Thursday, October 02, 2003

On Anonymity

Over at Teaching High School, teachers and bloggers have been discussing the benefits and costs of remaining anonymous as a blogger. I will weigh in on the issue: I think anonymity is essential for me to be able to keep a blog about my teaching experiences. First, while I do not intend to say anything mean or offensive about anyone, you never know for sure what a person will think if they suddenly realize you have been writing about them in a public forum for weeks or months. This is also why I choose to use pseudonyms for other people mentioned in my blog. If someone did stumble across my blog who knows me or my school, they could probably figure out that it's our school and who each character is, but I think they'd appreciate knowing that the rest of the world would not recognize them. Second, this anonymity allows me to tell more interesting and truthful stories. I want my students and colleagues to become real people to my readers, but in a way that is respectful of their privacy. The things kids do and say are what make life as a teacher interesting, and it's the little details that tell the stories. I can't provide both truthful details and real names. Similarly, this allows me to be more honest in expressing my opinions about education, politics, and NYC schools. Third, a few years ago a teacher wrote to the New York Post or Daily News (I don't remember which), complaining about violence in his school. The newspaper covered the story, all right: they photographed the letter and identified its author. Thing is, the letter was embarrassingly frank and full of spelling and grammar errors. It must have been horrifying to have been that teacher. Now, I would never have put my name on such a poorly-written document, but I still took a lesson from the incident: when you write something for the public, you never really know where it will end up, or how it will be received. Thus, although it is probably possible for a good researcher to figure out where I teach, I don't broadcast my personal information to the world.

Over & out.

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