How to get over yourself and write about your teaching already

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.”

LIAR!

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.

So what about you? What barriers do you experience in your own blogging practice or what do you anticipate might be a challenge looking forward?
About the Author
Passionate and curious about technology, smiles, special education, differentiated instruction, forests, graphic novels, accessibility, anti-oppression, and warm beverages. Can often be found laughing with young people and improvising songs on the spot. @teach_tomorrow

8 comments on How to get over yourself and write about your teaching already

  1. Ruth says:

    Your timing here couldn’t be more perfect, and I agree with you wholeheartedly! Thanks for this thoughtful post and I am sure it will help our new cohort get over the initial blogging hurdles!

  2. Derek Doucet says:

    What a timely blog post. You make excellent points about reasons and obstacles that often get in the way of blogging. I love the quote you chose “People always make time for what is important to them” – it’s so true and you have outlined the benefits of blogging which helps to illustrate its importance and value which I think is sometimes lost amongst the rest of the chaos.

    To answer your question – I think for me it’s a case of having too many hats and trying to do too many things. I try to keep it all in my head but have been better in the past couple of years keeping things in my GCal. I know having @reicholtz as a “Blog Buddy” has helped as we set goals for blogs before the end of a weekend, if we notice we haven’t written in a while.

    We’ve missed you but as always, it’s a pleasure to read your blogs! I hope you’ll continue to share your experience and ideas so that we can all benefit.

    1. Adam Caplan says:

      Hey Celeste! We miss you. It’s a great post, and helps us grapple with one of the underlying questions about sharing and sharing publicly. As a school, we are working this year towards opening doors and making public commitments, and your thoughts are excellent discussion for those being stretched.

      Also, Derek – I love that idea of blogging buddies. I would say @lauramustard was one for me last year, but I’ve been thinking recently about what that role could look like to help us chew on emerging ideas while they’re still in their infancy, not simply to be an editor of nearly-final text. I wonder if there is a protocol to help blogging buddies at an early stage of ideation and drafting.

  3. Jen says:

    Great post, Celeste. We will certainly miss you this year!

    The part that resonated with me the most is the idea that a teacher who is openly grappling with big ideas about her practice is something that should be impressive to parents and administrators! Teachers who are not willing to admit the fact that they do not already know all there is to know about excellent teaching are not teachers I would want teaching my (non-existent) children.

    Thanks for an excellent reminder about the value of blogging. I still need the reminder that I don’t need to have a complete set of fully formed ideas before hitting the “publish” button.

    Jen

  4. Garth says:

    Celeste, thanks for this great inspiration and motivation to blog for our current Cohort 21 participants. We had a great first F2F session, but something was missing – I couldn’t put my finger on it until about lunchtime… it was YOU! Your voice of calm, reason balanced with motivation and inspiration.

    Reading these words, I think about the great blogs that have already come out since yesterday – some echoing your sentiments here. I also think about those yet to blog that can read this and feel a bit more released to write about their craft in general, and even more strategic in finding their voice for their blog.

    Thanks, and it was great to read you again #loveyourbrain,
    garth.

  5. I believe it is the sign of a great blog-post when it feels like @ckirsh is speaking directly to me! Great post, Celeste!

    I think the notion of a ‘fear-factor’ when it comes to not only the blogging process, but the overall Cohort21 experience is something that can effect many new cohortees. We discussed this during the Twitter sessions at the 1st F2F as it applies to social media of different varieties, and I think it is important to acknowledge how we feel as educators, but also to provide concrete ways to move forward–which your post does so very well!

    And the idea of scheduling 20min a week instead of 4hrs (yes, for some reason, that’s the amount of time I thought I needed to write a blog when I started – not sure why I set the hurdle so unattainably high) is just really REALLY reasonable.

    Not to mention giving all Cohort21-ers from all previous 4 seasons a gentle, but solid nudge toward blogging again! Wahoo! 🙂

  6. Perfect timing. Perfect Post. We miss you MUCH but are so happy that you are loving life and your new role as mum. Thanks for chiming in. It could not have been better timed!

  7. Sarah Regli says:

    Hi Celeste,
    Thanks for sharing. I read your post in an attempt to get over this huge activation barrier I have created for myself about writing my first blog post. It is something I really want to do often, I just always manage to put it off (for all of the reasons listed above). Thanks for giving me the push I think I needed.

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