It’s a funny thing when you find out your students read your blog.
I don’t know why I was surprised at first. New posts are automatically published on Twitter and Facebook – two very public spaces. Although my blog is mostly my own mental dumping ground, I do enjoy sharing my experiences with others.
The connected educators in my PLN have given me so much inspiration, information and insight that I would like to contribute in some small way. However, given the open nature of the internet, I am cautious about the digital footprint I am leaving behind. If you read my page you will see that you have access to a lot of information about me – just scanning my résumé is like taking a short journey through my life. I do not write under any pseudonym or assume any false identity. I do not hide my beliefs, my bias, or my occasional naiveté. My shame and my pride are on public display. My digital presence is one of honest and open reflection. Even my poor writing and grammar are available for all to criticize – though no one has so far (this is probably a good example – am I even using these brackets properly?)
That being said, as educators we have to be extremely careful about what we are sharing. At the very least we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the impulsive adolescents we mentor. I don’t believe a public blog is the appropriate venue for rants on our personal frustrations with students, colleagues, etc….Save it for your partner or a close friend. We need to be mindful of our audience and loyal to our intentions. It is also my personal opinion that we should extend this discretion beyond just our professional online presence. It bothers me when I see teachers post sarcastic comments about the poor quality of student work etc…on social media sites. I understand that the intentions are mainly to be humerous and garner a giggle or two, but frankly it’s not nice. I know that if my thin-skinned student self saw it, I would be deeply hurt. I think sometimes we forget that words harbor immense power and longitude, especially when they come from people we respect and admire. I forget most of the praise I received in high school, but I can vividly recall moments when teachers revealed their disappointment in me or my classmates. An English teacher once told our class that she had taught prison inmates who were more worth her time. We were a chatty group, yes, but not exactly murderers and thieves. And while it’s certainly not the worst insult in history, it sure stung a group of sheltered fourteen year old girls! Although it did not exist at the time, I can imagine how it would have felt stumbling upon this as her Facebook status. Not only would her hyperbole haunt my long-term memory, but it would also be preserved on the internet for all to see. Now I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, but THAT golden nugget is permanently engraved in my mind. Gee thanks.
I have been thinking a lot about this after a recent meeting we had at work about the “Responsible Use Agreement.” This is essentially a contract that students and staff must sign about appropriate use of our school issued computers. Our input was requested on how to update the document, which I really appreciated. However, it turned out to be quite a contentious topic as we started to discuss where to draw the line between our personal and professional online selves. There was no resolution, only healthy discourse. It was interesting to hear different people’s perspectives and made me wonder if I am too prudish in mine. Regardless, I will continue to be sensitive to the fact that my students are reading. In fact I would encourage it. That way they can see the power of reflection and evaluation – and self-restraint for that matter. See guys, I practice what I preach!
If any of my current or former students are reading this, remember to pause and ponder before you post. There’s no “delete” button for people’s memories or your own conscience. And there’s no “⌘-Z” for your reputation either.