Every now and again when we discuss a relevant issue in class, I am tempted to share with my students one of my essays from my blog, but stop myself on time. Although it is a public medium, and I am always delighted when people read my posts, when it comes to my students I’d rather keep my privacy and prefer that they do not know that I write a blog.
In one of the earlier articles devoted to the subject of privacy, the sociologist Alan P. Bates provides a helpful definition of the term: "a person’s feeling that others should be excluded from something which is of concern to him, and also recognition that others have a right to do this” (1964: 429).
Bates’ definition expresses the way I feel about teacher/students relationship -- my personal life and my political views are “of no concern" to my students . When I went back to teaching, a week after my husband's passing I did not tell my class anything. I felt that such information was actually a burden on my students, and chose to focus on teaching them English reading.
Along the same line, earlier this semester one of my students wrote to say that the reason he did not attend any of the classes was that his mother was seriously ill and he needed to be by her bedside. My response was to offer help without any questions, I felt that this was my student’s private concern.
It would have been different if that student had come to talk to me in person about his mother, in that case I would have naturally inquired about her health. When I meet students in my office they frequently tell me about their lives and I give advice from my personal experience.
But in class we convene for a reason and our social interaction should be purposeful and limited. Thus when I offer personal anecdotes they are either connected to the reading material or are meant to emphasize the significance of English.
As a certain degree of deliberate intimacy is conducive to learning, I have to balance between maintaining good feeling in class and promoting serious work. I find that as a teacher my interaction with the students is much more guarded than any other social or professional contact. It involves measuring my words, having to question myself constantly whether what I am about to say would actually promote learning.
Since my students do not like to read in English (they usually are not great readers in any language) and they are not curious enough to look me up on Google, so far my blog has remained unknown to them. If one day a student tells me that she read some of my posts, I would be thrilled and forget all about my privacy. When that happens it would be a proof that the student has become comfortable in English and started to to explore. This could count as a real succes.
Meanwhile I am still waiting.