We are taking part in the Innovator’s Mindset Collaborative blog challenge. This post is co-written by Annick Rauch and Katie Martin.
If we told you that blogging could be one of the most powerful tools for professional development, would you believe us? I (Katie) started blogging after a less than gentle nudge from George to share what I was doing. I had so many documents saved on my computer and lots of sticky notes with ideas all over that I never shared with anyone because they were never “ready”. I had blogged for years about my family and documented my kids growing up but never shared professionally. To be honest, I never thought that anyone would care. I always thought that was reserved for the experts and I wouldn’t have anything to offer. After almost 2 years of blogging, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and the authentic audience has pushed me to develop my ideas and my network. As a result I have grown more professionally and learned so much more than I ever could have imagined.
I (Annick) have only been blogging for 7 months now. I started blogging in September 2016 thanks to round 1 of IMMOOC, a more gentle nudge from George than what Katie experienced, and inspiration from my colleague, Sheila Vick. I’ve always been someone who enjoyed writing and sharing things that I’m passionate about. I had started a blog when each of my boys were born, giving family and friends updates with pictures and videos every month during my maternity leaves. Although it never crossed my mind to start blogging for professional reasons until IMMOOC, it’s no surprise that I’ve embraced this new challenge and that it’s had such a profound effect on me. Seeing as I continue to be amazed by all that blogging has to offer, I was curious to learn if others share the same experience as me. So, last week, on the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Online Open Course (IMMOOC) Facebook group, I posed the following question: “What has blogging done for you?” and it became clear that many other educators see great value in blogging. Inspired by the responses, we decided that it would be fitting to write a blog post that describes some of the reasons why you should blog, too! Based on our own experience and the responses of some of the #IMMOOC crew who have recently started blogging, here are some of the biggest benefits for professional learning.
The best educators are learners first. When I have worked with administrators or teachers who embrace opportunities to learn something new, I am always more willing to be open and share what I am learning too. When educators take risks and embrace the process they are better able to understand the experiences and opportunities that exist for learners. Cariann Cook’s acknowledges that, “It [blogging] also helped me relate to my students who “can’t think of anything to write about.” It’s been good for me to put my thoughts on paper (on my computer) to really internalize the thoughts going around in my head. I like the intentionality of it and after only 3 weeks of blogging I’ve started thinking “Ooh I could blog about this!””
When teachers become learners and take on new learning experiences, they often become more aware of what is possible and create better experiences for their students.
Kristen Edwards uses her blog to spark conversations with teachers and models the evolution of her thinking over time to help teachers she works with embrace their own learning process. If you haven’t ever blogged or used social media, how can you tell others to do something that you are not willing to try yourself? If we expect people (kids and adults) to try new things and share what they are learning, we have to be willing to lead the way.
If you’re anything like us, your mind starts racing and processing all of the new information you’re taking in at various times throughout the day. This happens to me in the shower, while driving to and from work, while sitting in staff meetings (oops), and most often, when I’m trying to sleep! Waking in the middle of the night with a genius idea and then failing to fall back asleep because you keep playing it over and over again in your head while elaborating it… sound familiar? Blogging has really helped me to organize my thoughts and to do something productive with them, instead of simply thinking and analyzing with not much to show for it. David Carruthers agrees in that “It [blogging] clears my mind. I often have many disjointed ideas swimming around, and blogging helps me connect the ideas together. It provides clarity. I find it cathartic.” So although at first, blogging may seem like a daunting task that would take extra time, in the long run, developing ideas thoroughly might save you time in the end (and just maybe give you more time for sleep!).
Sharing & Connecting with Others
Too often we don’t always know what the teacher down the hall is doing let alone teacher across the country or world. The more we share ideas and connect with others, the greater we increase the chances of developing new and better ideas. This can all happen just by exposing ourselves to people who are different and can push our thinking.
Yvette Rosario-Perez shared that as she has started blogging, “It’s made me realize how disconnected I was, and how much better I could become.”
Sharing our ideas has also helped us connect with others who push our thinking. It has helped us connect with people across the world but also connect with people locally as well. It has been humbling to see how the ideas that we have put out there have made an impact other’s thinking. Likewise, we are constantly learning from so many amazing people that we would not otherwise have access to in our own schools or local networks.
Fun fact: In my (Annick) experience, “big names” in education are always more than willing to help out! Blogging has allowed me to connect with so many educators, many who are just like me, but also the “celebrities”… am I really writing a blog post with Katie Martin right now?! 🙂 George Couros, Dave Burgess and Paul Solarz are also people who have gone out of their way to help me, more than once!
Open Reflection & learning
Teachers are busy, this we know! It’s probably safe to say that reflection (and even more so, open reflection) might often end up at the bottom of our priority list, even if we don’t intend for it to happen that way. Having said that though, most teachers understand how important and valuable reflection time is, and therefore it is important to make time to reflect on our practices in order to do and be better. Kristen Roe explains that it gives her time to reflect on what has worked with her staff and what hasn’t. She continues on to say that it also gives her a way to ask questions and get feedback. Furthermore, when reflections are public and open for others to read and critique, it brings on a different level of accountability. It pushes us to think our ideas through even more and to be open to taking in feedback in order to push our own thinking. We know that we have a wider audience to critique but also support us. This, in turn, allows us to try new things, take risks, and hopefully lead us to innovate. Don Sturm expresses that blogging “allows me to step outside of my bubble by making my ideas public for all to read and comment on. That authentic audience is an important part of blogging.”
Unfortunately, negatives tend to be much louder than positives. Negatives stick, and it takes a whole bunch of positives to erase a negative. One of my all time favorite quotes by George is “we need to make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear”. Blogging has done just that for me; it has allowed me to remember the positive and to be proud of all of the good that I am doing (even when I have hard days and feel like I’m not good enough). Remembering the positives then leads to increased confidence which leads to more risk taking to try new and better things!
We couldn’t agree more with Aaron Hogan and his thoughts highlight so much of what we have all learned and how we have grown as educators through blogging.
“What has blogging done for me? It’s helped me clarify my thoughts, share my experiences, and connect with other educators. It’s increased my confidence, improved my ability to communicate, and developed a part of me that would have lain dormant without this sort of deliberate reflection as part of my professional practice. It’s helped me process new ideas, pushed me to innovate more often and more deeply, and revealed that I have something worthwhile to share. It takes time, but it is absolutely worth it.”