Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blogging, Personal Politics, and the Classroom Teacher

In my 28th year as a public school teacher, I never thought this would be a problem: keeping my mouth shut about presidential politics. Now over the years I've pretty much kept my presidential preferences to myself as most teachers do, and I have not shared them with my third grade students. I won't share them directly again this year (although they always beg to know who I'm voting for).

But things will be different this time around.

I've struggled with whether to not to express my personal political views on this blog. I am a public school employee, after all, in a fairly large school district. On the other hand, this is my own personal space, and I work on it on my own time. Four years ago, I had this blog, but I wasn't using it. What a difference four years makes.

Recently I've noticed a couple of high profile classroom teacher bloggers getting out there with politics. Doug Noon, from Alaska of all places, has been putting his view out there. Just today I noticed Clarence Fisher has a couple of political links (Canadian, of course) on his blog sidebar.

But I'm not seeing a whole lot more out there on classroom teacher blogs. Which would not be a problem for me, except that I feel this huge need, this very strong desire, to say something. Political. I read so much these days. I'm a big fan of the Huffington Post, subscribing the the news feed for all posts coming out of there - can't possibly read them all, so I cherry-pick. I've got to say a couple of my favorites recently have come from entertainers: Barbra Streisand and, of all people, Jamie Lee Curtis.

I did venture into this a couple of days ago, with Power and Politics. My students will eventually figure it out, when they walk by the teacher lounge and see the Obama/Biden car magnet on my bicycle (arriving any day now, I hope). And they may know by reading this blog, which is linked from our classroom blog, our school web-wiki, and they can get to just by typing in I did all this to make getting here easier.

But I've got to make it worthwhile, getting here. I'm not going to go over the top with banners, ads and tasteless rants, but if I have even a small group in a corner of a very large room, I will not let the opportunity to make a difference pass me by. Not this time. The stakes are way too high.

So, dear readers...

I would very much like to hear what you think. What's your opinion on blogging, personal politics, and the classroom teacher? If you have examples of teachers writing about this, expressing political views on blogs, in forums, or any other arena - please share them in a comment here. I'll add links to this post as appropriate - yes, from both political sides :) Many thanks.

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Andrea said...

Yes, it's an issue, isn't it? I'll share my personal story w/you. Just about 4 years ago I moved from an area of the country where I was in the political majority, as in I could feel relatively comfortable that most people around me shared my views. Let's say I lived in a bubble, nice and comfy. Now I have moved to a very different area of the country. I'm no longer in my bubble, not by a long shot. I actually debated with myself (for about 5 seconds) whether or not to put the Obama sticker on my car.
I have been attempting to stay very neutral at school, with both students and co-workers, as I don't think it is the right forum to share my political views. I am in the process of using an amazing webquest about the election with the 5th graders. They are researching the issues on both sides. I told them that elections can be very emotional and we must all make the effort to keep our emotions out of the classroom, to try to remain unbiased as we research the issues. They asked me who I would be voting for and I said I'd tell them on Nov. 5th. (Of course, they can plainly see the sticker on my car, but I consider that my private, out of the classroom business.) Their response: Mrs. X and Mrs. Y told us who they're voting for and why they're Republicans. So, I told them. I think they need to put a face on a "liberal, " to know that someone they know and respect can have different views from their parents and the rest of their teachers and that's ok.
That's not the only incident that has happened at school this year w/teaching about the election either. Sadly, many teachers are completely ignoring this teachable moment and very historic election. I don't know the reason for this, but could it be because of the strong feelings that so many people have about politics and the fear of bringing those anywhere near our teacher-selves when we know that many others in our community do not agree?
I have not used my blog to share my own political views nor will I, although I do not see a problem with others doing so. As you noted, it is your space that you work on outside of school. I think it is great that you have touched on this topic. I will be interested to see what kind of response this brings.

Tim said...

As far as expressing your political opinion on your blog, why not? You aren't an official spokesperson for your school (as far as I can tell). And, in the end, it's your visitors who will let you know if the political posts are a deal breaker.

Expressing your views in school are a little different. But, as you said, the kids will figure it out. My high school students always did and we actually had some good conversations as a result.

On my blog I also try to limit the political posts, but that's primarily because I don't do a good job with them, not because I don't think they don't belong there. However, the issues in this election are far too important not to speak up to some degree.

Anonymous said...

I would definitely encourage you to express your views on your blog. It's your space. We are all entitled to our opinions. There may or may not be things that administrators and parents agree/disagree with but that doesn't affect your qualifications as a teacher.

Mark Ahlness said...

Angela, thanks for sharing your story. I live in an echo chamber bubble, and I know it. Your story makes me appreciate it even more. Hang in there, and be careful.

Tim, I appreciate your thoughts. I got a tickle seeing the O/B campaign button on your sidebar. Is that the next step for me? Dunno.

Brooke, thanks so much for your encouragement. In the small world department, my brother is D/B. All the best - Mark

Anonymous said...

This is an important issue. My opinion as a high school teacher and president of our local bargaining unit is that campaigning (even subtly through the use of buttons and signs) in front of students is ethically wrong. In the faculty lounges and workrooms, it should be "no holds barred," unless we are being disruptive of the work environment. But we have a position of power over the students, and we should not allow ourselves to abuse that power.

I feel the same way about the pastors and church ministers who used their positions of power last Sunday to endorse one candidate over another. It was an ethical error. Dubbing their congregation members "sinful" if they supported the other candidate may have even been a moral lapse.

Outside of school--in a personal blog, for example--teachers have as much right to campaign vigorously as anybody else. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.