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All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ask Amanda: To share or not to share

Shelley asked a tricky question about how to share information with teachers, without offending or running the risk of a teacher reading something which may harm their relationship with their students' parents.

Her primary questions boil down to:
DO primary teachers use online materials like these? How likely are they to venture into the blogging world of their parents?

I have no statistics etc about teacher use of online resources, or of the trends in what blogs they read. However, there are several things that will influence a teachers' reading habits on the internet:

Time - Scrolling through or searching for online resources can take a lot of time. So often we access only sites to which we have been referred by friends or workmates. So if you feel you have found a great resource, don't be afraid to share it. But share a specific link, or print out a specific document. This will mean that you are targetting the information that is relevant and that you really want them to have.

But do not be offended if they don't use it. We all have different ways of working, and there are so many good ideas that they may already have a resource which is addressing the same need.

Information overload - This links in with the last point I made. There are so many different strategies that can be used to get a similar outcome, and there are millions of websites that deal with teaching issues and strategies. Due to the intensity and busy-ness of teaching, sticking with familiar strategies that are working or sites that we know is often easier than searching through the masses of information on the 'net, some of which is not reliable or valid information.

It is also much more likely that teachers will use respected websites such as government sites, support group sites such as Downsed and Vision Australia than blogs that may or may not be reliable from a professional, research-based practice perspective.

So when sharing sites with teachers, make sure you share the credentials of the company or person running the site as teachers will be more likely to read and use information from people whose credentials they trust.

Social or professional? - However, the latter point can be influenced by how much and for what purpose the teacher uses the 'net. For example, some teachers will be using the internet for social purposes. And these teachers are perhaps more likely to be internet savvy, and spend more time exploring. They may also be more likely to explore sites such as blogs - and may be more likely to stumble across parents' musings.

It is also important to recognise that often teachers who care the most, who are trying the hardest and investing the most time and effort in your child's education may also be the most likely to be distressed by parents' "venting." This may contribute to a sense of helplessness and cause them to give up in the struggle to achieve the best learning environment for the child.

How to protect your relationship with your child's teacher:

If you need to freely vent on your blog, you might want to weigh up the costs and benefits of the following options:

- Using an internet alias
- Adjusting your privacy settings to limit who can visit your site
- Being careful about using photos or names that are identifiable in your blog

As a professional, I do all of these things when I am writing as a private individual and want to vent about the frustrations of my professional life. I do have an open facebook account, but attempt to make sure my comments on this account do not have the potential to offend anyone I work with or teach - thus it is not the place to vent. I have a private account for that :)

But I might be wrong... are you a teacher? a parent? What are your thoughts?


Shelley December 3, 2009 at 11:34 PM  

Thanks Amanda - I know it is a tricky one. I am always aware that what I put ina blog is 'out there' and try not to have too many specific identifiers there - but if someone who knows me in 'real time' finds me they could definitley identify us. I also try to not 'vent' too negatively - as generally I find most interactions have been positive. I'd hate to dampen someone's enthusiasm or willingness to give things a go. I did refer the teachers to DOwnsed and the NSW DSA website - so yep I agree with that view.

I am also hopeful because as a teacher myself I do heaps of internet related browsing for work - but never material that would lead me to a students or parent's blog.

I guess it is a risk that you just need to be aware of - one that should always temper what we write and how we say things regardless. Words said in the angst of the moment are not necessarily indicative of a total relationship after all.

PS - next question ahsn't occurred ot me yet but I"ll try and keep it straightforward!! Thanks again - I wanted to know what you thought about the issue.

Amanda December 3, 2009 at 11:56 PM  

All good - it's good to throw in a curly question every now and again :)

Sue January 11, 2010 at 7:50 AM  

Hi Amanda,
I agree with you. As a teacher of students with special needs and teaching and learning coach of teachers working with students on the autism spectrum in mainstream, I can really relate to all aspects of your post.
I make a point of reading the blogs of parents of students with special needs. I have many attached to my blog.I find that reading the posts helps me to keep my teaching real and also alerts me to some of the kinds of problems that my own families may be facing.
I'm not sure how I would deal with 'venting' post about what I as a teacher or we as a school community were not doing 'right'. I would certainly hope that I would have a good and open enough relationship with parents that they would feel comfortable talking to me in person before feeling the need to vent online.
I have had my share of conversations with upset or angry parents during my career. Sometimes the probles were very easy fixes, other times they required a great deal of problem solving to overcome. Every time these issues were sorted out it strengthened the trust between myself and the parent and /or student.Every issue has taught me something which has helped the next parent or student to cross my path with similar issues.
As a teacher, I don't vent online. I would rather keep my online posts as positive or solutions based as possible. I have several trusted friends that I email with back and forth. We support each other during the really challenging times.
Parent blogs offer teachers and other professionals great insight about life on the other side of the fence. I think it is possible to share a problem online without be nasty or personal about it and it is good to do that especially if readers can offer some potential solutions or the blogger can get some comfort from knowing thatit is a problem shared by many or they are not alone.

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