277 days of anonymity. 277 out of 366. For 277 days, the only people who read my blog were my family, friends, and fellow bloggers. Yesterday, that changed.
I have a philosophy. The only way to become a good writer is to write; the only way to become a better writer is to revise. For the entire first semester, I offer all of my students the option of rewriting any and all of their essays so that they can reflect on the writing process, reflect on their abilities, and improve their analysis.
Yesterday, I handed back the first critical analysis assignment written by my Honors English 11 students. Because they are Honors, I expect a higher caliber of writing than I would from a general education student. These students are all college bound, and they will all need sharp writing skills. As a first effort, they were good, but they were not great. I told all of the students, even the two students who received A-s, that I wanted them to look at all of the comments I wrote on their paper, to revise the essays over the weekend, and to turn them back in on Monday. Because I was required to attend a curriculum in-service today and we do not have school tomorrow, I told the students that if they had any questions about the essays to email me.
“Can I Tweet you?” one young lady asked jokingly.
“You can,” I responded, “but I probably will never see it.”
She quickly assessed what I was implying. “So you have a Twitter?”
I had a split second. Do I lie and say no or do I tell the truth? What is the harm in saying I do? It’s not like I ever use it.
“Yes, but I have like fifteen followers. Like I said, I never go on it,” I said.
“Well, I’m going to follow you,” she said, and we left it at that.
And here is where the story develops. In the 277 days of writing this blog previous to yesterday, I had never told any students nor had any students ever figured out that I have a blog. I was keeping my two lives separate– kind of like Melrose Place’s Lauren Yung who worked her way through medical school by prostituting herself. Umm. Okay. Actually nothing like Lauren Yung. I am not doing anything immoral or illegal.
However, to teenagers, teachers are like the flat, one-dimensional characters of books. It is hard to wrap a young mind around the fact that we are people who have lives outside of work. Some students truly believe we are just the people who impart knowledge and grade papers. I know that when I was a teenager, I was always freaked out if I ran into a teacher in public. I mean, what were they doing at the mall? They liked the same restaurants I did?
When those few students decided to actually follow through and find me on Twitter, they also found my blog. (Side Note: Kudos to follow through! So many times people say they will do something, and then they never actually do it.) My stats skyrocketed, and somehow I put two and two together. I actually went on Twitter and looked at it. These kids were reading it! (They should have been reading their independent novels or The Scarlet Letter, mind you, but they weren’t; they were reading me.)
I feel equivocal vacillation deep in my soul over this one. They are my students and I am their teacher. We have a professional relationship. Yet, my stories will allow them to know me on a completely different level. I hope that the students who choose to peruse understand that I am an individual who feels, who thinks, and who experiences life with all of my senses. I am an individual who has made mistakes, who has had successes, and who reflects on life and continues to grow.
Writing is a part of me. I have to have faith in the maturity level of my students to understand that what I write does not affect what we do in the classroom. I am a teacher. I am a writer. Hopefully, the two lives will continue to amicably coexist. I have 86 days left to complete my year of blogging. Hopefully, I will be able to do it with grace.