A lot of work that I do is not only showing people how to do “stuff”, but more importantly, trying to help them embrace change. One of the most powerful ways to not only change the teaching profession as a whole, but also as individuals, is through the act of blogging. One of my favourite articles on the topic of blogging is from Dean Shareski, which he shares how he believes blogging makes better teachers.
Thousands of other blogging educators could echo similar words. In fact, I’ve yet to hear anyone who has stuck with blogging suggest it’s been anything less than essential to their growth and improvement. I’ve no “data” to prove this but I’m willing to bet my golf clubs that teachers who blog are our best teachers. If you look at the promise ofProfessional Learning Communities that our schools have invested thousands, more likely millions to achieve, blogs accomplish much of the same things. The basic idea of the PLC is to have teachers share practice/data and work in teams to make improvements. A good blog does this and more. While the data may not be school specific, great bloggers know how to share data and experience that is both relevant and universal so any reader can contribute and create discussion.
Yet fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. I have learned how hard it is to move people from a “known average” to an “unknown amazing” because of fear. So for some of the arguments I have heard against the idea of blogging, I wanted to provide some of my counter-arguments on the topic.
1. Blogging is useless. – The thing with this argument is that I have rarely (if ever) heard this from someone who has consistently blogged on their teaching and learning for any amount of time. As I was talking with a student the other day in a school who was about to start his own blog in class, he argued with me on the merits of the activity. I asked him, “have you ever blogged?”, to which he replied “no”. I challenged him to give it one month, and a legitimate try and then offer me his thoughts, to which he said, “I will.” Even in Dean’s article, he uses the same argument:
So here’s my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least five other teachers in the district as well as five other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and five other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.
Try that. If it doesn’t work after a year, you get my golf clubs.
PS. The only people allowed to criticize or challenge this idea are people who have blogged for at least one year and written at least 50 posts. The rest of you can ask questions but you can’t dismiss it.
It is easy to criticize something you have never done (all of us our guilty of this, including myself), but to me, a viewpoint is not truly valid unless you have experience.
2. I have no time. – We all have the same amount of time and it is not like those who blog have 26 hour days, compared to the rest of the population. It is not about time, but more about priority. If people see it as important, they will make time.
So one of the things that I try to focus on is the importance of blogging for not only reflection, but open reflection. The art and practice of reflection can help make ourselves better educators and learners. For us to truly help students, we need to be masters of learning before we can become master teachers. Reflection helps in that process. But “open reflection” helps others and not only pushes our profession forward in a communications aspect, but also in making each other better. Clive Thompson wrote a quote on how blogging makes us all smarter:
Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.
This “audience” helps us to really think about what we write and go deeper in our learning.
But that being said, it is hard to find time in your day to start the practice. What I focus on is helping educators not focus on doing everything that they are already doing plus blogging, but looking at doing something different. For examples, many teachers use what is called DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read), where students take a certain amount of time to read. Many teachers model the importance of reading during this time and take part in the practice. Could you not change the “R” to represent the word “Reflect”? If we had “Drop Everything And Reflect” time embedded in our week, could you not find the time to model the importance of reflection for your students by sharing what you have learned?
There are things that you are already doing (writing emails to others, putting things in word documents) that can be easily thrown onto a blog instead. Again, it is not about more as much as it is about different. Find what you are already doing in your practice, and think about how you can add that into a blog.
3. I’m a private person. – Blogging does not mean giving up privacy. There are things in my life that I keep totally private in my life and don’t share on my blog and I choose what I am comfortable with. You do not have to share your most personal secrets just because you have started a blog. Your level of comfort with sharing will change over time, whether you share less or more. Every person is unique in what they are comfortable with sharing.
But it always freaks me out when teachers close their doors and don’t want anyone to see what is happening in their classrooms. This does not mean that bad things are happening in the classroom, but sometimes the perception because of this practice paints a different picture then what is actually happening. When we are taking care of other people’s kid throughout the day, I think that we have to try and find some comfort level in what we share. I understand that this is a tough one for so many people (and understandably so) because it is easy to be criticized and have our words morphed online, but that being said, working with a generation of students where public is the “default” mode of practice, should we not put some of ourselves online to understand the importance of developing our own digital footprint? Many teachers think that not sharing anything online will ensure they never have a footprint, but the only thing that is a certain as that they will never have a footprint that they create. These are some of the realities of our world that we do have to help kids navigate as educators, and we should try to find a way to put some of ourselves online.
4. No one cares what I have to say. – Out of all of the arguments listed, this one bothers me the most. First of all, if I was to ask the same teacher who uses this argument to not blog an interview question along the lines of, “what learning can you share with the rest of our staff that will help us become better as a school?”, I highly doubt their response would be “nothing”, and if it was that, I would struggle to hire them. Yet too many educators, sharing feels like bragging, and modesty often trumps their comfort level in posting their teaching and learning online.
I get it.
But if we are really here to help kids, does it matter if they are in our grade, our school, our class, our world, or anywhere? Whatever we share can help someone else, maybe not everyone else, but someone. They may not take what we share exactly the way it is written, but if they turn it into something to help their kids, is that not worth it. Just remember, if you impact only one teacher, you often impact at least 20 kids, if not a whole lot more.
One of my favourite videos on this topic is, “Obvious to You, Amazing to Others”, which has a great message on the impact we can have on one another:
Our impact on one another as teachers should never be underestimated.
I am not in the camp that says, “Everyone should __________”, with any tool or platform. People have different lives and situations, and I have learned to honour that. Blogging may not be for you. But for some, they are right on the cusp, and giving them an alternate viewpoint to the one thing holding them back might just change their mind. I have learned a ton not only from my own blog, but from benefitting from others that have been willing to share their teaching and learning with me, and because of that, as Dean Shareski stated, I am better off for the willingness of others to share.