Human relations are so important as an educator. Each day we are required to interact with many different people in a variety of different ways. As an administrator, I’ve learned that what I say is not always what the other person hears and, I am responsible for what it is I have said/written. If I offend someone, I have two choices. This entry is about this very fact.

This week, while my edublogs account was down, I’ve been involved in a heated discussion about the role tv in an educators life. It all started when I visited Chris’s blog Crucial Thought where an interesting discussion about tv was taking place. What caught my attention right off the bat was Chris’s opening comment:

So Dan Meyer has got me on the defensive a bit.

So I read on with interest and then followed the comments. Wow. Dan sure had some “interesting” things to say about this topic and other bloggers. This led to a comment there and things evolved to where I write this post.

First off, I must apologize to Dean Shareski as he ended up taking a bit more of a rant from me than he deserved. Dean is a wonderful person who demonstrated that he understood that he needed to clarify his comments which really showed me how much he understands about human relationships and people. After a cool down, I totally accept his explanation and his stance, with which I agree.

Dan Meyer, he doesn’t get it at all. Now, Dan has made a few bold statements about tv, teachers and ability to engage students. I won’t go into details, you can check them out. Now, what he doesn’t get is that it doesn’t matter what you intended – it matters what you actually say and how what you say is interpreted.  I believe that the saying is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Now there were a few things that began to concern me about what was happening with this. First, the comment Dan left about another commentor over at Chris’s site.

Durff is a teacher I have got to know over the past several months through Classroom2.0, The Horizon Project, where she worked with Vicki Davis and her own blog. Now, she left a comment on Chris’ post about tv. A comment to which Dan replied with a somewhat sarcastic and demeaning tone to it. That piqued my interest. So I went reading to see what exactly was the take with this whole thing.

        But in the classroom, I worry about any teacher who just casts off t.v. as blithely as both Chris and Mrs. Durff do in their personal lives. When Mrs. Durff drops the double exclamation point after “I don’t even own a tv,” I read it exactly the same as:

“I don’t even own a DVD player!!”
“I don’t even own an iPod!!”
“I don’t even own a computer!!”

Dan posted two posts about tv. The first was really neutral. The second, however, was not. Now, what Dan just doesn’t get is that when you offend someone with what you say, it doesn’t matter what your intent was or what you thought you had said. You are the one responsible for what you said. If someone is offeneded, you have but two choices: try to figure out why they are offended and work toward a solution or brush off the person because you consider them igonorant.

In my work as an administrator, I don’t know how many times what I intended is not what was received and to brush off the other person as not worth the time just isn’t an option. I’ve done this in a few situations early in my career. For example, when discussing working and dealing with students, I made the comment that you really can’t know and teach kids until you actually have some of your own. Well, in our group were four people who were either single or married and without children.  I offended them. I tried to explain that it wasn’t them, that it wasn’t their lifestyle, that it wasn’t what I meant. Didn’t matter. It wasn’t until I realized that I had offended them because I had disregarded their lifestyle choices and their life experiences and reduced teaching to a one dimensional act. Now, One was a elementary principal who had 28 years of experience, another was our Special Education Consultant, the third a very superb teacher of about 15 years and the last a married teacher who was one of the few men I know who taught lower level elementary and was awesome.  Now, in my youthful ignorance, I believed I was right and, thankfully, they didn’t hold it against me. Which allowed me to work through the incident, realize my error and humbly seek their forgiveness for my ignorance, my error in judgement and my need to consider what I say and then be responsible for what it is I said.

In a world filled with a variety of lifestyle choices, it is okay to voice your opinion about what you believe. It is great when people challenge us about our beliefs because it allows us to strengthen our beliefs while being exposed to new ideas and thoughts. With Dan’s first post, that was the case. I saw it as a challenge to explain that one could be a great teacher, engage students in a lively discussion and really push students to examine their own thoughts and ideas given a different viewpoint. In fact, from Dan’s last set of comments Tony Lucchese uses my drug analogy to say the following:

Some of the most successful programs to keep kids off drugs are run by or involve people whose own lives have been severely affected by drugs. Their experience gives them a certain credibility and makes them better, oh what’s the word, teachers.

