It Looks Like All My Dreams
Tomorrow, Melissa and I are presenting the capstone of our Social Media for Educators series. It know, it’s a hackneyed and overly formal title, but we have a dozen teachers and faculty who’ve signed up for a 9am session a week AFTER students left. That fact alone suggests that the idea is compelling, and the jargon is probably clearer than our internal shorthand for the three classes – Twitter, Blog-Read, Blog-Write.
Last June, I accidentally coined “Make me a blog, nerd!” as a catchphrase during a similar prof-dev meeting, and that’s haunted me throughout the year. It gets at the central problem of commodified social media training, and at much tech-cented PD in general. A blog is not something you can simply make, much less something that the school nerd can make for you. A blog is just one outward facing pane for your holistic public identity. WordPress or Blogger will provide your a frame for that in 3 minutes. Defining, creating, filling in the space provided is work that will run through the rest of your career.
I recognize that’s a bit strident for a PD event, which is why we started small. As we discovered in our first session, Twitter reeks of triviality. Even more than Facebook, which many-to-most teachers have found useful for some level of social engagement, Twitter seemed to them to exist exclusively for vacuous celebrities and breakfast posts. Clearly, you could talk about anything on Twitter. Our challenge was suggesting that there’s merit to having a public conversation with a small group amid that din.
However, my secret goal was to lay the groundwork to help teachers form their holistic public identity. That’s not something you just waltz in to!
I know we’ll get questions tomorrow about school-blogging. A blog for the Lacrosse Team! A blog for the Service Program! A blog for College Counseling! While I’m convinced that a blog-esque CMS would probably be a better way for those groups to communicate with their audience, that’s just refining the tools and techniques for communication, even if it has comments and “share on twitter” buttons.
Blogging is always collaborative, an open partnership between one writer and the world. I choose to write and reflect in public, knowing that my mistakes will live alongside my insights. In return, the audience will serve as an extra steel with which to hone my thinking. Even when that audience consists of 12 anonymous pageviews, it will demand my best first draft but always leave room for me to learn, leave space to revise both my ideas and my expression.
A friend asked why more administrators don’t “really blog,” and I think that most of it comes down to the terms of that bargain. When I write from my honest self, from my experience and values as an educator, I have faith that the problems caused by my writing are worthwhile and essential parts of my continued learning and growth. If something causes a controversy or a stir, then it’s either correcting a part of myself that I should have examined earlier, or it’s reflecting a real difference in priorities and values.
Administrators are risk adverse out of necessity. Faith aside, blogging brings new risk that many see as unnecessary.
While I can sympathize with their predicament and understand that decision, here’s why I’ve personally come down on the other side. Whenever a teacher starts a new position, there’s a prolonged process where you fight to establish your identity as an individual over and above the demands of your contracted role. Now that I have a clear understanding of all the various things that thrill and delight me as a learner and educator, I want them to be the foremost pillar of my professional identity. Not only is my public blog 10x better than a single page resume for making those passions clear, it’s also the best tool I have to develop them now.
And, god forbid, if my next job is a classroom AP Calc, all textbooks and answer keys, no coding or making, then the blog becomes even more important. How does the 4th grade teacher connect with the HS robotics team? How does a AP US History teacher build a multi-age team to explore colonial cooking techniques? How will a school know to create your idiosyncratic dream job if they can’t learn about your dreams?
“My blog is me and I am it. My blog is where I like to be, and it looks like all my dreams.”