Questions from middle school teachers: Blog etiquette

The following from an email conversation with a long-distance teacher friend:

I was wondering if you actually have met everyone who writes on your blog?  Or are some of them people who just found your blog and wrote to you?

No I have not. I look forward to someday meeting some folks, but definitely do not know them all. And I read and comment on the work of folks whom I have never met in person. It’s like a parallel universe to which I am a relative newcomer. I find it fascinating.

What is the appropriate math-teacher etiquette?  I don’t know if it is a “closed” community of people who all know each other (like if everyone who posts on your blog is a math professor and all of you go to conferences together and know each other really well).

No, no and no. Of course it is natural to feel more comfortable jumping in to a conversation when you know the participants personally, but there is no requirement or expectation at all. All are welcome and encouraged to participate. And of course, the places where that conversation is explicitly encouraged and nurtured will have higher rates of participation (viz. Dan Meyer’s blog).

I have spent precisely two hours in the physical presence of Dan Meyer (who is a grad student, not a professor), three or four with Karim Ani of Mathalicious (who is a teacher and entrepreneur, not a professor) and zero total hours with all of the other folks whose work I read regularly (very few of whom are professors). If you’re a fan of The Office, you’ll identify with my claim that There is no inner circle. Really.

Are professors who run blogs usually open to hearing from middle school teachers (people they don’t know I mean)?

Absolutely. That’s why we write. We hope to have an audience and we hope to hear from and learn from our readers. (And again, the whole ‘professor’ thing? It’s just not so.)

Finally, from another source (a smart and talented former student of mine, now a high school teacher in North Dakota), let’s dispel this misconception:

And for no other reason than my spying on your blog, I decided to drop you a line

If it’s on the blog, you’re not spying. You’re reading. If it’s only on my hard drive? That’s spying.

And consider this your invitation to jump into the conversation.

5 responses to “Questions from middle school teachers: Blog etiquette

  1. I’m a professor, but not of math. Most of the blogs I read and comment on are written by people I have never met—I think there are 3 blogs with rare posts that are by people I know. I welcome intelligent comments on my blog from anyone—most emphatically from teachers.

  2. I have had the pleasure of meeting, in real life, several of the people who I originally met online, through blogging and commenting. There are many more people who I “know” online but have yet to meet. Very few of the people I interact with through my blog & twitter are people who I knew before I started posting. The vast majority are readers who somehow or another stumbled across my writing and decided to say something about it. I always love it when that happens.

  3. For the record, I have met neither of the above, although I have read both their work.

    Glad to have drawn some readers out of the woodwork to comment here. While I have your attention, I’d like to ask gasstation and space between the numbers (and others) about the relative roles of professional math teaching journals (e.g. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, other NCTM pubs, AMATYC and/or AMS and MAA stuff, but not the research journals) and blogs.

    I recently passed 10,000 total page views here, most in the past four months. I doubt I’ve had that many views combined of my published articles in the past 10 years (although admittedly, the published ones are not great in number.)

    And I find that I make time to read online pretty much every day while the journals pile up.

    And I have had much deeper and extended conversations with people online by reading their work and having them read mine than I have ever been able to conjure up in response to a journal article (and again, this goes both ways).

    OK-one exception to that last rule. I met Randy Philipp of San Diego State because of a journal article he and his team wrote, and that turned into a productive relationship.

    The point is that I have discovered this parallel universe of really smart people working really hard on their teaching. I have learned a lot from it and I wonder what it means for the future of teaching journals.


  4. I almost never read the “teaching” journals. The few times I’ve looked at them, they’ve been very dry, full of jargon, and totally useless for helping me teach. They are “research” articles, but often the research questions that can be answered often have little to do with my concerns about my teaching.

    I don’t read that many research papers even in my own field now: maybe 50 a year. I read more blog posts than that in week. I still rely on research papers in my field for really meaty stuff, though—the blog reading is better for thinking about teaching, but pretty much useless for the stuff I research (which is not of wide enough interest for there to be blogs).

  5. I’ve met maybe 10 or 15 people from my digital world in real life, including Bree, who commented above.

    Very few times has it been in a non-professional setting. Mostly we were going to the same conferences or workshops and met up. The people who are willing to put their random thoughts out on the internet are more prone to sharing as it is so I don’t have a problem with contacting/being contacted by people who have never met me in real life or interacted otherwise. Like you said, that’s why we’re here.

    On the opposite side of the coin, afaik, zero of my coworkers in my district read my blog or interact with me online.

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