This morning, a concerned friend emailed me an article about a teacher in Philadelphia fired for the content on her blog. While I appreciate his concern, I am not going to stop blogging about teaching. He raises an interesting point, though. Where does the line between freedom of speech and overstepping your work boundaries fall?
To me, it seems pretty obvious that you do not talk poorly about the administration at your school. That would be about as smart as calling your boss an a-hole on the internet. Likewise, I would never write about hating a student or their family, even though I might write vaguely about my frustrations as a teacher with said student or family. For me, the trouble arises when you start to draw the line in the sand. If one comment is not protected under free speech, then is the next teacher going to be fired for expressing frustration instead of hatred?
I think it is absolutely essential that I have the right to tactfully share the good and bad parts of my job. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, teachers get bashed in the news left and right for being lazy complainers, (what, we only work nine months out of the year, right?). I consider it my little contribution to the teaching world to speak up and share what my job is actually like in hopes that maybe a couple people begin to see teaching differently. After all, education will not change unless people know what it is like for teachers in American classrooms.
To be honest, I had no realistic vision of teaching until I started doing it, so I do not expect others to understand unless they listen to our experiences. Not only do teachers work far more than their contractual obligation to be on campus from 7:30AM-3:30PM, but they also put up with a lot of pressure to successfully teach every kid. Now, if you’re a teacher, I hope that is your goal, regardless of the pressure, but it still does not take away from the reality that there are factors outside of a teacher’s control that make this battle extremely difficult, even if the good teacher continues to fight it everyday.
I’m sure if you read my blog, you already pick up on those nuances of teaching, but that is one of the main reasons I risk catching flack; I want to give an honest insight into the realities of my profession. However, that’s not the only reason I write about teaching. My other, equally-important reason for speaking up is because it helps me survive an extremely stressful job. By sharing, I make connections with other teachers that help me feel far less alone and inspire me to keep teaching, to push myself to be a better teacher, and to try new techniques to help my students.
Now, when it comes to the teacher fired in Philadelphia, do I think it is fair? Maybe, I don’t know all of the details. But, whether I agree with her choices or not, it does make me worry that her situation has opened the door for more teachers to get in trouble for their blogs. Will it make me stop blogging? Absolutely not. Instead it leaves me fiercely committed to my first amendment right to share my experiences as a teacher. Probably not what my friend was going for by sending me that email, but still grateful to him nonetheless.