February 23, 2011
Natalie Munro: Keeping Blogs Anonymous
Every once in a while, I Google my real name to see what pops up. Interestingly, my other blogs pop right up, as well as the (pretty ugly) Rate My Professors page, but not this blog. I’m glad. I walk a line here that could cost me my job, if I really was a professor anywhere, and not a llama herder in Indiana.
Blogs form a sort of community. Who reads blogs, but other people interested in the topic of the blog? With teaching blogs, you run the risk of colleagues and students reading your blog- the one where you point out the problems you see in academic life and try to discuss the pressing issues of students, faculty, administration, and teaching. If they figure out it is you, and become offended, your livelihood is permanently on the line. It is dangerous to speak freely. Anonymity is paramount. Privacy is not just for students, but also for your own safety and security.
I have run into my share of the kinds of students Ms. Munro was berating in her blog, and yes, I think the situation is getting worse. Do I complain on my blog? Darn tootin’. Is that the end of it? Hell no. I look over the comments- rare as they are, since I don’t really advertise this blog is out here. I re-read what I have written. I think about improving student engagement, how to deal with the issues I write about. I use my college’s resources to try to improve my teaching and get feedback and ideas, to meet the changing needs and challenges of students as they shift and change.
What is the point of having this blog, anyway? Hopefully, it gets everyone thinking about the issues of teaching. It provides some guidance for being a student to students who come here. And it lets professors know they aren’t alone. That those students they are dealing with? They really exist, it isn’t just in your head, we’re all in this together dealing with these problems. And it is OK to tell a student no, you can’t turn that work in late. No, “I needed cigarettes” is not a valid excuse to be late for class. Yes, you can do better than this, re-write it. And plagiarism is not acceptable, you just failed this class- just as it says in the syllabus.
But I am glad this blog does not seem to be connected to my name. Not only do I want to remain anonymous, but that anonymity is important to protect my students- even when I usually don’t write about them until long after they are gone. Or I would, except I have to go feed the llamas.