I’ve spent much of this afternoon culling my online presence, and reading guidelines (Advisories) issued by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) on the topics of social media and electronic communication.
While I’m no further ahead in figuring out what I should do about my blog, what follows are some thoughts about my online presence.
I’ll begin with a bit of backstory.
About two years ago I discovered blogging as a creative and expressive outlet. I mean, I knew about blogging before then, but I didn’t really take to it until about two years ago. I started a blog under my real name, and blogged fairly regularly for about a year and a half. My blogging was accompanied by an active social media presence – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
About six months ago I decided that I should stop blogging under my real name, so I started this blog. Now, as my first day of practicum approaches, I’m worried about my online presence once again.
Oh, if you don’t know anything about me, you may want to know that I’m studying to be a teacher in Ontario.
Right, on my old blog I was fairly open about what I was thinking and wrote without much constraint. While it didn’t generate a huge following, it remained in the public purview. I advertised the content as widely as I could, hoping to reach a larger audience. Having people read what I wrote was exciting to me. I enjoyed the small fame I felt.
Once my burgeoning fears took hold of me, I decided to leave the content of my old blog online while I focused my efforts on this blog. I don’t advertise this blog, and it doesn’t have much of a readership (only people who have asked to know about it, do). Today, however, I privatized all of the content on the old blog, deleted all of my tweets, deleted many of my Facebook status updates, deleted my Google+ account, and deactivated, or otherwise deleted, many of my other social media accounts.
The process was neither liberating nor limiting. It was undertaken with the express purpose of managing my commitment to my future profession (that’s assuming I find a job, of course). But!, what about my blog?
I don’t want to let go of my blog. I really like blogging. I like writing. I like writing knowing that people might read it. I like expressing myself through this technological medium.
I suppose that I could go back to journaling more regularly. I could even type up what I want to write, print it off, and compile it in a binder or something. But, what about my potential audience?
Exactly, what about my potential audience?
Here are links to the two documents that I read this afternoon:
- Professional Advisory – Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media
- CAPSLE 2011: Electronic Communication and Social Media – the New Frontiers
I should mention that I also googled the issue of social media use by teachers, looking for blogs and/or websites with any insight into the issue.
What the OCT documents, noted above, are very clear on is how a teacher should interact with his/her students by way of social media and electronic communication. Where the documents are lacking, is in directly addressing the issue of personal blogs and websites. I imagine that the issue of personal blogs and websites is more convoluted than that of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, because personal blogs and websites are less structured and subject to more individuality than social media sites. Of course, I’m likely not making the distinction any clearer than the documents do.
What I’m taking away from these documents, in addition to having to contact whatever school board I end up with, is that I can keep a personal blog and/or website so long as the subject matter is far enough removed from my profession as a teacher. I can’t write about my students, their parents, my colleagues, my school board, my union or federation, or any other aspect of my profession, publicly, without extreme caution and concern for the tone with which I present the material. I also can’t write about any incriminating activities I may engage in (not to say that I do, but if I happen to). I have to maintain my good standing in society by not incriminating myself or others.
I can, I think, write stories about my life outside of being a teacher, without reference to my activities as a teacher. The separation between my professional and personal lives must never be acknowledge. In fact, it must remain firmly within my own purview alone. Perhaps more importantly, I can’t let my personal reflections on life directly affect my professional practice.
I doubt that I’ll have issues with managing the separation between my personal and professional lives, but what about others? Will they be able to distinguish the person that sits in a poorly lit cafe writing from the person who stands in front of a classroom full of young students? How will the content of my blog posts be interpreted, and misinterpreted, as influencing my ability to teach students?
Sometimes the subject matter that I engage in my blog posts are questionable. They deal with topics that speak of overly self-reflective tendencies, fears, and stupidities, among many other interesting facets of my humanity. They can, of course, be good reason to question my suitability as a teacher. What blog posts allow for is an isolated approach to specific information; blog posts, mine at least, are part of a larger, hidden, context of thought and experience. They may stand in isolation for the reader, but are far from isolated from my own lived experience.
Defending my blog posts won’t get me anywhere, however. The truth of the matter is much more complex than a simple explanation (defence) of my creative process.
Unfortunately, the answers to the questions presented above requires that I seek more advice. I would love to believe that it’ll all be okay, but I’m not yet satisfied by what I’ve learned.
So, the search for a more solid foundation upon which to decide the fate of my blog continues.
What are your thoughts on this issue? If you know of any resources that address this issue, please share them in the comments.