Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blogging Your Frustrations as a Teacher

A few weeks ago, I was experiencing something just short of an internal meltdown concerning an issue I was having with students at the school where I currently teach English. I was so angry about it that I wrote out an explosive Facebook status about it, coming pretty close to outright insulting them.

My former high school Japanese teacher saw it and sent me a private message warning me about what I post on Facebook, and suggested that I find someone to talk to privately about it. I felt guilty about making my post public and deleted it soon after.

In an age where sharing feelings openly through social media is normal, sometimes it's easy to forget that there ARE consequences. Anyone who knows the story of Natalie Munroe knows this. It doesn't matter how you feel or who sympathizes with you--you can still get fired if the authorities call for it.

Despite being a usually quiet person, I can be very outspoken and have often let out my frustrations in an honest, yet understated way. (The truth is that I can often be much more harsh than I sound, which sounds pretty harsh to some people already.) So being a teacher of English to over 700 children, I'm not going to lie and say my job is without problems. But there is a line that I cannot cross, should I choose to recount a story.

The two most important rules are to 1) don't give names, and 2) don't reveal the name of the school. Sure, I live in Japan and blog in English, but that doesn't mean that I'm immune from being discovered. More and more Japanese people--and even high school and middle school students--are learning English. And they may very well discover you over the internet if they look hard enough.

Another important rule is to simply not be outright insulting. I totally sympathize with you if you have a bunch of jerk kids in a class. I know the feeling. But instead of calling them jerks and a failure to society with no redeeming qualities--even if you honestly believe it to be true--just express your own frustration and difficulty with handling the situation. And if you absolutely must be brutally honest, don't leave your name, or your initials, and definitely not your photo on your blog, like Ms. Munroe did. Instead, tell a close friend, or keep it in a private journal. You might actually end up feeling better after doing so, to the point where you don't think it's necessary to reveal your thoughts publicly.

And while this isn't directly blog-related, do remember that a few jerks in that class means exactly that--a FEW. This is something I forget a lot. When a group of students cause problems, it's easy to use the phrase "bad class," even if there are some good kids in that class, and even when MOST of the class is good and the "bad" group is only made up of 5 or 6 kids. So before you make that Facebook status about how much you can't stand "that class," remind yourself that it's not everyone.

Blogging is one of the many things that teachers have to be careful about. You can argue "Freedom of speech!" all you want, but that doesn't mean that everyone has to accept what you have to say, especially the ones that have the power to fire you.