We got up early and went for a canoe ride this morning down the canal that runs parallel to the Delaware across the street from our house. The sun was peeking through these towering beech trees that lined our route, and the melodies of the songbirds crested in yellow and red and green made for an almost surreal moment. It was as peaceful a time as I’ve had in quite some time. Really wonderful.
Not so in the edblogosphere, however. Once again, we’re feeling another wave of angst, not just from the growing number of “kids attract predators in blogs” stories but from teachers and students who are learning the hard way what online publishing is all about. More evidence, I think, of that ungainly adolescence we’re in the midst of, the one where, as Terry so rightly continues to assert, the rules get made up as we go along.
EVERETT, Wash. – A teacher’s extracurricular writing has landed him in some hot water. In a personal blog, an Everett high school teacher compared some of his students to prostitutes.
It all started with a recent dance at Cascade High School where tradition is that some female students dress up like call girls.
The teacher, Andrew McNamar, writes daily personal blogs about educational issues, such as cheating and accountability.
One recent posting dealt with junior prom night. He wrote he was disappointed with the principal for letting it happen, saying: “The unfortunate part about tonight was the crashing of the dance by the ‘Senior Sluts’… dressed, well, like hookers.”
Another line says, “…two of them I really respect as individuals and students. The other three, well, it was predictable…”
Some of the high school seniors were very upset.
The Everett School District sent a letter to the teacher with the simple message not to do it again.
The teacher in turn sent a letter home apologizing for his posting, saying he was sorry for causing any pain and embarrassment, explaining that his choice of words was poor.
The comments that follow his apology post are worth the read if you want to get some sense of the messiness of this process and the value of a space where the ideas can be shared.
Example two comes from Barbara Ganley’s class where some of her students got together socially last week and created a spur of the moment post to the class blog that Barbara subsequently had to pull. From the apology post from one of the students comes this:
The idea was brilliant: get drunk, wait for people to say funny things, and then post a series of EL170 quotes on our sacrosanct mother-blog homepage. In an instance of drunken idiocy, I created under my own name an entry entitled ‘Behold Writing Games.’ Hardly. I should have called it ‘Behold EL170 Students’ Taking Advantage of Their Blog.’
But even in this bleak moment, the blog instructs. Read what the students say about their space, about how they violated it, and what they learned from it. It’s inspiring.
In both cases, poor decisions lead to a greater understanding and learning. This is what makes me most sad when I hear that entire states are blocking Flickr in schools and that other districts make it a violation of their Acceptable Use Policy to publish to a Blogger blog. It such a missed opportunity for teachers and students to learn about what it means to be a part of the larger conversation, about building communities of learners, about actually contributing ideas beyond the stale four walls of the classroom.
I know I’m mixing the metaphor here a bit, but adolesence means making mistakes. I tell my kids ’til their eyes roll that mistakes are a wonderful gift, because that is when we learn. There are many ways to deal with adolescents. Locking them down and trying to keep them protected may have some short term return, but in the long run they learn nothing about how to make choices, about how to respond to adversity, about how to manage the vicissitudes of life that we will never be able to protect them from.
Blogging is not journaling. Blogging is learning. We have all the evidence we need to make the case.