Why I’ve Held My Tongue

Since I started teaching again in August, my blog has been lying fallow. Part of it has to do with the overwhelming newness of being back in the classroom at a different grade level in a new state in a new school and a new district three towns away from where I live. I’m spending a little over an hour a day on the road just going to and from school. Getting a handle on all of those things while trying to feel competent has been a challenge. Some weeks have been better than others and most of my blogging energy has been directed toward my private classroom blog. I’d love to be able to share and cross-post, but there it seems is my second problem.

I teach in a district whose philosophy toward technology and social media can be best described as a mix of fear, distrust, and ambivalence. Granted, my students are middle school children and most of them are not old enough to sign up for anything online. This is a technicality many of my students overlook on their own and frequent Facebook squabbles spill over into the school arena, fueling the fear and suspicion of all things digital or social. I chose a classroom blogging platform that allowed me to set a relatively weak, but memorable password in order to allow students to post and comment without compromising their identity or exposing their work to the prying eyes of strangers.

In my school, teachers and students are not officially allowed to bring their own digital devices from home for any reason, though the classroom computers are nearing a decade of continuous service and are no longer supported by the manufacturer. The ban also encompassed eReaders until a month ago. Now students are allowed to bring the original Kindle or the Nook as long as they promise to keep them set on “airplane mode” and not bring them to classrooms where teachers have the right to maintain the ban. iPads and iPods are not allowed at all–even though they may be used as eReaders. The official reason teachers were given was that iPads and iPods can compromise our aging network should students find a way to access the school’s limited wireless network.

As for the network, no one–including the Administrators–has access to the wireless password. This problem came to light after several iPads were purchased for use in the special education support rooms but they could not be used effectively without wireless access for sharing files or accessing programs like Dragon dictate. Setting up a wireless hotspot for those classrooms was considered out of the question. Wireless access for the building? Unthinkable.

I don’t mean to sound elitist or ungrateful. I’m starting to see small changes in terms of equipment upgrades for the school labs and access to netbook carts, but it’s going to take more than replacing hardware for our school and our district to really change. The real reason I haven’t been blogging has been my own unease. I’ve been afraid that if I were to write honestly about my frustration with certain attitudes and policies, it might be taken as an attack rather than constructive criticism. As of now, there is no standing social media policy for teachers and since I’m a new kid on the block, there is nothing to keep me from swinging in the wind if my words are taken the wrong way.

How can I be a teacher leader when it feels as though the direction I want to go is upstream?

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