Some time ago, I had an informal chat with a senior colleague, himself active on social media, and asked him a question. If you knew that one of your subordinates was tweeting or blogging anonymously, I asked him, and if the Head Master suspected the same thing, and if he asked you if you shared those suspicions, what would you say?
He was careful not to answer the question.
Am I anonymous through a desire for self-preservation? That’s certainly part of it. It wouldn’t be difficult to interpret some of what I’ve said on here as bringing my employer into disrepute, and I prefer having a salary to not having one.
But that is no longer a consideration for me. In a few days it’ll be the end of term. Tomorrow I’ll receive my salary payment for June. At the very worst, were I to be unmasked and sacked this afternoon, I’d miss out on two more instalments, and at least I wouldn’t have to endure the colossal waste of time that is the last few days of the academic year.
So I don’t fear being unmasked. Threats to reveal who I am and who my employer do not worry me. It may be that I stay in teaching in some form – I’m enrolled on a TEFL course to start at the end of August – but I won’t be a full-time schoolteacher again, and I’m leaving the country, and although yes, I know, these things can potentially follow you online everywhere and forever, I think the chances of this little corner of cyberspace becoming a big enough deal that it has a significant impact on my future chances of employment to be so small as to not be worth worrying about.
Even so, although I no longer fear the sack, I won’t be announcing who I am at the end of August. This is why.
I genuinely hold a great deal of affection for my current place of work and even for those who manage (or, if you must, lead) it. Like all schools it has its problems. But – and this is rather Marxist of me, I know – I don’t think that those problems are primarily the fault of the school itself, or those who currently occupy its most senior positions. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of my bosses actually agree with me more often than they’d like to admit, but can’t say so. They’re constrained not only by their own careers, which require them to introduce inadvisable initiatives, but also by governors, inspectors, and parents, all of whom may have silly ideas about what a good education looks like, and all of whom must be placated.
And of course there are areas where they don’t agree with me, where they have persuaded themselves that the brave new world of twenty-first century learning, for jobs that don’t yet exist, requires the school to pay thousands and pupils to spend hours on iPads … but I’ll give them this. I think their hearts are in the right place. The people I work for do genuinely want the best for our school and for our pupils. They must compromise, as we all must, with forces which are stronger than ourselves.
If my ramblings are attached to this institution then it will look bad as well, at least in some people’s eyes, and I don’t want that for the school, nor for its chiefs.
This is leading me down a path I don’t particularly like. Because if I believe all that, and I do, then isn’t it utterly irresponsible of me to be tweeting & blogging in this way? Now that it won’t be me that suffers the consequences, shouldn’t I be all the more careful about what I type?
Maybe. But the issues are there. They’re bigger than any one school. I want to grumble about them. I’m not sufficiently pompous or deluded as to think that anything I put on here will make any difference to anything, but if everyone did this, then someone would, and if no one did then no one would, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Immanuel Kant.
I don’t actually see what knowing my name would add to the Grumpy Teacher. You’d know I wasn’t fibbing? You’d know how representative I am? Maybe. But I think you can make your mind up about that from the content. (I’m not fibbing, but I’m not at all representative: this is just one snapshot of one teacher and the four schools I’ve worked in.) You don’t trust me? That’s easy: don’t follow & don’t read.
So yes, being anonymous protects me from the slings and arrows of outrageous educationalists who would ‘expose’ me, confident that all that they publish is approved of by those on whom they depend for their income. But that’s not all it does.