So, being someone who has successfully gone without television, wouldn’t that give me some credibility and make me better at, oh, teaching! You see, it’s easy to say “You have to be able to talk kids about tv and to be credible, you have to watch the same programs so you can have meaningful conversation.” but to actually say, “You know, you don’t need tv as much as you watch as there many different things for you to do.” and actually provide the options for the students to do instead of watching tv. So, if you’re walking the talk and living the life, you have to provide the options. To do that, you have participate in your community, push people to listen to the youth and the options that they would like in order to get away from the tv, seek and organize things for them to do and give up your time so that there are the options for the students. That’s what I do. I don’t want recognition or fame or fortune from this. I want youth to avoid the pitfalls of a lifestyle that is now causing concern among many social groups; obesity among the youth. You’re right, Tony, tv is not the direct cause of problems like drugs but it is a cause, along with other lifestyle choices, that is creating a huge medical concern across age groups, adults included. Sedintary lifestyle choices, of which tv viewing is one, is a leading concern regarding type II diabetes and heart disease and, if what I gather from reading and listening to interviews, is almost an epidemic in our Western civilization.

Now, if you had read my comments and my last post carefully, you would have know that, as an administrator of a school, I take seriously my professional obligations to my parents, students and staff. I continue to grow and look for ways to improve what I do as a professional. However, when the following is said:

    This whole t.v. thing felt like a one-off, one last digression before the start of summer, but it’s offered up a nifty personality test for teachers. From my vantage point, this thing really defines you.  blog

Two things bothered me with this. First, how is the world is this a personality test? Secondly, isn’t the whole statement “From my vantage point, this thing really defines you.” personal? I mean, if my decision about tv defines me, isn’t that a comment that my personal lifestyle choices affect my abilities as a professional? In taking exception, I asked for clarification of the above in two comments and my own post only to be told:

 I’m not belittling or insulting anyone. It concerns me that teachers think this way. (And, really, it’s impossible for me to know what you or anyone else thinks. Speculation has been pretty easy in some cases, though.) This issue isn’t a career-breaker but I do think it’s a poor way to go about this job.

and finally ends with the last comment on my blog:

The point which eludes you, the point which I’ve repeated so often that I’m bored with it is that, yes, you can talk about a medium you don’t personally engage but it’s difficult — nigh impossible — to have any meaningful discussion about moderation & discernment (to speak nothing about more proactive approaches to television) if, in the back of your head, all you’d really like to see is the extermination of the medium. Essentially, this comes down to the underlying motivations for your lifestyle choice and not the lifestyle choice itself.

Really interesting, so now it’s the underlying motivations for a lifestyle choice and not the lifestyle choice that define you. Then, finally Dan puts the icing on the cake, something that I’ve seen done by many a person who don’t understand that, having been offended by your remark, regardless of what lifestyle choice I am making, it is not my responsibility to change my lifestyle or say sorry because I am offended.

    After every comment you’ve left me, I’ve tracked back here, opened your “All About Me” page, and become alarmed all over again that this intellectually inflexible position, that these digressive, dismissive, and snide posts, come not just from a teacher, but from a principal.

Yours has not been a proud moment for blogging. But what’s utterly great and completely poignant about this situation is, just as there are edifying & unedifying blogs on the Internet, so there are unedifying & edifying books, songs, movies, speech, and t.v. These empty vessels are what we make of them. As teachers, we’ve been graanted more control over that process than the average citizen. That’s really special. That’s not a privilige I’ll ever take lightly.

