It’s another year of Cohorting and this year I’m blogging from the sidelines as I am taking on a new teaching role of my squishy baby boy. Thinking about a whole new batch of teachers embarking on this journey, I wanted to share some thoughts about the
challenges joys of blogging.
If you are like most teachers I’ve had the pleasure of working with through Cohort 21, then you are likely a little hesitant to grab that metaphorical megaphone and broadcast yourself to the entire world through this here handy tool of the WordPress Blog. I would be lying if I said that every teacher in the past 5 years of Cohort 21 (has it been that long already?) has wholeheartedly embraced the idea of writing about what they do and what they are wondering about in their teaching. This said, I think that once we as professionals can overcome these mental hurdles, the benefits can seriously outweigh the potential hesitations that linger in the corners of our minds. So, for you Cohort 21 group of 2016-2017 I present to you three blogging fears and how to get over them already!
1. “But I don’t have anything to write about.”
Are you a teacher? Check.
Do you do things in your classroom? Yep.
Do you have questions about what you do as a teacher? I mean, who doesn’t?
I think a common misnomer about the blogging process is that teachers don’t want to write about something that they are not an expert in. Sure you might not know anything about flipped learning / inquiry learning / design thinking / that new fancy teaching fad, but just your observations and questions are important to share. Even if others don’t find your questions fascinating, it is important for you to ask to them, as this is how you get to really interesting and juicy findings in your teaching practice which are really great to write about. The best way to get to the sweet insights about teaching and learning is to just start somewhere. If you can just embrace the idea that some of your writing might not be Pulitzer Prize worthy, then you are kind of off the hook when it comes to needing something brilliant to write about. Write about the boring stuff. Write about the mundane. Write about that nagging question that keeps you up at night. Just write something.
2. “What would the students, the parents, or my fellow teachers think?”
I get it. If you are going to be exploring questions in your blog about your teaching practice, couldn’t this be misinterpreted by a parent as you *gasp* not knowing everything?! Might a principal stumble upon your blog and be shocked when she discovers that you are grappling with big questions in your practice? And what would happen if a student found your blog and finally realized that you are human who is vulnerable and thinks about your teaching?
The illusion of the all-knowing teacher is about as outdated as that dusty set of encyclopedias in the back of the library that don’t get used anymore. We all know that the best teachers are the ones who are learning right alongside their students, and yet it is admittedly freaky to know that when we hit the publish button, we are indirectly allowing the world in on our practice. And this could leave us open to criticism. But in reality, I believe it leaves us more open to progress and important conversations.
When I’m posting anything online (even on Facebook and Instagram that are private accounts) I always ask myself the question: if a parent / student / my principal read this, would it reflect who I am professionally? So while I am cautious, I always ensure that my reflecting is filtered. Interestingly, an especially sly student discovered this blog (not that hard, since it uses my real name so she just needed to Google me) and was delighted to see her teacher writing about some of the things we did in class. She commented on some of the posts and gave a special air of encouragement that I could not have predicted.
Speaking of which, it is naive to think that our students and parents aren’t Googling us. They want to figure us out. Personally, I believe that not having some kind of an online presence shows that you are outdated, old fashioned, and a teacher who is inflexible in their ways (not to be blunt, but there you have it). If you realize that your community will be investigating you, why wouldn’t you want to curate this information?
3. “I just don’t have the time to bother with this.”
Okay, but this is a little like saying that you don’t have the time to brush your teeth, so you will just deal with the dentist bills later. Or you don’t have the time to exercise, so you will just deal with your poor health. Or you don’t have the money to pay for insurance, so you will just pay for your flooded basement yourself. Writing about your practice is an investment that pays dividends.
Not only do you capture your teaching moments to look back on––like cherished photographs of your children––but you also cash in on the ideas, feedback, and commentary from your fellow teachers, improving your practice for the future.
It is too easy for teaching to be a solo practice, with each of us closing our doors out of the fear of being judged or found out for the frauds that we fear we are. When we put ourselves out there in a safe way through the practice of blogging (much more safe than having yourself filmed, observed, or presenting at a conference), we gain the ability to hear the expert voices from those around us.
So sure, it takes time. It is another thing to do on top of your marking, lesson plans, calls to parents, endless meetings, and report writing. But if you carve out 20 minutes a week to writing reflectively through your blog, and actually schedule it, the investment you sow will come back to you and reward you tremendously. Simply put, we make time for what we value, so if you can find a way to see the merit of writing about your teaching, the time will open itself up to you.