Earlier this morning, I tweeted this:
Do you ever want to say to folks who scream they don’t want their private lives online: “Maybe you should just try to be a better person.” ?
And I realized that I didn’t quite say what I meant there.
I believe that privacy is important and special, and that there are plenty of moments in my life that are my business and perhaps my family’s or close friends’ or colleagues’ business. That said, I think anything public is fair game for public. And I think my public persona, the person I am at work and in the world, be it the store, or church, or at the park or anywhere else, should be the same public persona online.
Because that’s who I am. Or who I’m becoming, at least.
I made a choice when I went online in 2005 that I was going to be the same grown up online as I was in the physical public. For the most part, I’ve kept to that. If I’d say it in a classroom, I’ll post it to the web. If I wouldn’t, I tend to keep it to myself. Sure, I’ve stumbled and posted in anger or frustration, but not as a habit. (Maybe. You’re certainly welcome to disagree with me here.) And I’ve made a trade – I don’t say everything that I might wish to say.
Modeling is perhaps the greatest teaching tool that we have. The actions that we engage in say as much and more about us than our directions to students ever will. I’ve never asked a student in one of my classes to do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself. And I’ve constantly sought out ways to show my students that I am engaged in the world in the ways that I want them to be – my students caught me reading and writing and thinking about things all the time, just as I asked them to read and write and think. I went to math class and struggled through geometry tests. I participated in science experiments. I got excited about things.
I tried to model for them what learning looked like. And I try to do that in my online public persona as well. So when people say to me “I don’t think I want my students to see my [insert online profile],” I wonder what it is that they’re uncomfortable about.
We all stumble as people and don’t quite do the things we’d like to do, or behave perfectly. That’s human. And there are boundaries between personal and professional, between public and private. But those boundaries are far from hard and fast lines.
I’m sure that I’m not anywhere close to where I’d like to be in my actions. But I think it’s worth it to struggle to be a better person. And I think that struggle is human and worth sharing. We can all be better people, and education is a big piece of how that happens. And modeling is a big piece of education.
These ideas are still developing for me; I wonder what you think about them. What stays private? Public? What do you do online that you wouldn’t want your students to know about? Why not? As more of ourselves finds its way online, will these conversations stop being binary in nature?