The general advice for writing for us can be find in the links here. However, I have come to realise that there may be some advice particularly relevant to people who are new to blogging or new to political blogging that I should share, and I apologise for not doing so sooner.
The first thing to realise is that everything you write on a blog is available to the public. If you wouldn’t want your current (or future) employers or your students’ parents to read it, don’t publish it under your own name. There is no shame in using another name or using a picture you can’t be identified in. For instance, while my real name is no longer a secret, it is not “Andrew Old”, and while I have no problem with people who read my blogs knowing who I am, I wouldn’t necessarily want everyone who knows me to read my blogs. That little difference in changing a name does help maintain some boundaries and I have never yet been told by a colleague or student that they recognise me from my online life. Many teachers don’t use their actual surname on facebook for the exact same reasons.
The second thing to realise is that politics is controversial and adversarial. One of the greatest signposts that you have made it as a blogger is if people want to write blogs and comments responding to you. If they are Labour supporting teachers they might well want to write the response on Labour Teachers, and I love to publish such responses. However, if they don’t, and they respond on their own blogs or on Twitter then neither I nor anyone else can control what is said. Please be aware that there is very little you can do about that, and if you don’t want your name, picture, a direct quotation or your job title to appear in a critical blogpost you should avoid putting them in the original post.
There are, of course, things you can do to encourage more constructive responses. Here is my guide for keeping the argument sensible:
- Ask me for advice if you are not sure about the likely response. I haven’t always responded to such queries in the past (sorry) but I will try to do so in the future.
- If expressing an opinion try to back it up with an argument. When people have no argument to address, they are more likely to respond in a personal or critical, rather than constructive way. If you really don’t have room for the argument, because it’s something you mentioned in passing, try linking to another article or blog that does make the argument.
- Ask yourself who is likely to disagree, and consider whether the way you have phrased the point is likely to make them take it personally. I don’t like to cut out every claim that people who agree with a particular point are “right wing” or bonkers” but if you make such claims then you cannot expect a response that’s designed to protect your feelings.
- Be careful about using humour or irony that people won’t get.
- If you don’t want people talking about you personally in their arguments, don’t talk about yourself in your arguments. This is actually one of the best reasons for anonymous blogging.
Thirdly, do be aware that my priority on Labour Teachers is to keep debate going and to keep it open. I avoid editing content rather than spelling and grammar, and only make occasional suggestions if I think a particular phrase may obscure a point, or get an undesired response. I’m neither quality control nor a bodyguard. So if you aren’t sure about a post, please ask me directly what I think; you may also want to run it past some like-minded friends.
Finally, please be aware that debate is a good thing. It is good to be challenged. It is good to read things you don’t agree with. It is more than good to have your blogs widely shared by people who disagree with them. It is what we are here for. Please join the debate, but please be aware that it is debate that you have signed up for.