There’s a Smart Way to Blog… and a Stupid Way

Here we go with yet another high profile story of a teacher posting information about her job in the open space of the web and getting suspended when the bosses hear about it.

The Central Bucks School District has suspended a high school English teacher after parents complained to administrators about her blog in which she railed on her students for more than a year.

Since the original site has been pulled down, I have no way of knowing exactly what she wrote, but based on the news reports, I’m not sure I can muster much sympathy.

And her current posts about the aftermath do little to clarify or improve anything in this situation despite her writing about the “lack of respect for teachers as professionals”.

Certainly there’s always been a certain lack of respect for the teaching profession in this country. But insulting your students by name in multiple entries on a site archived by every available search engine over a year or more is not professional.

Or particularly smart.

However, this is thankfully an aberration. I can point you to many blogs by educators who regularly write about their classrooms, schools, and students, including the stupid mistakes that kids inevitably make.

What sets them apart from the few teachers who wind up on the evening news for their posts is the smart, creative, sympathetic, and positive way they present their students and classrooms, errors and all.

But beyond a negative impact on the profession, I also worry that stories like this dissuade other teachers and principals from blogging as well as from using the many wonderful tools for publishing on the web, both for themselves and their students.

And make administrators and school boards more likely to reflexively punish employees who create material with which they disagree.

If we really want to improve the image of the teaching profession, it can only be done with more transparency about what goes on in schools and greater connections to the public.

However, at it’s core, the issues involved in this and similar cases are not legal. This is an educational matter.

I’ve written a lot about the need to teach kids about the responsible way to represent themselves on the web but maybe it’s time we did the same for teachers.

Comments

  1. says

    I just don’t buy the whole “I only thought 7 people were reading it” defense anymore. How many times do people have to hear about something going viral to get the idea that anything they post might stick around or get read by people outside your circle? I like Doug Johnson’s rule: “Praise locally and complain globally.” Good way to stay out of this kind of mess.

  2. says

    Still, I have to wonder if those educators exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble in WI will support this teacher exercising her rights to free speech. Probably not—funny how that works.

    No one has to like what she wrote. I’m not here to say that it was or wasn’t professional. If I do, I’m an edublogger in a glass house and throwing stones at the same time. You might be fine with the ethics of that—but I’m not. Either it’s okay for teachers to blog from the privacy of their own homes…or it isn’t. But determining it’s okay for some and not for others based solely on content chips away at our rights and hurts us all.

    • says

      I don’t deny the teacher’s right to free speech. She has every right to blog from the privacy of her home. However, if she did use personal attacks on her students, that is unprofessional and the reaction of the school administration was quite predictable, although probably not legal or especially smart.

      Schools for the most part are very conservative institutions and hypersensitive about the inner workings being exposed to the outside world, something that I’m sure you are very aware. Which is why I think we need more teacher bloggers offering more windows into the classroom. We should be inviting the public in rather than trying to block their view.

  3. Dave says

    As recent as last week, I was able to read the blog post(s) via Google’s cache, although the cache only has the first 9 or so comments, rather than the many more that were actually posted. I’ve noticed that news stories and editorials aren’t always printing the worst bits of her post; some of them can’t be printed, and sometimes they don’t know which ones are worst.

    I think some of the worst things she said were when she got mad at students for asking questions. A journalist or non-educator might not pick up on it, but that’s basically the exact opposite of what a teacher should do. It’s practically the definition of a bad teacher. The obscenities and other ridiculousness were bad, too, but I think this is someone who just isn’t a good match for the field of education.

  4. says

    As an educator, she crossed a line. I spent an afternoon last week searching out the Google cache of the posts in question. She has questionable decision making skills at best, and was downright mean at worst. Either way, she was unprofessional. Did she deserve to get canned? Perhaps, but not for this. If I’m to believe some of the student comments on those posts, her teaching methods weren’t really educationally sound. We teachers always wind up with a challenging student or class. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    I think I’ve blogged exactly once about specific students, but I intentionally left them vague enough that even those in the know wouldn’t be able to identify them. I also wasn’t name calling; I was bemoaning the life circumstances that they face and how they affect their classroom performance. As the commenter above me astutely points out, she’s not a good match for education. She’ll look back on this as a blessing in disguise.

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