Monday, January 18, 2016

That's What Friends Are For

This wasn't my original blog post scheduled for today.
I had written something on an entirely different topic, but it was a little "edgy" and I had some initial misgivings about publishing it.
I asked my husband to listen to me read it to him. He expressed some uncertainty around the intended audience and purpose, but recommended that I get a second opinion.

So it's Sunday evening. I like to ensure that I have a post ready for Monday. What do I do?

I turned to Twitter and asked a couple of teacher friends for help.

Melissa Jensen noticed my plea and offered her assistance as well.

Let me make note here that it's a weekend in mid-January. For teachers (and teacher-librarians) in Ontario, this is prime report-card-writing time as well as preparing-for-SuperConference time. Yet, three busy individuals took the time to read my draft and offer some constructive criticism. Some also recommended I get another view from someone closer to the source material. That person gave up part of her lunch hour to read it and offer her descriptive feedback. After much consultation and consideration, I decided not to publish what I wrote. The subject matter is worthy, but it needs a lot more editing and refining to make it appropriate for public consumption. That post may eventually be published, but not now, and not in its current form. I really appreciated how Denise Colby, Alanna King, and Melissa Jensen helped me out with this decision.

All three educators gave me permission to mention them here. I asked for their help in the first place because I respect their opinions; they are thoughtful, reflective, and knowledgeable.  They are aware of the impact that social media has on education. (I guess that book club discussion group on TVO's TeachOntario site must be making an impact on me - we are discussing It's Complicated: the Social Life of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd and I'm paying close attention to the chapter on how online identities are crafted.) They understand the right to be expressive and transparent in my teaching practices with the responsibility to be respectful and private with information. They understand the complicated social nuances of school politics. What I loved about their advice was they never said "Publish it" or "Don't publish it". They made comments. They described their own feelings and observations. They asked if it was possible for A or B to be re-framed or a section to be re-worked.

What are the school implications for this experience? I think that teachers should find and use "critical friends" to help them when they are struggling, be it with a challenging student, a teaching approach to a lesson or unit, or any difficulty they encounter as part of the job. It means it takes a bit longer, but getting a second (or fifth) opinion meant that I was less likely to rush ahead and possibly make a rather unfortunate faux-pas. Bringing in other points of view can help make situations clearer and decisions easier. Find someone you are comfortable with, that you can be vulnerable with, that can see you uncertain, unsure, and less-than-perfect. They don't think less of me, but they help make a better me. Thank you Melissa, Alanna, and Denise!

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