I've been thinking about taking up the old blog again. It's been ages since I wrote anything more than a few lines. I'm sure you've all been wondering, wondering why. Well, I think I'll tell you.
Toward the end of the 2008-09 school year, my principal called me in to his office. I had no idea why he wanted to talk to me. I think I must have felt much like my students feel when they get that call--filled with dread and terror. To make things even more frightening, it was the very end of my third year of teaching, which is a significant time for Utah teachers. During the first three years of teaching, we are considered provisional, and we can be released from our duties without so much as an explanation as to why we are being let go. At the end of the third year, if we have satisfied all the conditions required by the state of Utah, we are promoted to level 2. It is basically the equivalent of being tenured. So a call into the principal's office right around the time I should be triumphantly sailing through the final hoop left me feeling more than a little worried.
When I sat down across from Mr. S in his office, the first thing he asked me was, "Have you had any parents complain about your blog?"
I had started a teacher blog that year where I kept an update of what we were doing in class along with assignments, due dates, vocabulary lists and links to handy reference sites. The parents who had used my blog loved it, so I couldn't understand what he meant. I assured him that the parents of my students loved my blog. Why should they complain?
"No, I'm talking about your personal blog. Your 'Letters Falling' blog."
I involuntarily gave him my best whatchootalkin'boutwillis look. I'd never told any of my colleagues about my blog, and I'd certainly never informed my students about it. How would my students' parents even know I had a personal blog? And why would they care if I did?
I'm sure all these questions were playing around on my face as I sat there in shocked silence. After a few awkward moments, I realized he was waiting for an answer. I spit out a defiant "no" while regarding him through slanted slits that were once my eyes.
I'm sure at this point he could tell I was upset, so he started to explain. Apparently someone had sent an anonymous (coward!!) letter to him, my superintendent and Deseret News (of all places!!) about me and my inappropriate blog. The letter outlined all the terrible things I was publishing on my blog, including "the glorification of self-mutilation!" Whoever wrote the letter, he told me, must have read every one of my posts looking for dirt. In her (I'm assuming) righteous anonymity, she suggested that I be removed from my position as a teacher because I was a negative influence on my students, and my blog proved it.
He went on to explain that both he and my superintendent read my blog (ugh!!) to see if I had posted anything inappropriate.
Of course my mind was sprinting at this point, trying to recall every phrase, every word I had written. Had I been inappropriate? Had I written things I wouldn't want my boss, my boss' boss, my students and their parents to see? And the answer was, yes. I had written things I wouldn't want that particular world of mine to see. Not because they were inappropriate, but because I didn't want my professional life and my personal life to intermingle. I didn't want to always be Mrs. Cheney. I wanted to just be Shannon sometimes.
I'm sure it was clear to Mr. S at this point that I was distraught. He reassured me by saying he didn't believe my blog was inappropriate, but he went on to say that since I was a teacher, I had a responsibility to live the moral code of the community. I needed to be careful, he suggested.
I put aside the fact the he implied that I was somehow living beneath the moral code of Box Elder County, Utah, and I asked him if he was asking my to shut down my blog.
No, no. He wasn't asking me to shut it down. He was just letting me know that someone found it offensive. He wouldn't want to see things get ugly over something as silly as my need to be an individual who has a personal life beyond the classroom. It could be bad PR for the district.
I began to feel somewhat incensed, so I suggested that since I wasn't inviting students, parents, bosses and their bosses into my personal life, they should just stay out of it. He informed me I gave up my claim on privacy when I chose to become a teacher.
And there was nothing more to say.
I left his office in a bit of a daze. I had purposefully avoided telling local people about my blog for the very purpose of keeping a professional distance. Yet someone found it. I googled my name to see if my blog came up--I searched pages and pages of hits without finding my blog. I asked a couple of trusted teacher friends to try to find my blog without giving them an address or any other details. Neither of them could find my blog through searching the web.
All of this left me feeling vulnerable and suspicious. So I decided to lay low for a time.
And now that time is over. I think I'd like to try this blog thing again.
Because dammit, the moral code of my community is far looser than my own personal code of ethics. And I defy anyone to claim otherwise.