Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teachers Should Keep a Professional Blog

In light of the Bucks County, PA teacher's troubling rant about kids, parents, and everything in between I actually want to sound the call for more teachers to write.  We already write.  It is almost overwhelming to sit back for a moment to consider all which teachers physically write on a daily basis--comments on essays, assessments, rubrics, evaluation forms, monitoring checklists, professional development checkpoints, as well as anything your district asks a teacher to write to prove he/she follows through on new initiatives.  We write and adjust lesson plans; we write notes, assignments, directions,  emails home, emails in response to parents, colleagues, and administration.  We're asked to write out new ideas moving forward--develop a new course, a new way to handle monitoring lunch or detention or the school yard.  We are even asked to keep homework pages online or webpages carrying information mom and dad might need at night or copies of notes, worksheets, study guides, and so.  This isn't a complaint or a woe is us--this is an observation and wake up call to all teachers.  Regardless of what subject you teach, you are a writer whether you like to admit it or not.

I imagine that some of my colleagues or friends who are teachers elsewhere may not think of themselves as a writer if they teach math, physical education, science, or maybe even social studies.  Yet, the fact remains, we all write a lot in our profession.

I started my blog in November…at the same time that I committed myself to participating in Nanowrimo with my students (write a novel in a month) and reading more YA fiction. T he reaction from my colleagues (and friends) has been mixed: pats on the back and one recurring question…how do you find the time to write a blog?

If nothing else, writing the blog (almost daily) has kept me mentally healthy.   I do not feel the burnout which normally creeps in this time of the school year.  And here is where I draw a connection to the unfortunate tirade by the Bucks County teacher.  It comes as no surprise to me that something erupted somewhere in February.  February and March are typically bears emotionally for teachers...and this particular teacher took to writing publicly on a blog to vent, lash out, and exhale.

This has really just made me wonder how necessary writing might be for a teacher--and yet it isn't really taught to educators to do.  We are encouraged to share ideas.  Many teachers over the years have expressed disappointment that we are not afforded the time to meet to discuss the craft, the lessons, the success.  I have been around occasional attempts to join teachers together to share, but they don't stick.  We end up back in our rooms writing everything we need to so that our classrooms can function correctly tomorrow.

I'm happily engaged in weekly online conversation  on the English Companion Ning.  It  is a website where English teachers across the country share ideas, lessons, concerns, etc.  The site has attracted student teachers, elementary school teachers, all the way through college professors and heads of education programs.  It hasn't become a place to vent; instead, it is a healthy place to exercise the muscle.   Many agree that daily exercise removes stress…yet, my recent participation in writing about the profession has left  me wondering about the benefits a staff blog or even a network where teachers in your district write a professional blog as professional development and they all link to one another...who knows what positive change that might produce.

Elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers rarely meet to simply talk about what they do.  Our understanding of what comes before us or after us is not as clear as any of us would like.  Imagine a network of teachers in your district blogging about the profession...imagine being afford the time to do it read, to write.  

I know there are lots of wrinkles to work out--who would see it, who would contribute, is anything off the table, what about people who abuse it, and some will exhale that they have no time to write such a blog, and so on.  There are educators out there who even poo-poo at the idea of any educator sharing anything (let alone a creative thought) online--"who cares about Facebook, Twitter, Blogging...who cares what Person X has to say"...I don't know that those people will ever come around to our way of seeing the benefits of technology, but they won't be reading this blog entry anyway.  There are districts who even suggest to their teachers that it might be a good idea to remove Facebook pages, blogs, et al.   Either way they would be missing my intention here: to raise the issue that all teachers are writers and maybe we all need to be encouraged to write in a healthier way.  Maybe we (educators) need to push to adjust what we are asked to write and how we are asked to collaborate.  There are great ideas tucked away in so many of my colleagues--and rarely do those things come out unless by chance in conversation.

The benefits of writing as therapy are well-documented.  Writing helps one clear his thoughts and understand feelings.  It helps us solve problems or work out solutions at our own pace.  I know it has helped me manage the stress which I can feel at work.

Not everyone might see asking a teacher to write a weekly entry into a staff blog as a good thing.  Some might actually find more stress in it--writing doesn't come easily to everyone.

The teacher in Bucks County got me thinking that there is clearly a need for all teachers to be encouraged to write.  Until the day comes when we are encouraged to write and keep a professional blog, I encourage my friends to seek out those safe professional places to write and share your thoughts and ideas.

Writing just might help smooth the waters of your next _____ years of teaching.

1 comment:

  1. This is great Brian. Would you mind if I cross posted this to the 101 English Blogs posts (referenced and linked back to your blog of course!). Let me know. Thanks Claire