... doesn't mean YOU don't know how to act.
That's a line I heard long ago from a wise professor of mine, and it's stuck with me ever since. And I've been thinking about that line a lot lately.
Yes, I'm blogging again. No, I'm not going to make any claims as to whether I'll be blogging again next week, next month, or next year - I've gone through the ups and downs enough to know that I just don't know.
But I've felt the need to blog again, even if it's only once for a long time, because of the whole controversy swirling now over Natalie Munroe, a Pennsylvania teacher currently in some very hot water for a personal blog she maintained, on which she wrote some very disparaging comments about her students.
I have many thoughts on this issue, but I'll try to keep them relatively brief. My bottom line, though, is that I believe that what she did was wrong. Why?
Well, first, because she appeared to think it was okay to use the internet as her own personal slam book. In my opinion, that's wrong from a decency standpoint, and from a professional standpoint.
- From a decency standpoint, one negative side of the internet is the venom that is spewed from behind the cloak of anonymity - we see it all the time from anonymous posters commenting on news reports or blogs; and from individuals who hide behind internet facelessness to say things they'd never say in person. We lament it when we see it from our students. There's no excuse for it. And, from all accounts, some of the things Ms. Munroe wrote were just plain mean. And claiming that they're "the truth" (as in, "the truth hurts") doesn't make THE WAY in which they were said, any more appropriate.
- From a professional standpoint, I cannot understand why someone in our profession - actually, why anyone in any profession - thinks it's wise to go on the attack on the internet. Don't we, as educators, talk about wanting to teach our students about wise use of the internet, and how to be good digital citizens? There are educators all over the globe who are using digital media wisely, and thoughtfully. Often, school districts get nervous about this - and this mess is Exhibit A as to why. Professionals who use social media to speak or behave unprofessionally make it harder for other professionals to defend the use of social media in schools or by educators as reasonable and appropriate.
Even more than my concerns over her use of the internet as a way to air her grievances, though, is the nature of those grievances, themselves. While Ms. Munroe is now defending her actions and saying that she's pleased that her scandal has opened up a conversation about students today, the fact remains that the *way* in which she expressed her thoughts, the words she chose to use, reflect a deep, deep cynicism; a terrible negativity; and, indeed, a strong dislike, toward the students she was teaching. Chris Lehmann, over at Practical Theory, has articulated everything I'd want to say, far more eloquently than I ever could. EVERYONE is someone's Patrick, and our moral and professional obligation is to never give up on our students, no matter what.
If Ms. Munroe really believes what she wrote about her students, it appears that she has given up on them - in which case, perhaps she should think twice about continuing to teach.
If she doesn't really believe what she wrote, if she was just blowing off some steam, then perhaps she should think twice about continuing to blog.
A blog is not your own private diary. It is not your closed circle of friends. It is not a momentary vent at the end of an especially bad day. It is not your forum to air all of your grievances with the world - at least, not unless you're prepared for the world to air its grievances with you, in return. Words have consequences.
If you wouldn't say it in a crowded room, or into a microphone, or in front of your students - don't say it on the internet.
Just because they don't know how to act, doesn't mean you don't know how to act.