I began blogging in July this year. It was something I was considering doing for a while, but I was nervous about putting my ideas in writing for fear of ridicule in a world where tolerance of ideas is waning. Although informed by what I read, most of my ideas – knowledge-based curricula, systematic synthetic phonics, better discipline etc – aren’t mainstream in the Australian education context. Puting them in writing seemed risky and so I seriously considered doing it anonymously to protect myself. I’m glad I decided to go fully transparent in the end, for it has allowed me to build relationships with like-minded people at a rate far exceeding my pre-blogging days.
Perhaps you are a teacher with ideas. Let me tell you in no uncertain terms that teachers connected on social media crave your perspective. You will inevitably encounter people who agree with what you say and, just as importantly, you will also encounter people who vehemently disagree. Sometimes people do overstep the mark and do become offensive but, in my experience, these incidents are rare and often debate leading from your own writing will get you thinking deeply about your ideas, allowing you to grow your understanding.
Whether or not you do it anonymously is a decision for you, but if you feel confident that your teaching post will not be compromised by writing what you think, then I strongly encourage you to go fully transparent. I know that when there is a face to a name, I feel a sense of camaraderie with fellow teachers who blog about their thoughts and experiences. I also know that putting my own face out there has helped others connect with me. In saying that, if going transparent makes you feel a visceral no, then do consider going anonymous, at least in the beginning. The veil may make you feel a little more confidence in publishing your ideas. It is a sad reality that intolerance is spreading. There are people in education who wish to silence alternative ideas, and some of the tactics deployed are very nasty. Nasty encounters are admittedly rare, but they must be acknowledged during the decision making process.
Blogging will give you a platform from which to be heard. You will be able to spread your ideas and ideals, find people who are like-minded, and even influence people to think the way you do. In my short career (2 years a teacher), I’ve already noticed that teachers have very few platforms. Teachers are too often told what to do following a debate between people who are not teachers. We seem to get lost in the black box, forgetting that there are serious debates taking place that will inevitably affect what we do inside our classroom walls. Blogging gives teachers the chance to be heard and connect and build; it gives teachers agency, and that is important because teachers are the difference. Non-teachers can debate all they like, but it is what teachers think and do that matters most. That’s why other teachers crave your ideas: they matter most.
Blogging is a platform to get your ideas out beyond the walls of your classroom, but this process will ironically affect what you do inside the classroom as well. Beginning writing and reading about that which interests me in education has allowed me to become better at what I do. It has also made me even more passionate about it, too. I can guarantee that the reading and writing process of blogging will make you think deeply about what you are doing in the classroom. You will inevitably question everything you do as you reflect and assess. I write a bit about differentiation. I don’t have many kind things to say about how it is currently done in schools. In criticising it, I was forced to assess how I myself approach adjustments for my class. I was forced to constantly check myself, to wonder if I was wrong or right or somewhere in between. You will begin to do this too and it is the kids who benefit most from it.
But perhaps the greatest reason to start a blog is best described through a metaphor used by David Foster Wallace. It reads like this. Two young fish are swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way who acknowledges them and says, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” After exchanging pleasantries, the two young fish swim on for a little bit. Eventually, one of them looks over at the other young fish and says, “What the hell is water?” Being a teacher can be like being one of the young fish. The water became so ubiquitous to the fish that it ceased to exist. You are surrounded by ideas, practices and beliefs from day one of your career as a teacher, and perhaps you haven’t stopped to question why they are there. I know I didn’t. Questioning them is the best thing I have thus far done in my career, and blogging is part of that journey. Ultimately, I encourage to start writing because it will help you question ubiquitous ideas, and that is important.