Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Too Personal?

Stealing the idea from Blogger tag, I asked my first hour class last night to post a comment to the class blog in which they named five things about themselves that they wanted the class to know. I set an example by doing it myself first, and here's what I posted:

1. I am a terrible sport and throw a fit when I lose--especially when it comes to board and card games.
2. I hate it when people crack their knuckles or burp in public. It's disgusting.
3. I like to watch one rerun of "Scrubs" before going to bed because I find it relaxing.
4. Sometimes I'd rather curl up in bed and read a book than go out and socialize. I would have never admitted this in high school because I used to think that it made me a dork. Now I'm automatically a dork because I'm old and a teacher, so I don't really care.
5. My mother is very, very sick, and I get upset about it everytime I'm in my car by myself.

I have to admit that it felt cathartic to get this stuff out there--especially number 5. I think that my students must have felt the same way because their posts were intensely personal. I found out that one of my students had colon cancer, while another has a father in jail, another had a friend who was raped, and someone else had a drinking problem, and about 100% of the girls in my class obsess over whether they're too fat or too thin, and fun things, too--one girl is a double-dutch expert, while another guy sleepwalks, and someone else has a true phobia of fish, and someone else wants to be a country singer, and nobody wants to be judged, and nobody likes a fake.

When I read their posts last night for the first time, little alarm bells starting ringing in my head. What if their parents read their blogs? Well, so what if their parents read their blogs? Is this my students' passive aggressive way of letting the world know that these kinds of issues need some adult attention? But what if some pedophile reads these blogs and takes advantage of the situation? What have I just invited in?

The idea behind this activity was to get my class to get to know each other, respect each other, and to inspire each other with the next piece of personal writing we're working on. As far as the class goes, I'm thrilled that they want to be honest with each other. The blog seemed like the ideal medium to get the ball rolling--it offers a much larger comfort zone than does class discussion, but unlike an essay, it's interactive. However, I'm toying with the idea of deleting the post (along with their comments) at the end of the week. After all, it's served its purpose. Why leave the door to our little classroom with all of our private battles open to the world?

Any advice/opinions?


Blogger McBride said...

what a great idea... might have to "steal" it from you!

12:45 PM  
Blogger mferrill said...

As usual, I am so impressed by your creative strategies to know your students and help them know each other. Part of me loved this assignment, and part of me shares your concerns about the ramifications of publishing such intensely personal information. When I read my students' Writer's Portolios, I sometimes worry about the personal issues some of them are facing. I usually write comments back to them, wanting them to know I'm ready to listen or help in any way I can. So I guess I'm glad their portfolios aren't public--in some instances I think they simply need to vent--and writing is so cathartic.

I think your decision to delete these blogs soon is a good one, and perhaps you could give them another blogging assignment where you ask them to discuss their feelings about publishing personal information online and possible ramifications.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

I think for safety's sake, you should take down the comments at the end of the week. I didn't see any really personal information (i.e., I live in X city or my phone number is ABC), but you're right, it has served its purpose. Also, I think it would be awesome if you could do the same thing for our 6th period. I am embarassed to admit that I am familiar with less than half of the class, and I could probably count the people I talk to in the class daily on two hands. In addition, I think people are more comfortable telling their five things on the blog instead of in class to each other's faces (I know it's that way for me, at least). I think any class would benefit from this activity.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Alexaaaaa said...

As a possible solution to the cyber-stalker problem, I would like to propose a private blog, or if blogger lacks this setting, a private wikispace. I am unfamiliar with blogger's settings, but I know for sure that wikispaces can be made inaccessible to anyone other than the approved users.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Lizzie A said...

I know that this has very little, well nothing, to do with what your post is about, but I just wanted to say thank you for listening to me today. I really need someone to listen to me to be able to let out the feelings inside me. I also realized that all I really needed was nst a bunch of conclusions as to what I should do (which you thankfully saved until the end instead of not letting me get things out first) but rather just to feel bad, and in this case, cry. Thanks for listening and bearing with me through all the toughness that I go through. Also, (on a competely different note) read my blog!!

3:39 PM  
Blogger shamitap said...

Ms. Kakos, this is SO awesome that you are doing this with your class. I know I personally feel more comfortable participating in a class where I know the people, like our class last year. It just makes it so much easier for the students and the teacher. For a student, sharing his or her deepest and most personal comments with his or her peers takes a lot of courage and doing so not only makes students feel comfortable with one another, but also allows them to acquire a greater sense of respect for one another as well as stepping up to that level of maturity, which is SO important in our high school lives.
I probably sound repetitive, but concerning the safety issue, I'm personally not a big fan of MySpace or give-away-any-info-about-my-life stuff online, so I would definitely recommend deleting the blog at the end of the week just to be safe, but of course it's up to you! I think it would be rather symbolic too--as you said, having served its purpose, it allowed them to share a little something about themselves that only existed at one point in history and only mattered to the people who were there and understood what was going on.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

What a great extension of that five things idea...

I think if you decide to delete that whole post, that it would be a learning experience to talk to the class about why you decided to let it stay up just a week.

I agree that it might be sensitive to leave it up, but I understand your quandary.

I also think it took courage to share your five things with your students, and they responded to that authenticity. You made it real.

Thanks for sharing with us.

5:31 AM  
Blogger jessica w said...

Ms. Kakos, I absolutely loved that activity! It really got our class to almost release from our daily little groups and reach out to others that we wouldn't normally talk with. I understand why you would take them down, but I really don't have a problem with mine being up. It definitely served its purpose. Thanks for making class fun!

6:16 PM  
Blogger bkitch said...

I think that this activity sounds great. I think especially in high school students get into thier own "clicks" (so to speak) and often don't realize the triumphs, hardships, and realness of the very students that may be sitting right next to them. As a whole our society often forgets about how unique each person is and everyone (well almost :) truly has some goodness to offer. I think this seems like a great lesson in respecting others, appreciating differences and getting to know that everyone has a story.
I do like the idea of a private wiki and might look into that if I have any assignments that I want to use technology that could contain personal information.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Crosby said...

So - did you decide to remove the post containing the personal statements? It sounds like a great lesson, but I do understand your concerns.

9:16 PM  
Blogger rachelf said...

I think this is really fun and interesting way to get to know people. And yes i do agree that on some accounts it could be too personal but then again it's a way for people to open up and let others in. I hope that you do this with our class at some time in the year and I'm interested to know what you did, did you delete them? I think that would be the best idea because everyone ot their use out of them and I don't think other people need to be reading them, since I think it would be a class teacher bonding thing; what happens in C11 stays in C11. But I think this is a very creative way to get people to learn more about each other perhaps things they didn't already know, which I agree would make them respect each other more and be inspired.

10:54 PM  

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