This past week I read a post about Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher from Colorado who asked her third grade students to write about what they wished their teacher knew. The assignment, started by the teacher as an attempt to get to know her students better, has sparked intense conversations and disagreement. When I first read the post, the message really hit home. It made me think immediately of students I know or have taught over the years who struggled with making friends, or who have experienced loss or trauma.
It made me think of a particular student who got in so much trouble one day at school-- the day everyone dressed up as a famous person from the past-- and he didn't. Not because he didn't want to, but because he just didn't have anything that would have worked. From the moment he arrived at school that day, he was angry.
My heart broke for him that day. He wasn't in my class, but I had taught him the year before and knew that most evenings he spent with high school kids who lived in his apartment complex. He was eight. He ended up spending most of that day in the office after starting fights and disrupting class. I'll never forget him or that day, and I always wondered if that day would have gone differently if the project would have been something he could have completed at school. Did we as educators set him up for success? That day is one of the reasons that I stopped at-home projects that required adult help to complete. That day changed my practice.
And so, when I read the post about Kyle's students, I shared it. We need to know the stories of our students, their hopes, fears, and struggles. I think Kyle's question was a good one.
And then I read Rafranz Davis' post this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.
Rafranz asks tough questions as she discusses student voice, trust, and privacy. She raises important issues I hadn't considered when I read the post about the third graders in Colorado. When I read the post, I thought of kids. Not those kids exactly, but the kids I've known over the years. The kids who my hearts breaks for and that keep me up at night.
But Rafranz is right.
If I write about the first grade teaching team at my school without naming them, it would take no longer than a second to Google them. They are easily identifiable. Every time I write about my school I know the audience is potentially the world, which includes their friends and family. Do they read my posts? I don't know.
But they could.
I've learned a lot from these posts. And honestly, I think that's kind of the point. The REAL power in blogging is in sharing our reflections, our thinking, and struggles. It's about putting ideas out their and hoping someone learns something valuable from my post- even if I make a mistake.
So what did I learn?
I learned that when I post (Twitter, blog, Facebook, anywhere!) I need to consider the audience. Is there anyone out there who might be harmed by my writing? Is there anything I'm sharing that is confidential? When I write, I always write thinking the world is my audience, and I need to be okay with anyone reading it. I don't want to hurt anyone or cause someone to lose trust in me.
I learned that Kyle Schwartz asked a great question. What do you want your teacher to know? I think this is a GREAT question. So now I'm thinking about how this question could be asked but the responses shared differently. What if the whole school had been asked and the responses collected in a Google form and compiled in a word cloud generator to see what words show up the most?
The information gathered is powerful, and yet probably could have been shared in a better way that didn't potentially identify the students or their families. I don't know them, but someone does. I would recognize my child's writing if it were posted. Or maybe the answers don't need to be shared publicly at all, but rather used to generate questions about what we can do differently, as educators and as people.
Kyle's post has an important message for us all. Knowing our students as individuals needs to be a priority for every educator. We need to ask tough questions. We need to know the answers no matter how heartbreaking. I believe Kyle had her students interests and needs in mind. That she wanted to know more so she could make a difference.
But I also think that both Kyle and Rafranz have highlighted the real power of blogging. By writing in a public space, we invite conversation, reflection, and change. We can learn from each other.
Purpose. Audience. Message. So much power in every post.
What can we learn together?