Educator blogs could boost respect for teachers–and expose classroom challenges

Since Howard Dean made blogs a part of the national vocabulary during the most recent presidential election, I’ve often wondered how educators could use this new tool and whether it would be wise to do so, given the time commitment involved and the unfettered nature of online diaries.

Well, while I’ve been pondering, veteran educator Betsy Rogers has been blogging for Teacher Magazine. The 2003 National Teacher of the Year, Rogers has been sharing her experience as the new curriculum coordinator for her school system’s “neediest school.”

According to Rogers’ blog, it’s been a humbling experience, one that goes to the very crux of what it means to teach today in a high-poverty school.

“I had no idea the stress involved in working under these conditions,” writes Rogers. “I actually thought I had the answer to turn this school around. The afternoon of the first day, I began to understand how little I knew.”

In just a few short entries, Rogers is able to convey what countless brochures and newspaper articles can’t about the power of expectations and how strong teachers can make a difference, not only in their classrooms, but in their schools and communities. Rogers’ story about a cache of snakes was especially revealing. Apparently, a nest of 16 snakes had been plaguing a particular classroom for years. Only after Rogers insisted on evacuating the students and having repairs made was the problem solved.

While I’m sure Rogers’ candor sometimes makes school officials cringe, most readers will find her honesty refreshing and her sense of hope renewing.

It seems to me that we need to give more of a voice to teachers, especially those valiant educators who are serving on the front lines of education’s toughest and most critical battlefields.

The hearts and minds we win or lose in our high-poverty schools will make or break this nation economically for decades to come.

Too often, teachers across the country tell me they don’t recognize themselves on television. Too often, teachers are portrayed as clueless, boring nerds out of touch with reality in sitcoms or as the scapegoats for all of society’s ills by the news media.

The reality in the vast majority of classrooms today is far different, and we need to hear from more teachers about what is working, and what isn’t, in America’s public schools.

And, like Rogers, I’d also like to hear more from the nation’s best and brightest teachers–if only to show the national media that dedicated, outstanding educators exist and, in fact, comprise the majority of the profession. Just like the worst-behaved kids are the ones you’re most likely to see on the news if a camera crew comes on campus, the worst teachers are often the ones making headlines.

That’s why I’d like to see more blogs and other communication opportunities made available for teachers who have proven track records of classroom success with all kinds of students.

While teachers can certainly blog away on their own, I suspect that hammering the administration would be a career limiting move for most.

More importantly, though, it’s nice to see a teacher blog in a visible location like Teacher Magazine. Since school web sites are well-trafficked by parents and other stakeholders, it makes sense to open blogs up to more teachers, as long as certain guidelines are established in advance.

These guidelines would need to address privacy issues of students and their families, as well as other staff members and administration. Clear goals, writers’ guidelines, editorial control, content parameters, and publishing standards also would have to be clearly identified and articulated.

These are manageable challenges, however. And I suspect the story-telling power of just a few, well-trained teacher bloggers could shed some well-needed light on the challenges facing educators today.

Keep in mind that bloggers, chat roomers, and eMail activists are already bashing public schools and have been for some time. It’s time we started catching up in terms of using technology to reach stakeholders quickly and effectively.

If you have a story to share about using technology to reach your stakeholders or a cautionary tale regarding online activism, please eMail me your experiences at

Nora Carr is senior vice president and director of public relations for Luquire George Andrews Inc., a Charlotte, N.C.-based advertising and public relations firm. A former assistant superintendent for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, she is nationally recognized for her work in educational communications and marketing.

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