I have been a writer in some fashion for most of my life. Journaling through childhood, participating in writing workshops in adolescence, and becoming an English teacher and joining PAWLP as an adult, I have always loved to write. It’s where I best express myself and sort out my ideas. However, now as a teacher, I find myself more careful than ever about my writing. At 29, I was raised at the beginning of the internet generation and went through college during the social media rise. Facebook debuted my freshman year of college; we were part of the first group to use it. So, it’s become a norm for me – sharing my life on the internet. But, as a teacher, I’m more aware than most of what I put online and how much of myself I share with the world wide web. I know the draw backs, the dangers, and I am careful to be respectful and conduct myself in a manner online (and in life) that I wouldn’t mind my students, parents, boss, superintendent, and my own family members reading. But as a teacher, in the last five years in particular, I’ve seen quite a few stories of other members of my profession getting slammed for their blogs and social media presence, even when it’s about teaching.
Here’s what I would like to do: I want to share my teaching ideas, research findings, classroom successes and missteps, and daily musings with the internet world. If anything, I think what’s amazing about social media is the chance for us to realize how similar our experiences are. Many of us walk this world feeling like we’re the only ones going through a given situation, and as teachers, I think we feel a lot of pressure to show a perfect face to the world. We don’t like to admit or show failures because we fear judgement (whether by colleagues or by state evaluations that may soon tie to our paychecks and our jobs). Mistakes are becoming a no-no. But I still firmly believe what my father taught me at a young age – mistakes are how we grow. Fail, fail, fail again. In failure is how we find success. So I want to share my failures and my successes, because I think we are smarter together than we are alone, and by blogging instead of just writing in a paper journal, I can get ideas and input from others in my situation. It opens up my job and my ideas to a conversation across the country or even the world, if I’m lucky, and as Schmidt and Kjellberg both noted, blogging is about building a network of ideas – whether for socializing or for research. At the end of the day, it’s both about building a community of ideas.
But I have hang-ups.
Where’s the line? How can I, as a teacher, have a social media and blogging presence about my profession and still maintain the line of appropriateness? And is the line the same for everyone or do some districts and administrators see it differently than others? Do I tell my principal that I have a blog and want to write about the happenings in my classroom (without student names, obviously), or do I write anonymously (still without student names)? Do I not write about my classroom at all and just stick with theory and educational readings to be safer? Or do I avoid opinions all together in case I cross a line I didn’t know existed or risk my opinion crossing an administrator’s opinion, without my knowledge?
The bottom line question is: as a teacher who wants to blog regularly, how do I find the line that might be invisible in what’s acceptable and what’s not as a teacher blogger? And what may be the hard and fast rules of being a teacher blogger, if I am permitted to even be one?