Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Impossibility of Blogging the Truth

Blogging the truth is impossible for a school principal.  90% of the stuff I want to cover really can't be told publicly, because most of it someone else's story, and, perhaps more importantly, all the stories are somehow tied to a kid—and I won't write about kids in any way that could be negatively misunderstood or misconstrued.

I could fictionalize some of the stuff, I guess, but that doesn't really work, because, you know, people aren't stupid.

The passage of time helps; I could write about some of the things I experienced years ago.  The question becomes:  How far back is safe?  A decade?  Certainly a decade.  Right?

Actually...  Probably not.

I guess I'm trying to blog without controversy.  Which is a lot like trying to eliminate stress:  It sounds do-able enough, right up until you try it.

A close friend of mine got another job last week.  It's a really good job— his dream job.  He will be teaching and heading up a department at a prestigious university.  His days will soon take on a different pace, pressure, and pull.  It won't be better or worse, necessarily—just a different universe for a guy who's worked his entire career as a public school teacher and administrator.  I envy him.  He's starting over, and he can take what he's seen and help others learn from it openly and honestly. I'm jealous, in the good-jealous way; I am so happy for him I could pop.  I'm glad he gets to do this thing.  He deserves it more than any human being on earth, and I'm rooting for him with all of the luck-bones in my body.  Not that he needs it.

Thinking about his new job reminded me of my consolation prize about not being able to blog the real truth about being an educator.  Even when things happen for teachers and principals we can't write about (especially on a public blog, of all things), there is intense learning in all of them, and they deserve to be told to others as learning tools.  All of my "day-in-the-life stories" tend to percolate inside my brain, and I'll often ask myself:  "What happened here that holds value in making me a better principal?  Is there something others can learn from it?  How can the story be changed to honor privacy but still demonstrate an important learning point?"

That's why I tell versions of stories to my graduate students.  They come to class after a loooong day of teaching, all slumpy and dull-eyed.  Their backpacks and bags thump heavy on the floor next to their desks.  This time of year, it's dark and gray and slushy, too, which is squelches the positivity of... well, anyone.  Which is why I always open class with, "I have a reallllllllly good one for you today..."

They sit up.  They attend.  They relate—their arms raise with a question or a story of their own, or they explain a similar experience.  We spend a chunk of time breaking it all apart:  How was the situation handled?  Did things turn out well or was the whole thing bungled?  What could have changed its course?  Stories grab my students' attention and, conveniently, demonstrate the applicability to key points on my syllabus.

There is so. from stories.  So while I don't tell them here on this blog, they really are my best teaching tool.  With character names changed, and a few key detailed altered for privacy, I can give a story a brand new purpose and plan, multiplying its scope into supercharged real-life learning.


Managing Hard Days

I was deeply unhappy in college.  Freshman year, I kept a pencil by my bed and made a little slashmark on the wall next to my bed, without ...