mamamusings: January 31, 2003

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Friday, 31 January 2003

blogging risks and benefits

I was thinking about whether I wanted to blog the high point of my day today, when I came across Mark Pilgrim's post about his boss reading his blog regularly. Seems that after Mark posted about how his job was driving him insane, his boss suggested that he take a few days off and completely "unplug." Cool.

I'm pretty sure my boss doesn't read my blog. But I always assume that she--and a variety of other people--might be, and I write with that in mind. Last week, when I posted about my disillusionment with some co-workers, I did so cautiously, not naming names or specific situations, aware that the entry could end up being read in unexpected places. That's the risk of blogging. My mother--who does read my blog--expressed some concern about those risks after I wrote that entry. But at the end of the day, I have to believe the risks of blogging the difficult passages in my life are outweighed by the benefits.

And today I had affirmation of those benefits. A student that I'm quite fond of stopped by my office, and asked if it it was okay to close the door. Uh-oh, I thought. A tale of woe is sure to follow, and I'll go home for the weekend bummed out about this person's unhappy experience. But I'm glad my students trust me enough to share their concerns, so I said "sure," and braced myself.

"I was reading your blog this week," the student continued, "and I read a post that left me a little worried about you. Is everything okay?" Wow. I know a lot of my students read my blog, but somehow that always seems kind of remote. I certainly don't expect them to show up in my office to discuss them! "No," I replied, "I'm fine...really." I reassured the student that my tenure process seems to be proceeding in a positive way (knocking on the faux wood surface of my desk as I did so), and that the post had been a normal expression of frustration with the ever-present machinations of academic politics. (And last week's disappointment was nothing compared to the outrageous slings and arrows I suffered this week. Definitely not a bloggable story.) Still solicitous, the student said that if I felt I were being treated unfairly, that the issue could be raised in student government, because students felt strongly about good professors being appreciated by the university.

Wow.

It's worth every bit of trouble and pain that this job brings--from departmental politics to grading--to have even one encounter like that. It's the kind of reaffirming experience that tells you that when push comes to shove (which it all too often seems to do these days), you're doing the right thing at the core aspects of your job. That's why I'm here--I love to teach. I left the corporate training gig because in part because there was no extended contact with students--I didn't get to see them through a process, and watch the results. What I love most about my job is the fact that it lets me build relationships with my students, to help them learn not only about web development, but also about how to navigate the world.

And when they turn around and repay the favor--well, it's a lot like the feeling I have when my kids turn around and give me an extra hug because I look sad, or crawl into bed with me when I'm sick and rub my back. That realization that the connection isn't one way--that's a powerful thing.

So despite the political ups and downs of my week, I'm sitting here on my couch this evening feeling like one of the luckiest people in town.

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Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna