I always start off the school year by sending home a letter to all of my incoming students (whom I have already met last year) that welcomes them to my classroom and provides a quick overview of what is ahead for the coming year (excitement! fun! adventure!).
I also give them access to our writing class weblog (The Electronic Pencil) and instructions on how to log in and post some writing. I start them off with the basic “what did you do this summer” query in the days before school starts and then closely monitor what happens.
In the first few days, four students have already posted some initial writing and begun commenting on each other’s writing (all good) and then today, I get a post in which a student describes in some detail their dating habits this summer and the ups and downs of being a sixth grader. It was a good piece of writing (as writing goes) but not within bounds of our Weblog. So I had to delete their writing and insert a comment from me about the parameters of acceptable expression. And that made me feel awkward and I realized how artificial a classroom weblog becomes when this happens, and yet, as a teacher, I really didn’t have much choice. The post was too specific on too many topics.
I know I will have to pull this student aside on the first day and have a discussion. That’s a good thing (the discussion) but I still feel a tingle of uneasiness between what I hope the site can be used for and how I have to act as gatekeeper.
This student promised to write again tomorrow, so I look forward to reading the next post … 🙂