When the story of Natalie Monroe, the “Teacher Blogger” broke earlier this year, it rustled a lot of feathers. There were those that stood in firm support of her 1st Amendment rights, there were those that called for her to be fired immediately, and there were those that denounced the idea that teachers should be blogging at all. My opinion was pretty much in line with that of Principal Chris Lehmann here in Philly.

So when I received a call from the Philadelphia Inquirer asking me my opinion, I was elated.  You can read the article here.

But this post isn’t about the article at all. Well, it’s not about the content of the article. What struck me was the comment area. Now, comment areas are renowned for being minefields for expressing everything from well thought out replies to anonymous rants and attacks. What was new for me was that this rarely happens on my blog or on those of my 25+ good friends who blog. When it does, the blogger attempts to keep the discussion civil, and if unsuccessful, thanks the person for their opinions and ends it there.

When I read some of the comments on the article, I couldn’t help but think that they are a perfect example of why social media and blogging should be taught in schools!

(these are screenshots of actual comments from the article)

Lesson #1 that I teach to my students is that once you click “Post,” “Send,” or “Submit,” your comment may exist forever. Even if you take it down.

Lesson #2 is already explained pretty well above–don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say if you were standing in front of the person.  It is all too easy to hide behind a screen name and say whatever you please without considering the consequences of your words.

Lesson #3 is ‘stay focused’–if you’re leaving a comment, make sure that you stick to the topic at hand or your comment is pretty much worthless.

I’m not afraid of disagreement when it comes to ideas, in fact, I welcome them (when they are presented in a thoughtful and respectful way). It is important, however, to know how to handle disagreement when you can’t hear the tone of voice behind them or you’re not sure if it is a personal attack.

Lesson #4–don’t engage ‘trolls’ or bullies.  I teach this to my students so that they know how to handle the ever-feared ‘cyberbully.’ Included in that lesson is how to report the user or block them.

With more and more stories coming out about students being bullied and about regretful Facebook postings and tweets, it’s now or never with this up and coming generation of kids.

Luckily, there are lots of talented and forward-thinking teachers out there guiding their students in the right direction.

If you must know how to leave a quality comment, just ask the students in Ms Yollis’ class:

Now what does this have to do with me blogging?

I have always been a reflective person. I have always needed to work my way through ideas, whether it be verbally or in writing. Through my blog I have been able to pinpoint instruction that works, celebrate lessons that have been successful and I have sought out advice from colleagues when I needed a helping hand. Many of my posts are crafted with the intention of helping others who may also be going through the same struggles or to provide resources to my readers.

Now, imagine being taught math by a teacher who was not allowed to multiply. Imagine the difference between being taught writing by someone who is certified in teaching writing and being taught writing by someone who is certified and has also written a novel…which would you prefer?

Young people are blogging and leaving comments all over the web and they need role models to learn from. Obviously, going by what others write in the comment area of blogs, articles and YouTube videos will not teach them how to be good digital citizens.  Only practice doing the real thing will.

That said, we should also be teaching them how to use blogging as a reflective platform, not a place to rant and attack others. Who will work to challenge the next generation to break through the divisiveness and the negativity we see so much in today’s society, especially when it comes to civil discourse on the web? As more and more writing is done online, who will guide students if not their teachers?

Comments appreciated 🙂

…just keep it civil, guys…..

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