Ok I admit it. I do like my obscurity. I’ve often felt reassured by being anonymous in a crowd. I’m careful with my opinions, and while I like to read the opinions of others (up to a point), I rarely share my own. While it’s true that I have had a personal blog before (now inactive, and quite frankly it was mostly for the purpose of telling my Mom what I was up to), I’ve never been one to post reviews of books or movies on Amazon or IMDB, despite using them frequently to decide what to read or watch. Even in professional teaching communities, I am more of a searcher for answers to other people’s questions than a poster of my own.
Admittedly though, I do feel that I’m missing a piece of reciprocity which would be nice to participate in, where I am not only a consumer, but a producer as well. Yet the time, the effort, and (let’s be honest) the exposure of it is something that can make me uncomfortable. Even with my name, I noticed that most other teachers include their full name with their COETAIL blog, but for me, only my first. I’m protective of my privacy, my name. Perhaps it comes from reading too many fantasy novels where to know someone’s true name was to own their soul! Or perhaps it comes from modern day stories of how knowing someone’s birthday and name is enough to wreak havoc with their economic footprint in a very frightening way.
Of course, some of my caution also comes from when I was working in Myanmar before. When I did my blog before, it seemed to be very important to keep who I was and where I worked unwritten, as I didn’t want anybody in the government to take a dislike to anything I’d written and decide not to give me a visa. So I was circumspect in what I said, and also made a special effort to never mention my last name or the specific location of where I worked. I was pleased if I searched online and couldn’t find any links between the name (deep breath) Meghan Kenney, and, well, me.
It’s an interesting thought that I’ve been given to ponder both from this course, and from the EARCOS conference I just attended, about whether I should actually increase my internet presence. To make it so, rather than being a nonpresence on the internet that makes potential employers, parents, whoever wonder if I’m that Meghan Kenney who got arrested for drunk driving they read about on Google, it is emphatically clear which one I am, and that I can’t be confused with anyone else. In addition, I can really see how it would be a great place to market myself as well for potential employers and even students and parents, especially those looking for more technologically savvy teachers. So, yes, I do see that purpose.
Yet, surely I wouldn’t want TOO much information out there, would I? In which case, just how much should I put? As well, is it time to enter the conversation I keep observing from afar, to both contribute my own ideas and questions to the mix? I’m wary of putting too much time into it, but also wary of being overlooked simply because I’ve chosen not to engage too far with social media. Still not sure how far to go here, and I admit it, I still don’t have a twitter account.
Now, when considering students, this becomes interesting, because I’m fairly sure my students are not at all interested in their digital footprint as something to craft carefully. They’re 6th graders, they’re just trying to get attention at this point in any way possible. That said, I’ve become Facebook friends with no longer current students, and seen they way they interact and how they treat each others. The language can be very coarse, and occasionally abusive. I wonder if they even remember friending their old teacher, and that I am seeing EVERYTHING. And I’m not impressed.
Yet do they care? Do they understand that I’m seeing these things, and that I can get into photos and see comments that really show the flipside of the behavior shown in class? Perhaps they don’t care if I see it, thinking perhaps to “impress” all their observers with how edgy they are. So the question becomes for me, shall I stay out of it, respecting the fact that they probably don’t know I’m watching? Or shall I remind them that others can see them, and rain on the parade so to speak in order to remind them that treating each other with respect is not only a rule in school, but in life? Although we all know that teasing is a part of being friends at times, there are boundaries getting crossed, and in addition, this speech isn’t as private as they seem to think it is.
I did intervene once when an old student’s gmail status message showed that something had gone wrong for her on a school outing that I had been a part of, and she was quite bitter and angry. I think she appreciated my concern, and I also noticed she shined up her status messages after that for a while.
So I wonder what others think, do we intervene when we see students going over the line digitally? How, when, and how much?