No, I didn’t finally get someone to take that Canadian quarter of mine.
Something just as interesting and unlikely happened, though.
A current student found, read, and mentioned my blog in class. I never thought it would happen in my current teaching world. I would have bet a few coins (Canadian or otherwise) against this. In fact, a few years back I had a very interesting discussion about this possibility with Florentina Taylor (who, sadly, is no longer on Twitter but is featured in an interview on this very blog here). She was surprised by a post of mine where I said the group I was teaching “was probably the nicest collection of students I have ever taught in my nearly 15 years teaching.” Dr. Taylor was concerned that former students would read it and feel bad at not being considered the nicest. My thought different. I thought since I was talking about a whole range of classes in different departments none of my former (or future?) students would feel slighted at all. I am not sure if I was right about that, to be honest.
One thing I was surely wrong about was that my students (future, current or past) would read my blog. At least one student did. Let’s call her Melissa.
If I remember correctly, it was after class or during a break. Melissa said something like “I have a question unrelated to our course… I read your blog post about using untrue stories in class and I wondered about something we did last year. In class you had us plan a travel itinerary for your friend who was coming to Korea. So, my question is… was that real?” I gave a somewhat convoluted answer saying was real in spirit and that I’ve had a few friends from high school visit the fair city of Seoul. Aspects of that lesson were untrue in that Jeff was not really coming to Korea soon (and in fact had already been). I think this is the kind of white lie that is worthwhile and reasonable. Perhaps in the interest of full-disclosure I could have said it was not strictly 100% true but when David visited this year the information we gathered was helpful. Regardless of the thruthiness issue, it was interesting to talk about something on my blog with a real-life student.
Again, this was something I didn’t expect to happen. I figured my students would not be interested in anything I’d have to say about teaching and I also thought they’d be too busy with their own studies to worry about my little corner of the blogosphere. I also thought they’d be unlikely to take the initiate to find my blog without me telling them the exact URL. I maybe had some thought most of them would be using Naver more than Google and wouldn’t be searching for any Michael Griffin related things. I recall in some classes the fact I have a blog came up and some students showed interest and asked me the address. I said something coy like, “I think you can find it if you really want to.” I just didn’t feel like sharing it, especially since I am not in it for the hits.
In not directly sharing my blog with previous students I suppose I was also worried just a little about certain things like being too honest, cursing just a bit too much, not putting my best foot forward , or not quite capturing my own views as clearly as I’d like. I worried I could paint myself in a bad way which could alter students’ perceptions of me. At the same time, I was fully aware that the internet is forever and how anything I write could conceivably be read by anyone.
Now, Melissa is a smart, cool, inquisitive, and understanding person. Hi, Melissa! I was not worried about students like her. I can’t expect all students to be like her. I was (am?) perhaps worried about students who already had an axe to grind using some nonsense I wrote to show I’m a bad person or something like that. As an example, I wrote, “Couldn’t teach today because of Confucianism” a while back and teachers presumably without any reason to think the worst of the author (and presumably with very strong reading skills) read it without the irony intended. I can sort of imagine a student talking about the author’s lack or respect for Korean culture and using this post to show how lazy and out of touch the teacher is.
I suppose this blog post is not really about anything. The title could be, “I finally have proof that the thing which was a distinct possibility all along happened and nothing really changes at all.” That is, of course, not a snappy title. Ultimately, the realization that Dr. Taylor was right about students reading the blog doesn’t change much. Maybe we’ll see a 12% reduction in F-bombs. I can’t really see any major changes here at ELT RRR.
I should say clearly and emphatically that concerns about students reading this blog were not among the reasons for my slight hibernation ( which are detailed here). It was truly just a coincidence.
In classic “Blog Like a Boss” fashion I’ll go ahead and finish with some questions for the community.
- Do you think about students potentially reading what you write?
- Would your writing be different if you were sure students would never read it?
- Have your students ever talked about your blog with you?
- Have you ever heard of a teacher getting in hot water with a student based on what they wrote on a blog?
- Do you have guidelines for yourself or from your institutions about what you can and should write about on blogs or elsewhere?