My students were taking their weekly quiz. It was going to take some time, and not just because there were a lot of terms on the board for them to identify. Quite of a lot of the class wasn’t there the week before — some from complications after testing and a senior schedule, more from ditching — and several, but not even close to most, had fallen behind. I almost heard praying.

Not too long after they had all started, and once their grumbling and whining had subsided, another teacher in our department walked on in. He’s an intense person, and whether or not he’s been teaching longer than I’ve been alive depends on whether you start counting the minutes after birth or at conception. One affectionate nickname I’ve heard within the department: the Cobbler.

The Cobbler looked me over, and started leading me out of the door. Then he said:

Can I borrow you for a minute or two?

Of course.

My students were in the middle of a quiz, so it was pretty fortuitous timing. Coincidental, even. He led me outside, and then to a table at the end of our second-floor hallway. We each pulled out a chair and sat down.

I know I’m not your master teacher, but I was wondering if I could offer you some advice. Can I do that?

Sure.

Now, I’m the lead teacher here, and I’m kinda in charge of curriculum, but what I’m about to offer you is unofficial advice. This does not come from the school. This just comes from me, unofficially. O.K.?

O.K.

His voice now had the intonation and delivery you’d hear once or twice a day Mr. Goldsmith’s office. Three parts I-caught-you-and-you-just-don’t-know-it-yet, one part apocalyptic undertones. I don’t know him well enough to make a judgment, but I’d be willing to bet that his voice almost always sounds like that.

We, the department, are aware that you’re blogging.

Oy.

More tomorrow.

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  1. God.
    What does that mean … are you in trouble or something?
    Is he warning you against expressing ideas?
    How will you proceed, friend?

    Kevin

  2. TeacherMom

    First of all, why the hell did he pull you out of class for that discussion? Is his purpose to rattle you and then force you to walk back into the class? VERY unprofessional.

    Second, he is obviously trying to make you sweat. He is disingenuous when he says that his conversation is “off the record”. What is his point then? If it’s an off the record between professionals, why didn’t he wait?

    What does he want to you do, stop? If so, why? The other teachers must feel threatened. As a student teacher, do you feel comfortable discussing this with your AP? I have never seen a post where you have violated a kid’s privacy. You pose interesting questions for people to respond to and anyone with efficacy should be ok with that.

  3. That is pretty scary. Proceed with caution. I’ve been told too many times not to rock the boat until you get tenure. Once you get tenure apparently you can do whatever you want.

    I am a pretty new reader to this blog, and I haven’t dug all that deep in the archives, as to how controversial topics covered are, but I would be concerned about this conversation.

    Before you are approved for tenure, they can fire you at any time for anything. And approval for tenure is such apolitical process you don’t want to step on toes. So don’t rock the boat until tenure is granted….

    I would say if your content doesn’t mention names specifically and the most controversial stuff is handled tactfully you can keep doing what you are doing.

  4. Mr. Intrested

    The issue here is your reference to other teahers that can result in an accurate identification as a person responsible for your telling of the account. We care not that you BLOG good go for it bounce ideas off people. But your approach and tone refelect an arrogant pompous and immature approach to the profession. You seem to have no consideration for the students and fellow teachers you discuss. The caution from the lead teacher may have just been to let you know that you display these less than social or friendly characteristics. He may have just been trying to help you with your future job hunt and how you might approach future colleagues.

  5. Hmmm… who is this “we” of whom you speak, Mr. Intrested [sic]? Wait… the use of “we”… the bad spelling and punctuation right after the “curse of knowledge” post…

    *grabs some popcorn*

    Editor: This isn’t helping …

  6. @Doug,

    I feel like the don’t-rock-the-boat-without-tenure thing is a myth designed to scare impressionable young teachers. That or the administration at my school really DON’T know who I am at all.

  7. Wow, that’s serious. I’ll tell you what, sir. I too have had a similar situation where people started talking about my blog, and I laughed. I know people will find my blog because I name it my own name but without even reading it, people are already questioning my professionalism, and that’s unfortunate. If people actually took the time to see what I’m saying, they’d notice that I’m not saying anything different in real life than what I’m saying in my blog, but people always want to dig up dirt in a dirt field i.e. it’s already there, what more do they want? Good luck with your situation there, and hopefully you’re good at handling what’s a weird situation (especially from what I’m seeing in one or two of the comments.

