Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teacher Conduct

A while back I found a Baltimore City teacher's blog and actually called her school because she had listed her student's first names, the name of her school and her classroom number (which was the title of her blog). I left the website address with the secretary, who didn't really understand what a blog was, and after that day the blog was not updated again.

Recent news about Natalie Munroe prompted me to go through my own blog. What I found was some pictures in posts from my first year blogging. I left a few pics of my kids taken from behind but deleted any that showed our faces. I found one post that had my children's names rather than just their first initials and I cleaned that up. I also cleaned up a couple posts that were too negative and revealing and deleted, I think, four posts completely. My goal in having this blog is to share thoughts about myself and my life without negatively or inappropriately commenting on real people in my life. I could probably go and delete a few more posts that discuss my marriage, but those posts are not disparaging to my husband's character, or my own, and show the truth about the work marriage takes and the stress of raising kids.

I'd love to be like Heather Armstrong and show pictures. But I do not want that kind of public exposure. In fact, Ms. Armstrong coined the term "dooce," also the title of her blog, which is defined as being fired from one's job for one's blog. She sort of paved the path on that one. She also learned a valuable lesson and put it out there for other people to learn from.

Apparently Munroe wasn't familiar with this or just didn't care. In fact she is still supporting her right to blog as she did. I do think she has the right to blog as she wishes, but the school also has the right to, and should, terminate her employment. It is a teacher's responsibility to keep information about students confidential.
Here's what Munroe wrote in a recent post defending herself:
"But the fact remains that every year, more and more, students are coming in less willing to work, to think, to cooperate. These are the students I was complaining about in my blog. The same way millions of Americans go home at the end of the day and complain about select coworkers or clients or other jerks they had to deal with, I came home and complained on my blog about those I had to deal with."

I do share stories from teaching with my husband and my parents and sister, but I keep specific facts, such as names, confidential. A teacher should not share negative or divulging information about his/her school, the administration, the students, the parents or anyone else involved. If you don't take pride in your work or work place, find another work place! As Jackie says, teaching is a vocation.

Venting is something we all need to do from time to time, but vent where appropriate. The best people to vent with about work are colleagues. This is especially important for teachers. I'm sure Munroe and other teachers had discussed the things she put on her blog. It's necessary for teachers to discuss students because it helps us to serve them better. For instance, if I'm having an issue with a student that I want to resolve, I'll ask other teachers who have taught that student. They can give advice such as whether or not it's helpful to contact parents, or methods for motivating the student, or just generally comfort me that I'm not alone in having the issue(s). That's the type of support teachers give one another. Outside of that and talking with one's spouse/partner/closest best friend and family, it's inappropriate to blab about students or complain about one's school. The fact that millions of Americans come home and complain about work does not make it okay to do so on a PUBLIC blog when your job is a TEACHER!

Doctors, lawyers, therapists, social workers, counselors and teachers must keep work place information confidential. It's part of the job. I want students and parents to love my school. I don't like it when students complain or talk about the school being inferior. I think it's a great school with many teachers who love their subject and want it to be enjoyable for students. We do fun things for the students, like spirit week and field day and we have a lot of activities for students to do. It's often the "cool" thing to complain about high school when you're a high schooler. But when you're on the other side, as a teacher, you need to be professional. Optimism and positive energy are very helpful in the teaching profession/vocation and if you don't have that, then get out now because you'll only make yourself and your students feel worse.


Jackie said...

Lauren, I completely agree--sometimes there are times when I can see what a great post I could make out of an event, either with my kids or my students or even my husband. But every time (I hope), I stop myself, in order to save my privacy and respect the privacy of the people I'd be writing about. Does that mean I'll never be a blogger as big as Dooce? Sure, but that's okay too. I'll also never be in Natalie Munroe's position (I hope) which is even better.

Susan said...

I agree completely. I'm a nurse and we do similar things - bitch about patients/families/workplaces, sometimes making black humor jokes that would seem horrifying to the rest of the world. I once posted to facebook that I had a bad night - literally just that. I ended up almost getting reprimanded over it. Important lesson learned, and I'm thankful I still have my job after it, and that was after a very vague comment!

If I want to complain about my job, coworkers, patients/families, hospital, I will do it in private, away from eyes that could misconstrue a moment of venting into something more. Now the only things I will post that remotely involve my job/coworkers is positive things that cannot possibly be tied to anything with my employer (eg: Today was one of those days why I love my job.) My kneejerk reaction was similar to Munroe's, but after a lot of thinking, I realized that less is more and discretion is the better part of valor :D

I think it should hold true for any position, whether it is nursing, teaching, office work or legal. We all love the schadenfreude of a stupid person or situation getting mocked or called out, but none of us want to be the person being mocked, neither would we want our children, lovers or parents to be treated like that.

Lauren M said...

Susan, thank you for sharing your experience. Facebook is certainly another venue in which we all need to be careful so as not to offend those we interact with on a daily basis. I say this because I think Facebook is a great venue for discussion and sharing opinions by linking articles. In doing so we should not point out someone in our lives in a hurtful way OR negatively discuss our workplace.

Susan said...

Absolutely, I still use facebook to keep people updated on my life etc., but I am more careful with my security settings and aware of what I am posting.