What struck me here is that Dan didn’t figure out I was an administrator until he came here even though there were references to my position on my comments and posts. How did that happen? Now, for the rest, this is the usual progression you see from someone who has offended another and then blames them for being “intellectually inflexible” (I was only joking when I comment about her breasts. Well, his eyes are slanted. Well, having kids does make you a better teacher. Well, watching tv does make you better at talking about it. Well, doing drugs will make you able to understand them  better.) I could continue but it is not the responsibility of the person offended. I’ve asked Dan, over and over, to clarify himself about what he means. Instead

The point which eludes you, the point which I’ve repeated so often that I’m bored with it is that, yes, you can talk about a medium you don’t personally engage but it’s difficult — nigh impossible — to have any meaningful discussion about moderation & discernment (to speak nothing about more proactive approaches to television)

Dan’s grown bored. He’s upset

I’m done with this conversation on my blog. You’ve become flagrantly abusive there (but just in a teasing way, right?) and I refuse to host a meleé. This is also my last reply to you here.

Well, this just made me laugh. Obviously, the blog he had referred to as part of his defence, he has not visited again otherwise he’d get the reference to “in a teasing way” much like he’d have know to make comments like:

But in the classroom, I worry about any teacher who just casts off t.v. as blithely as both Chris and Mrs. Durff do in their personal lives. When Mrs. Durff drops the double exclamation point after “I don’t even own a tv,” I read it exactly the same as:

“I don’t even own a DVD player!!”
“I don’t even own an iPod!!”
“I don’t even own a computer!!”

is, I don’t even know what to call it.

Dean made a very good point on his blog.

I don’t believe you have to watch tv or that if you don’t you’re missing out.  You don’t need tv to be a well educated person.  What television does best is tell good stories (movies, sit-coms, dramas) , showcase live events (news and sports) and inform (discovery channel, how to shows, etc….)  You can get all these things in other formats but television provides a good format for this type of media.

from what I’ve read of your view, it’s not that you think it’s bad. But many do. Many view TV as destroying our kids minds just as they view video games doing the same thing and my point is that it’s about choice and not to blame the medium. These are the snobs. Those that think all TV is bad and they proudly brag to others about how “enlighten” they are because they do not succumb to the level of TV watching but spend time reading great literature. I have met people who when you admit you watch “Survivor” they look at you like you must only have a grade 8 education. These are the ones I’m addressing. I’m challenging that attitude.

Darn right, that needs to be challenged. I play video games, as Dean says. I take time to indulge myself in various otherworld dramas and challenges. I visit SL, not as much as I’d like and am interested in its development as an educational tool. However, I do not think that either of these

offered up a nifty personality test for teachers. From my vantage point, this thing really defines you.

I could but I realize that what some people view as a waste of time, others find quite educational and enthralling. I don’t believe that any of these are “nifty peronality tests for teachers.” or “really defines you.” or me or anyone else and to draw conclusions about “personality and you” as a person really, really offends me. I want a rationale or explanation  but continued with the “That’s not what I meant mantra.” which does not cut the mustard. I know you’re bored with the whole thing just as I’m tired of asking the questions only to be brushed off.

Why did I spend time on this whole thing again? Well, because the comment of Andrew Keen continues to hang in the back of my head. To offend someone and then dismiss their objections is unexcuseable. I doubt I will ever get a more of a response than I have. I  have been rather caustic and indignant which can’t be excused just because someone has offended me. However, to even suggest that in any way I am less able to do my job as a teacher or a principal – that it “defines me” or is a “personality test”  and, because I won’t give up and go along with you is, is, is ….

is a sad day in blogging as Dan suggested. Several retorts flew through my head. However, the only thing that I can say is that I’m saddened by how I’ve been dismissed as intellectually inflexible and other people who have great reputations as educators  have been dismissed and degraded for their thoughts while support was garnered by linking to someone who, after a careful read, doesn’t have the same beliefs. My hope is that, in time and through experience, you get it. This time, well,  …..

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