  8. Mr. H, Mr. Bogush: This is only the first post of a series. It had turned out long, so I decided to break it up over a couple of days.

    TeacherMom: I appreciate the concern, but although I ended today’s entry on a dramatic note, the man in question had a point, and a fair one. I’m just taking my time getting around to it.

    The students were taking a quiz at the time — my master teacher was in the room — so there was no instructional time lost.

    Mr. Cochran: I haven’t gotten too controversial. Mr. Interested below you pretty much hits the nail on the head — I just haven’t gotten there yet.

    I don’t like reading or writing long posts, so I’m breaking it up over a couple of days.

    Mr. Forest: A few words of yours stick out, and I take it you haven’t read too much of my archives. Arrogant. Pompous. Careless disregard for students.

    I have written no perspective on the meeting yet, and I made only observation. Any meaning you pull from my words is, so far, your own.

    Mr. Wasserman: I certainly hope you’re right.

    Mr. Vilson: I wish people would read my blog before criticizing it. I hope Mr. Forest reads the links I provided.

  9. rdsc

    Were you that surprised? Surely not.

  10. Gina Marie

    Yeah — I am first year teacher and I’ve purposely not blogged about my experiences in the classroom because of all the don’t-rock-the-boat-without-tenure scare. Not sure of the truth, but I am not willing to find out. The whole politics behind teaching has really turned me off though. I had no idea people could be so malicious and sneaky for their own personal gain.

    Good luck. I have no good advice, but you have my sympathy. If your school is like mine, teachers tend to be intimidated by their forward thinking colleagues. It’s a devastatingly competitive career, when it should be anything but.

  11. samjshah

    That’s scary, and knowing me, I bet those words would be running through my head the entire day. Keep us apprised of what happens, if you can. I’ve really enjoyed blogging, but I always have in the back of my mind this little censor buzzing. [So things I’d like to talk about (parents, kids excuses, learning differences, etc.) have to remain vague generalities or just talked about at the local watering hole with fellow teachers from my school.]

    In any case, I wonder what a public school thinks about blogging about teaching practices — like your blog is. For me, it’s the best professional development I could imagine because it keeps me reading what other teachings think about and do in the classroom, which gets my mind whirring, and it makes me articulate things I wouldn’t explicitly think about.

    I have a feeling my school would be okay with it (it is a school that claims to be big on technology, reflection, and professional development) if they knew (some do), because I keep things on a very general level. But I don’t know. A nagging feeling tells me that maybe I’m deluding myself.

    (And your blog is amazing, in case not enough people tell you. I’m addicted.)

  12. I would agree with Mr. Interested…

    “The issue here is your reference to other tea[c]hers…”

    Though you don’t use names, if they happened across your blog, and they work with you, they know exactly who you’re talking about. And I tend to agree that the approach and tone of many of your blogs, though that is what intrigues me about your experience, would make me wary if I was a teacher within your school.

    Don’t stop blogging. Just blog smarter.

  13. Mr. Richard: Not really surprised. I had a sort of advance notice earlier that morning.

    Ms. Marie: I don’t think they’re intimidated. They do, apparently, think I’m arrogant.

    Mr. Shah: I had thought things were on that general level, but apparently not enough.

    Thanks a lot for the comment, by the way. It is much appreciated.

    Ms. Jae: At what level does that end? I can’t really describe an issue or concern I had with my master teachers without referring to them as such. Pertinent detail such as that improves the writing, and often makes the experience relevant.

    In general, though, I agree. I intended to write in general terms — apparently, I hadn’t enough. That’s tomorrow’s blog.

  14. ionestar

    Hi,
    I’m not a teacher… just an adict to your blog. When I first started reading your blog my first impression was that you were a bit pompous and liked sarcasm… but as I continued reading your blog my view of you changed. Perhaps some people are having “that first impression” I once had. And also your ID picture doesn’t help🙂 Finally, I do agree that reporting some conversations you had with other teachers is not very nice. Besides that, I think you are cool. These are my two cents. Take Care.

