A Blog of One’s Own
Young teachers find “tech therapy” lets them reflect and connect online.
What can you expect on your first day of school? Why are you intimidated by the teacher’s lounge? How do you deal with the three students in the back who insist on talking through your class?
Sure, you’ll eventually work through such situations on your own, but in the meantime, wouldn’t it be nice to connect with peers who are dealing with the same things?
Not surprisingly, a new generation of educators is blogging its way through those first few years.
Practical advice, searchable subjects, and dialogues in the form of posted comments make this flexible community ideal for new educators, who may have limited off-hours time to “talk” and who may prefer the anonymity of cyber-identities. And it’s not all venting and commiserating; the most compelling blogs give plenty of screen space to interpreting the big issues and celebrating classroom triumphs big and small.
Here’s a sampling of what we found when we combed the blogosphere for new teacher voices.
I Got the Job! Now What ?!?
“Every time I have ever been in a classroom, someone else had already set it up and laid out all the intricacies I am now facing. I think that colleges could send students to teachers before the school year starts so they can see what takes place before the kids arrive.”
The First Day of School
“I am really nervous about the first day of school. Every young teacher, I’m sure, worries and frets, anticipating that moment of first standing in front of the class. How will they see me? Will they respect me, or be laughing inside? What if they’re laughing outside?”
—Hanne Denney, blogger for Teacher Magazine
“Throughout the whirlwind of the day, I became more comfortable and confident in my position as ‘Teacher.’ By the end of the day, I was happy but extremely exhausted. My feet, shins, and lower back all ached from all the laps I had (compulsively) walked around student desks. Emotionally, I felt especially drained … but at least the children had given me a good first impression.”
—Laura Fridley, blogger for Virginia Education Association
It’s Not a Corner Office With a View
“Your first year is not going to be easy … you are probably spending 8 hours a day in a fluorescent-lit, institutional grey or yellow, cinderblock room that may not even have a window. There ought to be a new diagnosis for PNTD: Post New Teacher Depression.”
—Amy Loves Books
The Emotional Roller Coaster
“My experiences were probably not all that different from those of any other first-year in Teacher Corps. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to bang my head against the wall, I got hopeful, I got discouraged, I felt like a failure, I felt that I meant something important to one of my students.”
—Long Skirt, Blue Jacket
What Not to Do
“Don’t say you’re going to call home if you know you probably won’t feel like it. In fact, don’t say you’ll do anything that you’re not 100% sure you can do that day. Don’t show movies that you’ve never watched yourself, or teach books you’ve never read.”
“There’s always the chance that a parent will get you on the phone and realize that you’re only twenty–something and you have no idea what the hell you’re doing or why anyone thought you could be put in charge of all these children.”
—Amy Loves Books
“I’m realizing that all this teaching stuff isn’t instinct. Every minor thing is loaded with potential meaning and consequences and took a surprising amount of time for teachers to decide upon. I am already thoroughly convinced that teaching is the most challenging endeavor you can find. Why climb Mt. Everest when you can teach middle school?”
To Post or Not to Post?
You might think of your blog as a virtual teacher’s lounge in which you do most of the talking, but always keep in mind that anyone can read it, link to it, or quote it. Teaching is emotional work, and it’s always worth thinking twice before you post something you might regret. A few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t type your tirade! When you’re processing the negative stuff, make it your rule of thumb to type it, print it, tinker with it, even sleep on it, and then take another look before posting it to your blog. In the end, your remarks can be just as convincing, but they’ll look much more thoughtful.
- Anonymity isn’t guaranteed on the Web, even with a clever screen name and pseudonyms for all involved.
- Teachers are highly respected in their comunities, and what they say about schools carries weight with the community. All the more reason to choose words carefully and think how they might be reused by others.
- If you’d prefer to start out in a more controlled environment, try composing a letter to the editor for your local paper. Or post some responses to online message boards and see how other readers respond to what you wrote.
The Virginia Education Association asked first-year teacher Laura Fridley to blog about her debut year at the head of the class. “It’s given me a chance to reflect on the good things, on things I could improve on, and sometimes it re-centers me,” explains Fridley. She encourages other new teachers to consider blogging. “It takes time, but it’s worth it. I have a record of my first year. And it’s opened up communication lines for me in my new school.”
If you’re ready to give it a try, check out the community blog especially for new educators.