Editor’s Note: Learning & Leading’s popular Point/Counterpoint section is looking for arguments on both sides of the question “Is blogging worth the risk?” They go on to say, “If you’re a K–12 educator under the scrutiny of students, parents, colleagues, and administrators, is publishing a personal blog worth the potential risk to your professional reputation?”
This post is written in response to that question.
21st century education evangelists often share a dark little joke saying, “If Rip Van Winkle were to awaken in the 21st century he would be bewildered by what he saw. Every place Rip went would baffle him, but when he walked into a schoolroom, the old man would know exactly where he was. ‘This is a school’, he would declare. ‘They looked just like this in 1906.”’ When I began talking about starting a blog several of my colleagues wished me luck, but said they would be apprehensive about doing the same for fear of, “getting in trouble” if they happened to publish ideas that their employer didn’t like.
While I recognize the fear is real, as an innovative educator, I’ve always felt it was part of my responsibility to evangelize different ideas and perspectives when it comes to educating students in the best way possible. A blog provides a terrific platform for doing so. Having a blog is also a great way to get the digital footprint conversation going as well as model best practices for using 21st century tools to build professional learning communities and personal learning networks that support the work we do.
With this philosophy in mind, I began my blog, The Innovative Educator and started writing about educating innovatively. I was so excited to finally have a place to capture and share valuable ideas with a large audience rather than only with those whom I had direct contact. It was also wonderful to be able to answer frequently asked questions with a link to my blog posts. No more having to say or write the same thing again and again.
Once I felt my blog was ready for show time, I followed in the footsteps of some other educational bloggers that I admire and included my blog url in my email signature. That’s where the trouble began. Shortly after, I was mandated to remove my blog url from my email signature which I wrote about in a blog post called Mandate Against Professional Blog URLs in NYC DOE Signature. This in turn led to a slew of press coverage like this piece from the NY Sun Education Dept. Restrictions On Blogs Rile a Staff Blogger (You can view other stories at the original blog post.). I was disappointed by my employer’s decision. I felt my blog was an extension of professional and responsible dialogue. I was excited about the sharing and exchange of ideas with colleagues that having my blog url in my signature provided.
As directed, following the mandate, I placed a disclaimer on my blog indicating the opinions within were my own and were not representative of another entity and I removed my blog url from my email signature. As a result of the chain of events, several colleagues suggested I blog anonymously, however I feel there is tremendous value to blogging under my real name. Because I stand firmly behind what I blog about, I believe it is important for my audience to be able to know the source and engage in conversation with a real person. As Will Richardson (my blog mentor) shares, Those Who Publish Set the Agenda. Maintaining a blog, absolutely comes with a LOT of work and some risks, but for me, the reward of being able to increase the prevalence of educator voice to help “set the agenda,” is well worth it.