Can’t think,
Too dumb.
Inspiration won’t come,
Bad ink, blunt pen,
Best wishes. Amen

That is a poem that I read years ago that for some reason has stuck in my mind. I have no idea who wrote it or where it came from but it is one of those things that pops through my head from time to time. I’m changing it to:

Can’t blog,
Too difficult,
“Nondiscussables” abound,
A few dilemmas,
What to do?
Best wishes, Amen.

Sometimes blogging is difficult, at least for me. I haven’t been able to blog lately because I’ve been thinking a great deal about issues that can’t be discussed “easily” on a blog. Factors such as the people involved or the sensitivity of the topic prevent total disclosure. That’s a good thing but I think the topics are worthy of discussion and I could gain from the insights of my “edublogging” family.

This year I have run into a few dilemmas that I still struggle with. Some have been with my blogging at the high school, some with commenters who cause concern in ways that have not come up before, and some just fall in the realm of those “nondiscussables” that exist in every educator’s world. Roland Barth describes these so well in Improving Relationships Within the Schoolhouse.

Roland Barth says adult relationships in the school will remain unchanged. School improvement is impossible when we give nondiscussables such extraordinary power over us. “These “nondiscussables” are held frequently in the halls, parking lots and elsewhere, but seldom in the polite society—at a faculty or PTA meeting, for example.

His statement has been been on my mind for some time. It has applications for those of us who are blogging, especially those with students.

So I thought I’d tackle one of my dilemmas today. This dilemma centers around an individual who comments frequently. This dilemma has to do with the appropriateness of comments. From time to time we may run across comments that we feel are not appropriate. These have to be judgement calls on our part. Now some are clear cut as in the case of offensive language, extreme rudeness, etc. but others are not so clear cut. A commenter may tread on areas that we educators generally respect and the commenter may not even be aware of the inappropriateness of their comment. I have had something like that happen recently. It was on my blog. I was discussing a situation, yet using no names. I intentionally did not use the students’ name so as not to embarrass him/her in any way. This commenter used the child’s name in a comment reply to my post. I took the liberty of removing the student name. I handled the issue by emailing the commenter. In this particular case I sent a strong email asking the commenter to please “think before they comment”. I took this action because this particular commenter had had a few occasions with other edubloggers over various unacceptable situations. Now I don’t know but I sense that the commenter lacks the skills to realize inappropriateness. I have no idea if it is the lack of experience or what and for the most part this commenter has provided excellent comments. The continued occurrences here and there cause concern. Now how do you weigh this? Great good has been accomplished with comments but there is an uneasiness that exists as you are never sure just when the next bombshell might drop. Now we educators can handle that, we already are doing that and in many cases we learn from these experiences but I am a firm believer in letting students learn from comments but therein lies my dilemma. I feel the commenter can be guided and learn from the experiences but my first responsibility is to the students. It’s also the type of thing that could shut us down. I’ve also noticed that the issue has not been blogged by other educators who have had this commenter frequent their sites.

This has led me to consider the merits of having a comment policy of some type that could be used with those who comment to our students or to us about our students. In situations like this I believe a comment policy would be helpful to use with those commenters like the one I am talking about. This post has lots of food for thought on this concern. I especially like the questions asked under ‘The Debate Over Deleting a Comment’. Those could be adapted nicely to fit in with a comment policy.

So, what’s your take? Do you think such issues are better discussed privately? And what’s your take on a comment policy?