It finally happened

No, I didn’t finally get someone to take that Canadian quarter of mine.

Something just as interesting and unlikely happened, though.

*dramatic pause*

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.

nobody reads your blog

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?


  1. Ben Naismith

    I like the alternate title! Also, I would happily take/could use your Canadian quarter.

    When I blogged, I probably would have written a bit differently if none of my students, or especially trainees, could have read it. @ChrisOzog and I had always discussed having an anonymous ELT blog with some serious ranting, but instead, like most teachers we settled on other forums for this.

  2. anthonyteacher

    I’ve had one student who has read my blog on several occasions. He came up to me during an event and surprised me by saying he enjoyed reading my latest post. I still have trouble understanding how a PhD student in computer science would find anything that I wrote interesting. I think he learned about it because a colleague would share posts via Facebook and they were friends.

  3. englishwithkirsty

    I encourage students to read my blog, but I think it makes a big difference whether you are working as a freelance teacher or for educational institutions. I do write posts about teaching, but most of them are aimed at learners. In terms of the teaching ones, I might use anecdotal stories, but nothing negative with specific details that would make a student or ex-student say “hey she’s talking about me!” A couple of students have also shown interest in my other blog, which is about beauty, travel, food etc. It gives insights into my private life that they might not get in the classroom, but I never put anything on there that is too personal, and I also think it helps that my students are adults. I guess it really depends on what the purpose of the blog is and your intended audience.

  4. Kyle Dugan

    I definitely consider the fact that my students may read my blog when writing. I think it’s healthy in that it makes you think about how they as people would react. I try to defend them and love when they surprise me. I don’t know if I’d have been as mature about it when I first started out teaching though – when the complaints or sense of exasperation that sometimes comes with teaching felt new and wily interesting. 2017 has only been my first year blogging so I haven’t yet had the possibility of students disappointed that they didn’t come off as well as a previous set, but we’ll see! But I have told and will continue to tell my students that I’m writing about them.

  5. Lina

    Wow, that’s one of the things you hardly consider when writing and then – bang! – it hits you: my student has actually read my blog. On the other hand, why not? Many people blog nowadays, and it’s nice to know your teacher has something to say about teaching.

  6. Tyson Seburn

    Good stuff. I’ve wondered about this myself but have, in fact, used my blog for a particular lesson so forced students to go to it (just the once). Otherwise, a couple students have found my Instagram, Twitter, and noticed my book.

    Do you think about students potentially reading what you write?
    – Not particularly. I try to show I’m human and beyond that I have an investment in what I do professionally, so this wouldn’t cause me concern.
    Would your writing be different if you were sure students would never read it?
    – No. I don’t think I’m any different on my blog than really anywhere else. I mention goods and not-so-goods. Really, it’s all good.
    Have your students ever talked about your blog with you?
    – Just the once, when I posted their writing on my blog so they could vote on whose was best, but then one of the comments from a reader was ruthless and I defended them. They did notice that.
    Have you ever heard of a teacher getting in hot water with a student based on what they wrote on a blog?
    – No.
    Do you have guidelines for yourself or from your institutions about what you can and should write about on blogs or elsewhere?
    – The guidelines are really to keep things anonymous insofar as no one would be able to identify who exactly I’m talking about or whose work I’m sharing for any reason unless I ask for permission from the students themselves.

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  9. ven_vve

    Hi Mike,
    Re F. Taylor – my first reaction when I read she’s not on Twitter anymore was – oh, but she came back, only she doesn’t tweet about ELT anymore. Then I had a quick look just to check, and it seems she’s gone again. 😦
    Re students reading my blog, yes, I do think about the possibility. I don’t think many actually will, but if I were to write anything that could be construed as student shaming, and someone read that, I think it might get shared around. I sometimes regret I can’t be more frank, not because I want to make students feel bad but because of the selfish need to vent and get some sympathy. Also, sometimes I think a specific example of a problem and how it was dealt with could be useful for other teachers.
    Re institution guidelines, the institution that has featured most often in my posts doesn’t have any, nor do I think they’re likely to draw any up in the foreseeable future. Although there are aspects of working for this institution that could (and should) be criticised, I don’t think my blog is the place for this (or maybe I’m just too wary), so whenever they came up it’s been in a positive context. I think my new employer might actually have guidelines. I’ve asked if I can blog about things we do at work, but I’m afraid there will be some restrictions in terms of topics.
    Thanks for an interesting post and set of questions!

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