Blogging: Why I Decided To Dive In

There are thousands, maybe even millions of blogs posted on the Internet. I imagine you could find a blog on just about any topic if you tried hard enough. I have always thought ‘What are these people thinking? What makes them think anybody cares what they have to say?’

I’ve had the same thoughts about myself. If I publish my thoughts on an particular topic, why should I think anybody will care to read about them? I’m certainly not an expert on anything – why would people care what I have to say when they could find thoughts from experts?

Maybe these thoughts have come become I tend to be hard on myself. I think I have plenty to offer the world, especially those I come in contact with, but I’ve always felt that nobody would or should really care what I have to say unless I was asked to share.

Until maybe a year and a half ago, I thought the same thing about Twitter. I had briefly glanced at some twitter feeds, and most of what I saw was random, scattered thoughts and statements that I found to be very boring, mundane, and vapid. Did these people really think anybody cared about the minute details of their daily lives? How vain!

But then I started to ask my wife (mathybeagle.com), a high school math teacher and Twitter veteran at that point (@veganmathbeagle) about why she uses Twitter. She is certainly the opposite of boring, mundane, and vapid, so why would we she delve into the musings of the people who are? She then showed me how she was starting to LEARN from people on Twitter about real, stimulating topics. Twitter makes it very easy to connect with others because you can see who everybody else is following. She was starting to build her own personal learning network on Twitter, connecting with great math teaching minds. As I saw the extreme growth in her teaching practice as a result of these connections, I started to become sold on this whole Twitter thing. Then, as she started her own blog about teaching and was getting fantastic responses from many of those same Twitter connections, I became a believer.

Now, I have decided to take the plunge myself. What changed? Do I suddenly think everybody wants to know what I have to say about teaching? Of course not. But I realized the point of MY blog is for reflection and for feedback from other educators. As I saw the positive impact reflection through blogging had on my wife, I knew I could benefit too. But even more importantly for me, I want to learn from everybody else.

If you are still reading, please consider subscribing to my blog so you will know when I post something new. Don’t worry – I don’t plan to overload your inbox with new post notifications, though these first couple might come very quickly. I want to learn from YOU, just as much as I want to reflect on my own practices.

With that, I step to the front of the platform, toes curled over the edge. Time for the plunge. Here goes…

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT! (Did you just cringe a little?)

Doesn’t every teacher love it when their administrators inform them of the wonderful upcoming professional development they have planned? My parents were both teachers (dad: high school language arts, mom: 1st grade), so I know quite well what their professional development experience was like. It would go something like this:

  1. invite some educational expert to come share their wisdom with the staff and pay them lots of money to do it
  2. said expert talks….and talks….and talks some more AT the staff
  3. staff brains start to melt
  4. maybe the expert works in some sort of trivial interaction between staff members
  5. expert goes home
  6. business as usual for the staff the next day

If this sounds familiar to you too, I feel bad for you. Fortunately, in my 10 years, our professional development has been a bit more interactive and centered around discussions between staff members.

But as I’ve found out the last couple of weeks, the best PD is the PD that teachers seek out themselves. PD where they can meet fresh new educational minds to learn from and share with. I’m convinced that the best PD is that which involves thoughts and opinions from experts (preferably those still in the teaching/administrative trenches, who share lessons learned from their own practice) followed by TIME TO DIGEST AND DISCUSS THE INFORMATION WITH OTHERS. I cannot stress the importance of that last part enough – time to process and discuss the information is VITAL to retention.

I recently attended the first annual Grading and Assessment Summit in Mokena, IL, a PD event focused on the merits of standards-based grading and learning. It was easily the best PD experience I’ve had in 10 years, and I thank Dr. Brian Wright, Principal at Bradley-Bourbonnais High School in Bradley, IL for organizing the event. I saw some great presenters, including Ken Mattingly, Garnet Hillman, Terie Engelbrecht, Megan Moran, and Jeff Harding. But what was so great about it was that these presenters mingled and discussed serious teaching topics with the attendees. I thought that was fantastic – we got to engage in great discussions with these educators, the experts invited to share their wisdom.

I do wish we would have had more time to process and discuss the presentations, however. I found myself not wanting to stop the great discussions we were having, instead wanting more time for that before the next set of breakout sessions.

If there are any presenters or organizers of PD events reading this, please consider offering the collaboration time that truly completes the PD experience for the attendees. We want to dive head first into your content so that we can retain it fully.

P.S. If you’d like to follow any of the great presenters listed above, here are their Twitter handles:

Ken Mattingly (@kenmattingly)
Garnet Hillman (@garnet_hillman)
Terie Engelbrecht (@mrsebiology)
Megan Moran (@MeganCMoMo)
Jeff Harding (@GradesHarding)
Dr. Brian Wright (DrBrianWright)