  15. Ms. Cleo: I hope it’s as simple as that. Thanks for your two cents.

  16. dkzody

    Looking forward to the next chapter…you work with an interesting group.

  17. I spoke with a few veteran (26 yr 34 yr) teachers at my school and they both said similar things, in short, assume administrators and parents will be reading your blog.

    These teachers are both part of the self-proclaimed “Dinosaur club” and I think benefits of technology and blogs aren’t really in their mindset.

    I will be very interested to see how this plays out….

  18. Ms. Zody: I have no complaints.

    Mr. Cochran: I don’t think the benefits of technology and blogs are the issue, fortunately.

  19. Q

    Hence one reason I decided to go anonymous…

    More to the point, they have a point (reading into what I surmise was the issue). In some situations, regardless of how true your words, absolute discretion is mandatory. If your blog can be easily found by Googling your name, even relatively minor issues can be unprofessional to mention for the same reason you wouldn’t gripe about a fellow teacher to your students directly.

    That said, I love the blog. In fact, you are the only student teacher blog I have come across thus far, which has been quite valuable for someone soon headed down that road himself (albeit with a few more years of life experience as a backdrop). And you do it well to boot! Keep on trucking.

  20. I used to be anonymous, but the site kept turning up in Google searches, anyway.

    Thanks for the praise, and for the advice. Despite what the department may or may not think, I heed both.

  21. Q

    To be honest, I find the whole situation ridiculous even if I understand the drive behind it. Things like this are what make me a closet transcendentalist.

    (I choose to remain optimistic)

  22. Oy indeed. Good luck on this. So far, you haven’t given any indication any fatal hammers are about to drop.

  23. I was asked to help “seed a conversation” about teacher rights and responsibilities in the digital realm at my school last week… here’s what I came up with, in case it’s of use:

    http://butwait.pbwiki.com/Digital-Citizenship-for-Educators

    I have this image of Elmer Fudd popping up in my head… “Be vewwwy careful!” Best of luck.

  24. Take it from another Baxter: Teachers NEED to be blogging. When you’re ready to be supported, drop us your resume.

  25. Remember the scene in the movie Pitch Black when the torch is lit and held up and we catch a glipse of our main character (Vin Diesel aka Riddick) surrounded by thousands of menacing creatures approaching – but just stopping – at the edge of the circle of light?

    You are shining a torch light precisely where teachers prefer darkness: the inner sanctum of their classrooms…that mythical cave where learning mysteriously occurs because the instructors hold, guard, and dispense the Holy Grail of Great Truths and Meaningful Learning which can never be exposed to public view, let alone scrutiny. [And to which newbies, neophytes, and the un-tenured must earn, by the Grace of God and the Blessings of the Staff Cobblers, the privildge of being exposed…]

    Depending upon the strength of your convictions, and as long as you avoid libel, avoid breaking any specific school policies or directives from above, you should proceed cautiously. But proceed nonetheless.

    Keep the criticisms honest and constructive, not personal or vindictive.

    Oh…and one other thing:

    Get a bigger / brighter torch!

  26. Mr. Q, Mr. Burell, Ms. Shelley: I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks, all.

    Mr. Baxter: I’ll do so immediately. Chances are, if you’re in California and not in Los Angeles, I’ll accept your job offer; even if it involves in-state relocation at a moment’s notice.

    By the way, I hear Mr. Meyer needs a job.

    Mr. Farr: The irony, of course, is that there was no criticism involved in that offending post. I just made a vaguely recognizable department figure look bad.

  27. ken

    @Greg: “remember the scene in Pitch Black?” Um…I don’t know anyone who remembers Pitch Black. Good for you, you cinema hound!

    @Baxter (author of this blog): I think Doug Johnson once wrote, “criticize globally, praise locally”.

    Don’t know if I agree, but it fits right now.

    Keep your head about ya’!

  28. Mr. Ken: Again: My offending entry contains no criticism.

    I have read that, though, and I will keep it in mind.

  29. Bookmarked this blog and look forward to coming back again. Fantastic writing!

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