Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In Defense of Teacher Blogs

A co-worker brought me this article yesterday and it has greatly peaked my interest. A teacher in Pennsylvania was suspended when certain posts on her personal blog about her school, students and the educational system were brought to her administrators.

My co-worker's first comment to me was, "You're totally going to get fired!", which I think was a joke, but these days you never know. I've sat thinking about this for two days now because I knew I wanted to write about it but I wasn't sure what I wanted to say.

The first thing I did was go on the defensive. I know I'm not doing anything wrong here, but I suddenly felt the need to defend myself and my blog and the things I'm blogging about. I called my mom, mostly because she's always paranoid about me losing my job and then going bankrupt and losing my house and then having to move home with her and my dad (and that house is not big enough for the three of us!), and she talked me down from the ledge a bit.

The next thing to say is: I'm not getting fired. At least not for my blog. That would be ridiculous. Now I'm all about freedom of speech, but unfortunately there is a certain amount of publicity that comes with being a teacher. There a clause in my contract that talks about public behavior and acting in a way that's fitting for an educator. I try very hard to adhere to the district policy for appropriate behavior and I'd like to think that I uphold this when I'm in public and especially here on the internet. When our district rolled out new technology use policy a few months ago, I read it word for word, just to make sure I wasn't doing anything wrong, and I still don't think I am. We all need a place to complain about our jobs. Everyone, not just teachers, whine and bitch and moan, but maybe the internet isn't the best place to do that. I'm very careful with the things I post on Facebook, as I'm friends with one of our administrators and I know she's watching.

I think what I do here is different from what Ms. Munroe was reported to do. I've read some excerpts from her blog, but not the whole thing, so I'm in no way judging or denouncing her behavior. She says portions were taken out of context and I'm apt to believe her. I know if sometimes you took something I said out of context (particularly something I say during prep with my two co-workers who are basically 13 year old boys), I could be sitting where she is. On the other hand, I don't write this blog to scream and complain, instead I write it to remind my friends and family that teenagers sometimes get a bad rap. We see kids on the news selling meth and bringing guns to school and being 16 and pregnant, but that's not all teens. The majority of them are pretty good, kind of awesome and very hilarious. I really do believe that if one of my students stumbled across my blog and somehow figured out it was me writing it that they would see that it comes from a place of love and affection, not anger and spite.

Over the past few years I've been introduced to so many fantastic teacher blogs that sometimes I have a hard time keeping them all straight. I see teachers who are passionate about their students and their subjects and who are excited to go to work every day. I hope that maybe someone reads my blog and thinks these things about me, but if not, I'm happy knowing that I am all those things, even if I think that teenagers are little, OK super, ridiculous.

After my co-worker brought me the article, we had a good talk about it. My kids were working and, as I do when they have conversations, they were listening in on us. We were using veiled terms and doing our best to be vague. Two hours later my TA, who is also is the class where co-worker and I were talking, came to class with a concerned look on her face.

TA: Did you get in trouble for throwing [kid in one of my other classes who was not awesome and making inappropriate sexual comments, so I kicked him out of class and wrote him up] out of class last week?
Me: No, why would I get in trouble for that?
TA: I don't know. M, you're not getting fired, right?
Me: Why would you ask that?
TA: Well this morning you and Mr. - were talking about you getting fired and I know we were supposed to be working but we were listening and some of us were kind of worried.
Me, laughing: Honey, I'm not getting fired today or tomorrow and hopefully not any days after that. I didn't do anything wrong, everything is fine. We were talking about...just some stuff that I can't tell you about because you're my student, but maybe one day when you don't go here we can talk about it.
TA: OK, you promise?
Me: I promise.
TA: I'll probably forget, you know.
Me: I'm counting on it.


  1. While I don't know the ins and outs of your contract, nor the legal ramifications of this blog, I will give you my two cents.

    I don't see how you're doing anything wrong. You're completely anonymous. COMPLETELY. Well hidden. Well disguised. Hell, I know who you are and there's no way on earth I would know this is you.

    In that same vein, you keep all your subjects anonymous. Every student is described in vague terms, just enough to paint a picture, but in no way is it enough to discern who you are talking about. Same for the school, district, city, etc.

    And to top it off, I agree with the fact that your blog is not malicious or angry. It's funny and somehow manages to make me nostalgic. You capture the silliness of teens without making them look like idiots. The conversations you have with co-workers are realistic, without being obnoxious or inappropriate.

    Coming from a sane person: I think you're doing fine. There are insane people out there, and there's no accounting for them, but I wouldn't worry too much, if I was you :)

  2. I have to agree with what Gina said, wholeheartedly. She said it all so well, I don't have anything to add. Please keep doing what you're doing (teaching, inspiring, blogging) because it's important. And damn funny!

  3. Thanks ladies! You are both smart and practical, so appreciate your support!!

  4. As a former student that has stumbled upon a hilarious blog that may or may not be written by a former teacher from my high school days, I find your posts completely appropriate and very entertaining. By writing your blog you really just prove that you care a whole lot about your students. I think you are a great teacher(actually I know), so you shouldn't worry too much. And if it ever came to a point where it got to be an issue I guarantee there would be hoards of your students coming back to defend you (I would), because if anyone should really be a teacher it's you. Also please forgive me for using and to start a sentence my Junior english teacher would be so upset about that. :D