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Sunday, October 01, 2006

SHOULD TEACHERS BLOG?

I Want to Subscribe Journey to Blogging, Now

Hi, this article appeared in today (1/10) Sunday Times. Please read.. Should teachers blog? Oct 1, 2006 While indiscriminate venting undermines the authority of colleagues, some say blogs can act as a support network By Nur Amira Abdul Karim WHEN her principal shouted at three teachers in the school hall as they arrived 15 minutes late on a rainy day, Ms Jeannie Yap kept silent even though she was seething with rage. But the 29-year-old, who has since quit teaching, gave vent to her emotions online. On her blog, she slammed her principal for being unreasonable and also recounted incidents when the 'uninspiring, unmotivated leadership' had no qualms about using words like 'stupid' and 'donkey' on the students. She also wrote that the school was 'extremely political' and was run like a 'sweat shop that broke the confidence of students'. Asked about her blog, she said: 'I wrote those things in my blog to help me detox. I was working 10-hour days and interacting with people who disgrace the education system while trying to hold myself together so that I could do my best for my students.' Although she withheld details about the school and teachers, her blog entries about her life as a teacher attracted an average of 300 hits a day. Technorati.com, which tracks blogs worldwide, lists more than 800 teacher blogs. The figures may not tell all since the website tracks only those who have attached Technorati tags to their blogs. While the rising popularity of the medium is certain, what's being questioned is the right or wrong of it in a profession that expects its teachers to be role models. Blogging about mundane issues is fine, some teachers say, but they draw the line at talking about work. Voicing grievances on a platform easily accessible to students can undermine the authority of fellow teachers or confidence in the school, they say. Mr Shane Kwek, 25, the winner of Stomp's Hot Male Teacher award, alluded to this recently in an interview: 'Blogging tends to get quite personal and the language one uses might get mildly offensive. What fun is blogging if you can't complain about your workmates? If you do complain, the students will get a totally unique and undesirable image of their teachers.' Mr Abdul Hisyam Noh, 27, a secondary school physical education teacher, went so far as to call it 'irresponsible'. He said: 'Your students and colleagues trust that you maintain confidentiality when you interact with them.' The practice came under the spotlight in the United States recently after teachers had to quit or were sacked because of their blogs. According to a report in USA Today, a teacher in Arkansas lost his job after blogging about having to teach a design and technology class without any equipment, while a teacher in Chicago's Fenger High School who blogged about students' wild behaviour in school resigned, fearing for his safety after students figured out who he was. At home, teachers who blog defend themselves, saying they exercise discretion when penning their thoughts. Mostly in their 20s or early 30s, they say they use pseudonyms to maintain anonymity on their blogs. A 28-year-old teacher, who goes by the online moniker Gecko, said: 'I blog as I want to be heard. I blog about social issues mainly and personal issues in very vague terms, leaving out identifying markers, but enough descriptors for myself to register the issues.' He admits to having complained about colleagues but says he discloses the 'barest details'. 'I do not complain about my students - they are, after all, still young, developing lives,' he added. Schools in Singapore do not appear to have an explicit policy on blogging by teachers. Piper, a 20-something secondary school teacher, believes that such a measure is unnecessary. She said: 'It has never been an issue in my school. I think most teachers know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to blog.' Apart from documenting her trials and tribulations as a teacher, Piper has blogged about sex and moral education as well as the streaming policy. Ms Lim Tze Mien, vice-principal of St Margaret's Secondary School, said that teachers are entitled to blog but should be responsible in expressing their views. She said: 'I think it is appropriate for teachers to blog anonymously if their blog is meant to be a platform for emoting. If they choose to identify themselves or make others in their professional circle identifiable, they should know they are accountable for their opinions and any public impact.' Both Gecko and Piper say their blogs have not drawn flak. And indeed, the two point to blogs as not just a means for catharsis but also a potential support network for fellow teachers. Piper said: 'A lot of teachers who blog link to one another and it forms some sort of informal support group. 'You know you are not the only one facing problems in the classroom, and comments from other teachers can go a long way towards boosting one's self- esteem after a hard day at work.'

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