Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Practice What I Preach

I've been away from blogging for a very long time now. I'm not going to list the excuses as to why, but suffice it to say that with both family and new responsibilities at school I felt like I really didn't have the time. Then I read a post by @intrepidteacher a couple of weeks ago that had re-sparked by interest ... and because of that ... I was more touched by this video that I connected to through Twitter:

Like the narrator, I too am in awe of the amount of ideas/content/discussions/collaboration that I see happening through Twitter. The blogs that appear in my Reader on a consistent basis are inspiring and motivational, yet daunting in the time I know these authors are spending on them.

... and because of that I thought of my students. It is for them I am writing this post. We have been spending time exploring the features of Wordpress, from widgets to blogrolls to multimedia boxes. You name it, I have been right there with them facilitating their learning.

But what about their writing?

Some of my students see their blogs as a replacement for a reflective journal and they commit a lot of their writing time to sharing their learning. There are others who are so passionate sports/Minecraft/Justin Bieber that they can write about these naturally - but it all seems so forced, as if they are writing because they are expected to write. I'm not at ease with this. They don't seem as passionate about expressing themselves to an online audience as I see happening in other classrooms throughout the Twitterverse. The easy answer excuse for this is their age; 10-11 years olds have more interest in other types of applications or activities. This is not an acceptable excuse.

What about the preacher who's not practicing his own sermons? Where do I actually fit in a culture I'm trying to facilitate and nurture? This is more like it as far as excuses answers go.

I've not been blogging. I've not been sharing my ideas and I've not been modeling good practice with my students. This needs to change. I need to be a part of the online community and the blogging culture of my classroom rather than to forcefully demand it of my students. With this, I hope both we together can see that we too can be "Amazing to Others."

First step after I click Publish is to share this with my students. Let's see where this takes us as a learning community.


  1. I feel your frustrations and after reading this post are inspired to dust off the dashboard and take the time to share! I'm interested now in blogging with Siri, stay tuned...

  2. Thanks Metzy, the frustrations are more self-inflicted than anything. Let's hope being more open with the students and more of a fellow learner/writer/blogger will inspire students. I look forward to their comments tomorrow! I'll encourage them to post in this space since I post in their spaces.

  3. Great post. You are definitely not alone. Like I mentioned in the post you referenced, many teachers at our school are finding it hard to find the time, motivation or even understanding of why anyone would want to publicly share their thoughts, but as we start to build a culture, I am seeing more and more of them doing it. Just tonight I read at least 5 teacher blogs with comments from teachers. It was a beautiful thing to see.

    They are also, hopefully seeing, as I hope you are too that there are other people out here, who care about what they say.

    As for your kids...that is also a long process. Our school has just begun blogging and like you said most of the posts are forced assignments. They are dry, unimaginative posts.

    The hope is that once the teachers get it and share, then the kids will too. There is so much more I have to say in this topic, but will have to wait for a blog post later this week.

    Good to see you back alive and on the seen. I am coming to HK in February so looking forward to seeing you both again.

  4. I just wrote a post called "Learning about Blogs FOR your students: Part II- Writing" -

    The post addresses what you also point out above "I've not been blogging. I've not been sharing my ideas and I've not been modeling good practice with my students. This needs to change. I need to be a part of the online community and the blogging culture of my classroom rather than to forcefully demand it of my students."

    Teachers who blog with their students should go though the process of blogging as part of their own learning.

    I am interested in exploring another aspect you touch upon in your post. The issue of student writing on their blogs "seem forced", since I have noticed that as well.

    How do we understand it? The "wow" factor of blogging does not exist for this generation. Why should a writing assignment on a blog, be different than any other writing assignment? Do we accept that "some" kids (no matter what) will feel forced to write as long as it is required from/in school?

    Interesting questions to ponder.

  5. I think what is happening here is your students didn't experience this initially when their writing was developing. They wrote to please their teacher who gave them a topic, a prompt and ultimately a grade.
    May I suggest asking them how they feel about writing and what do they think is involved in the process. That might give you some insight as to where to go from there. They are used to a safety net, being told what to do, and you have taken that away. You are indeed on the right track, you just have to chip away at the foundation.

  6. Thank you for your insightful comments. I love the fact that our discussion in this very space is available for my students to see for themselves. I'm hoping that over time they can see that the richness of the texts they can create through tools such as YouTube, Voicethread, Creative Commons, etc. can add depth to their writing, and, as they become more familiar/confident with these tools, they will become more creative (and natural) in their writing. I need to keep some perspective and remind myself that I am talking about Grade 5s. At the same time, I hope I can instill in them the skills and passion for expression that can carry over into their middle years. We demand so much thoughtful expression and critical thinking from them and I hope that the practice of blogging can prepare them for the more academic reflection they are expected to demonstrate later in their school lives.