Since November 3rd, 2010 this will be my 185th blog post related to teaching or writing in one way or another. One hundred and eighty-five blogs in four hundred and seventy-seven days or one blog entry every two and a half days.
I'm a better teacher (and my classroom is a better learning environment) because of this simple effort. Blogging was my gateway into professional development opportunities I could not have predicted. First of all, blogging about my practice or curiosity is professional development. It forced me to reflective, but on my own terms in my own time in my own space.
One reflection every two and a half days is hardly an inconvenience--it has changed my job into a vocation.
Since being engaged online as an educator in late 2010 I have:
a) read 61 books (one book per week on average)
b) had 25 Skype conversations with 25 different authors (plus 2 who visited in person) including one living in India.
c) Tweeted 380x about education, writing, or teaching and read or engaged in message exchanges with educators around the world (and shared in their ideas) including published pioneers Kelly Gallagher, Carol Jago, and Troy Hicks
d) engaged with educators around the world on English Companion Ning
e) reflected on my own teaching more and more deeply than in my previous 15 years
f) allowed me to share in the expertise of writers, publishers, literary agents, editors--all who share their reflections about writing
g) I submitted an article for publication with the Journal of Media and Literacy Education (still pending)
h) Three of my students have been (or will soon be) published by our local paper.
These things were not happening for me before I became more engaged online.
What brought on this current reflection of the big picture was a Tweet from yesterday.
My first tweet about teaching or writing was February 8th, 2011. I was actually on April 12, 2009 but it took me almost a year to see understand how Tweeting might be useful for me as a teacher or a writer. My early tweets were comments about entertainers or local professional sports. After the "get comfortable period" I saw how Twitter and my blogging could complement each other--it seems Twitter has taken over my time previously spent on the English Companion Ning (EC Ning) where I would read and participate in conversations about topics built on the teaching of Language Arts.
The EC Ning brought me to other professionals around the world--as Twitter has done more conveniently.
Back to yesterday...I sent a tweet to Carol Jago (past president of the National Council of Teachers of English; and currently with the Reading and Writing Project at UCLA) who is one of the contributing editors of the newly purchased textbook my district is buying for the middle school. So, in the middle of writing curriculum and aligning it with the Common Core, I read her book With Rigor For All: Meeting Common Core Standards for Reading and Writing. She wrote about some novels and their ability to fit into the tenets of the Common Core--Richard Wright's Black Boy was one of those novels.
My tweet: @CarolJago read Rigor4All (very helpful)-do you think Black Boy could fit as core text in 8th grade? Thank you.
Carol's reply came back in less than 2 minutes: @_briank_ Black Boy would be a rich, challenging text for 8th graders. I taught it at Gr10 but think younger students would like it.
I never had that kind of access before, and I am only just beginning to understand and use online tools as a benefit to my teaching.
One of the number one laments I hear from colleagues is lack of time to engage online. Honestly, after having done it for some time now, I do not think it has much to do with finding more time but being more efficient with the time we currently have. Being online, being connected, is becoming a way of life--our brains our changing, the cultural landscape is changing and altering at the same rate that Mother Nature tweaks her canopy.
Your computer is in front of you. Your smart phone is in your hand. If it isn't then it is close by. It is ready and there is a world of access in our pockets in our hands to better teachers, writers, plumbers, poets, bakers, market analysts, editors, artists...
Yes, you can put it down and walk away anytime you want. I dare you.