Self Censorship and Crossing Lines- For Andrew…

How much of yourself do you put in your blog? If it is something that students are going to peruse, or, in my case, something I link to from my class blogs, then there is open invitation for students to interact with it.

I was reading Canadian musician Matthew Good’s blog the other day. He is undergoing a complete overhaul of his blog- taking out many refs to his own life and self, and has decided to write from now on about politics and a bit on touring life.  As someone who is in the public eye, Good seems to be pulling his ‘self’ out of that spotlight. Perhaps he has run up against the idea of putting too much of ‘himself’ out there, and now finds himself left with not a lot of ‘self’ left. The private has become public.

This is one of the many anti-blog sentiments I have heard expressed by teachers at conferences and around meeting tables. Our students seem to have a propensity, or should I say desire, for putting themselves out there; this new generation seems to have an innate need for exposure and, possibly, recognition.

I’ll be honest here: I share that desire. The last while I have gotten bogged down in checking my blog stats and my flickr stats…seeing how popular my postings or my photos are instead of merely enjoying the medium. I have also heavily censored myself for fear of losing readers, most of whom I have never met and a good portion of whom do not really interact on this blogspace. I feel the confines of a pro-d blog. Walking into it I shed my personal self. I put on my ‘business clothes’ attitude and sever bonds with the personal side (by the way, I don’t own a suit, and I think whoever invented them never wore one…).
I have friends who complain about that disconnect. One friend told me recently that he checks my blog everyday, to which I responded something akin to ‘wow, you must fall asleep reading all that educational stuff’…he said he didn’t read the articles, he just checked the blog… I have other friends who are into blogging but are strangely absent when it comes to reading or interacting with my blog.
Doesn’t this feel strange to you? Am I the only one who is chaffing at the self censorship that so-called ‘professional’ blogs and bloggers impose? Are you sick of me ranting about this yet(it seems to be a recurrent theme these last several entries…)?
When I enter my school or my classroom I do not don the clothes and muted personal life of the ‘professional’. I do, more than likely, change gears into something akin to professionalism, but I try to inject myself into my classroom. There is such a thing as professional distance (or something like that), but I feel that in my field, that distance is one of respect. I do not merge and become another student in the classroom. There is a reason why I stand at the front (or sit on a desk).
I have a few students who love to ask personal questions…important questions. Sometimes, I get that suspicion that they are trying to put me off topic; sometimes I don’t rise to that bait, but sometimes, I just have to believe they truly want to talk about important things.
Scenario: discussing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…last night’s reading….a question pops up in class: “Mr. Nelson….how do you know when you are in love?”
I ask you, which is more important for my students: a discussion on a novel, or talking about one of the most important things in life? I chose the latter, and I often will if I sense the question is coming from a place of honest seeking, but I always try to return to what is ‘on the agenda’.
This blog was started with an agenda. It had a purpose, and I still promote ‘purposeful blogging’ as opposed to ‘cat blogs’, but lately I have been reading ‘cat blogs’ about people I care about: Former students and friends. Lately I haven’t been reading the educational posts in my bloglines account. I just skip to that bottom folder that is subtlety marked ‘personal’.
Lately, I have been reading David Copperfield in my spare time and writing poetry with my students, and spending more time on flickr then on any blog.
Lately, I have been talking with students about love and life (as well as covering curriculum), and taking pictures at a concert that some former students of mine played at.
Lately, I have been spending time taking pictures of people instead of things. Does this signify a shift in what I value?
Perhaps my recent activities have a lot to do with that chaffing disconnect of professionalism. Perhaps it also has a lot to do with where I am at in my life journey. My wife and I are expecting our second child any day now. Translation: I don’t really think a lot about education right now.
My apologies for this long rambling post. How did I do, Andrew?


3 thoughts on “Self Censorship and Crossing Lines- For Andrew…

  1. Excellent James! Crack open that shell… haha. As being one who also lives in the lime light with all of my Young Life kids, I have realized that sometimes being open on something like a blog, or in a talk that I give from time to time has been very beneficial… other times it has bit me in the butt. I am king of sticking my foot in my mouth and doing things I shouldn’t, like the time I gave one of my YL kids a cigar because I was just treating him like a friends… then I thought about it and hit myslef real hard!
    God created us to be personal, to rub shoulders alot with everyone around us. There are rightly so some personal boundries that shouldn’t be crossed… you telling your students about your sexual cravings… probally not the best… haha! But opening your soul to them, even showing them the ugly stuff usually has some gain.
    Congrats on Hannah! I think Lucy and her will be friends!

  2. Andrew,

    thanks for the kind review!

    Yes, it is sometimes hard to know when to crack open the shell or what to be transparent about. I agree that sometimes it can be amazingly beneficial, but at other times it can really haunt us. A very funny example with your YL stuff…
    kids want something real. I think they can smell a fake a mile away like it is rotting eggs, but I think sometimes they don’t know what to do when someone is genuine…there isn’t a ton of it out there, after all, with spindoctors and slick advertising…
    I read a Maclean’s article yesterday in the hospital entitled ‘cool is dead’ where they talked about the shift against media and the packaging of cool (something i think has been going on far longer than they talk about) – the in-ness of the word ‘random’ for kids theses days and the failure of media to latch onto that….but then you check out flickr with their ‘interestingness’ feature…totally plugging into that random cool…..
    anyways, i digress…i should save that article for a blog post…i guess what i am getting at is that the spin is everywhere, and when kids encounter someone who isn’t spinning themselves, it can be a little strange for them or can be taken as more spin on a new front (the honesty spin…politics seems to be big on this one lately).
    Yes, there is wisdom in disclosure….there must be. How much self-censorship we engage is another topic altogether. I don’t believe in useless disclosure of information, but at times, kids just want honesty (speaking of teens right now…)
    I agree that we are created to be personal and relational by God. I don’t think the ‘institution’ or the ‘corporation’ style of relationship where we hide behind professionalism or treat ourselves like a corporation are good responses. Speaking of boundaries…yes, they should be there. I sometimes hear people talking about their spouse, be it in staff meetings or to kids, and it isn’t the best talk. I really wonder what their spouse would say if they were in the room (maybe later on…after that meeting or interaction…) yeah…i would agree that sexual cravings…not a good idea to blog em!
    Opening your soul….i agree. It can be a painful process, but in the line of work we are in, it is almost expected (Young Life for you, teaching at a Christian school for me).

    Yes, I mentioned to Lydia in the hospital that maybe Hannah and Lucy would hit it off….very cool!!
    cheers, and thanks for the relevance!!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I’ve experienced the same feelings and have self-censored twice in my blogging life, even though no one from work is reading. Why? It wasn’t that I thought the writing was inappropriate or anything like that, but rather, that it reflected an attitude or point of view that would not advance my career.

    The third time I went to self-censor, I decided to go in the other direction. There is no reason why we should censor ourselves, deny a part of ourselves in our blogs. We are vibrant, human beings…powerful beyond measure. If professionalism is a cloak we don and hide beneath, then it is false. For me, professionalism got in the way of recognizing that I am spiritual. So, I changed the name of my blog, and have focused on transformation.

    You can find that transformation series at:

    Best wishes,
    Miguel Guhlin

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