, I am an idealist.

    I left a job because the VP told me to be advanced I’d have to sleep with him. I left a job to be a stay at home Mom with my kids. Yes, we all must be gainfully employed.

    However, there are times that I have rather had the respect of myself than a job where I am forced to degrade myself to do things I would disagree with morally. There ARE things worth quitting for.

    This, however, is something that is NOT one of those things. When the blogger concerned and I talked, I advised her to talk to administration and invite them to subscribe to the blog. If they tell her our policies prohibit it, she’ll have to not blog. I do not agree with being dishonest. I do agree about fighting for what is right.

    We should teach teachers how to be professionals AND publish online as part of what we teach in college. We’ve had some teachers using the blogosphere as a personal teacher’s lounge and it has hurt us in this way.

    No easy answers here. However, I think it is always important to be honest with administration. It is the right thing to do.

  13. I have wrestled with that since I have started my blog. Reading your post and Reflection 2.0 leaves me with a horrible feeling. My purpose for my blog has changed since I started writing it. I have learned so much and hope that I too have not aired dirty laundry. It was never my intent. I hope to use my blog to help me learn more and hopefully help others on the way.

  14. I agree! Yes, it is a shame that as I read this I felt like I was reading a 1950’s editorial. I also, feel very passionately that we have a responsibility to be professional in our blogging. I try to be as professional as I can be and have always had the attitude that if I need to change something when an administrator was in the room then I shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. I will continue to blog, and more importantly I will continue to support those who are blogging! I’ve learned too much to turn back now!

  15. Hi Vicki,

    My advice to any educators who blog is to “Praise locally; complain globally.” I’d not post in a blog, anything I’d not feel comfortable being read as a letter to the editor in a local newspaper.

    All the best,

    Doug

  16. Rock Solid post! I don’t think I’d blog if I had to be anonymous… your point that hiding isn’t a good model to studens is well-taken. I think we should display what it means to be communicators when we engage in public discourse like this.

    M Arnzen
    Pedablogue:
    http://blogs.setonhill.edu/MikeArnzen/

  17. Well I just posted a long comment on the posters blog — about this topic —

    As I said on that blog
    I spent a long painful meeting on email retention for eDiscovery today….

    And if interested in that wonderful topic
    I made comments on that blog
    and I am working with some folks on creating procedures

    I have a variety of references on a webpage
    You can check those out if interested — but you may also want to do soem research on this.

    Here is a link to those references
    http://www3.dillon2.k12.sc.us/technology/PoliciesProcedures/email%20retention.asp

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