Blogging from the Classroom, Teachers Seek Influence, Risk Trouble

Blogs give readers a firsthand look into the sometimes messy world of teaching.

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Like Ferriter, Jeff Silva-Brown finds blogging to be a powerful tool to improve instruction. A social science teacher at a rural high school in Ukiah, Calif., the 35-year-old says he has learned more about classroom management and lesson planning from other bloggers than from his school district colleagues.

Angry parent. But Silva-Brown also has no qualms about airing the frustrations of teaching in a challenging environment. In his blog, called A Passion for Teaching and Opinions, he often takes swipes at government officials who, in his view, are not doing enough to keep his high school free of drugs. Describing his introduction to "the drug culture" of his town, which is allowed to cultivate marijuana for medicinal use, Silva-Brown wrote, "I've had plenty of Intro level students state that they didn't even need to bother going to college, or even graduating high school, because they would help the family grow [marijuana]." He added, sarcastically, "I wonder if [the No Child Left Behind Act] has provisions about that."

Silva-Brown says he's toned down the language in his blog since he was called into the principal's office after a parent complained that his use of profanity was setting a bad example for students. He doubts that many students even read his blog; he says they probably find the content boring.

And that's fine by him. "I'm not writing my blog to gain fame and fortune," he says. "While I think that my blog posts have made people think, they really haven't impacted any sort of change in our community."

Betlach, who originally set out to offer a counternarrative of teaching in an urban school with his blog, wasn't sure if his writings had any impact. When he announced this summer that he was resigning after six years of teaching, some readers responded that they saw his departure coming. But a young teacher who, like Betlach, is a Teach for America graduate, paid him perhaps the biggest compliment of all: "Reading your reflections this year has helped me through the first year of TFA. Whether they're of the cheerleading or ranting variety, they've kept me motivated to try harder. Do better for my kids."