The words that you are reading now are me. And yet they are not me. They are ‘me:edited’, if you like. Only a tiny handful of people know the ‘real’ me. The unedited version. My partner, my children, my family and my close friends. They don’t even know me by the same name as you do. As an author my publishers tell me that I have what is known as a ‘brand’. But the ‘Sue Cowley’ whose books you read is only a version of me, a professional one, it is not me. When you first become a teacher, you very quickly realise that you cannot present an unedited version of yourself to the class. This is not the pub on a Friday night. You are not there to crack jokes, to have a laugh and to swear at each other. You are ‘Miss’ or ‘Sir’. A role model. A professional. You:edited.
I really enjoy reading some anonymous teacher blogs. They give an unedited picture of reality that is often funny and perceptive. I like creating a picture of the writer in my head, without knowing what they really look like. It is fun for the reader as well as for the writer. I completely understand why some teacher bloggers choose to remain anonymous. As well as it being the sensible thing to do professionally, they also get to say what they really think. To write anonymously must feel like a kind of creative liberation. I would prefer it if anonymity were never used as an excuse for rudeness or derison. I’m a big girl: I can take whatever words are chucked at me. But others may not be so confident. A virulent response could be enough to put them off and that is not really fair.
Where I do have concerns is with a kind of ‘semi-anonymity’ that is arising. Those anonymous bloggers who write about colleagues, or children, and it appears that quite a few people know who the anonymous blogger is in real life. If you refer to other people in an anonymous blog, these people deserve the utmost respect for their privacy. They did not ask you to write about them. You got to hide your identity: they have the same right. As soon as I know an anonymous writer’s identity, and particularly if I know the school where they work, then any descriptions of people can suddenly be attached to real live human beings. If you split up your personality into ‘anonymous me’ and ‘school me’, so you can lay down some truths about other people, then please don’t tell me if I ever meet the ‘real me’. One personality is all I can take at a time, thanks.
‘I keep my own personality in a cupboard under the stairs at home so that no one else can see it or nick it.‘ Dawn French