Why a Blog Instead of a Private Journal?

This is the sixteenth post in the Professional Development 2.0 series. If you have not already, I would encourage you to start with the first fifteen posts:

The most common analogy is often used to describe a blog is that of an online journal. True reflective practice is personal; it often reveals one’s mistakes more often than it basks in successes. So why, in a time when teachers are attacked and vilified from all sides, would anyone want to put their personal thoughts and experiences out there for anyone to see? Would it not be better to just write and reflect privately? While it is certainly possible that many will indeed come to such a conclusion, most teachers that have been blogging for any period of time can attest to the value that is has had for them personally. There are at least four reasons that publicly reflecting on a blog is more worthwhile to many than taker a “safer” alternative.

  1. Accountability
  2. Transparency
  3. Community
  4. Validation

Despite the message often sent by politicians and the media, educators want accountability. Most educators do not want to be left alone, to fail or succeed on their own. The knowledge that there is a potential public audience is cause to carefully consider and craft one’s message. After a particularly troubling day or difficult lesson, it is easy to vent. It is not often productive, but it is easy to fall into that routine. However, through my reflective, public writing, I would want to carefully consider what happened. Instead of blaming kids for misbehaving, for example, I will look deeper to see try to find the root cause. Perhaps I did not teach the concept well and they were acting out because they were lost; there could have been extenuating circumstances that I was not aware of; instead of assigning blame, I am able to move past it to try to find a solution. It is both cathartic and productive. Public writing promotes responsibility and accountability in a good and natural way. There have been times where my words have gotten away with me in the past and people have gently reminded me of that. As with all criticism, and public writing will occasionally engender criticism, there is a choice to get angry, to ignore it, or to explore it and see if the person has a point. By opening up one’s writing publicly, you invite a type of criticism that can help you grow.

Many of the administrators and parents I have worked with were very surprised by the level of transparency that I wanted in my classroom. I wanted them to have my lesson plans. I wanted them to be in my classroom regularly. I wanted them to know what I was doing and, more importantly, what the students were doing. Other teachers and administrators can offer great insight on instruction. Parents can offer great insight into the needs of their children. The feedback that can come about as a result of a collaborative transparency is transformational; this is not transparency because the administrators are spying on my classroom. This is transparency that stems from wanting all stakeholders to be truly involved to improve the experience for the students. Blogging is an extension of that. It can offer a window into your world, the world in which your students live.

The longer you blog, the more you get to know your readers and the more a mutual trusting relationship is built. There is a proportional relationship between how much and how honestly you share, and how well the community develops. The community of readers is here to get to know you and to grow with you. If you are not honest with them, then you erect a barrier and the relationship grows more slowly. Those who have been following my blog since its inception in my second year teaching know that my greatest difficulty as a teacher was classroom management. I am glad that I was honest about this. I received a lot of feedback on things that I was doing; I’ve learned and grown much in this area because of the help that I have gotten from the community. I went from trying to control my classroom to giving up control; by developing a good relationship with the students, giving them choices, and trusting them to make the right decisions, behavior issues became mostly a non-issue. While I still have room to grow in this area, it would have taken far longer for me to progress as far as I have had not the community helped to show me what I was doing wrong. While I know people who have, I have never had a hostile or insulting comment. Most people who spent time reading what you have to say about education, truly have a desire to both learn and help.

Sometimes, it can feel very lonely in a school, especially when you feel as though you are a minority in terms of trying new approaches, ideas, or techniques in your classroom. As I eluded to earlier in this series, I have often worked with great educators; however, I wanted to try things that were not yet commonplace in my school. An example is being the only teacher in the school teaching a blended environment. There was not anyone in the school that I could really go to for guidance. Thankfully, some of my readers have been in that situation. They were able to help validate that some of what I was doing was indeed good; this gave me more confidence to keep at what I was doing.

It may be safer for some not to share; I know that if I did not share my own experiences, it would have been very hard for me to improve as an educator.

4 comments to Why a Blog Instead of a Private Journal?

  • ktenkely
    Twitter: ktenkely

    When I started blogging, I was much more hesitant to share personal experiences and things that were revealing about me as a teacher. As I continued to blog, I noticed myself leaning more and more toward reflection about my own teaching. It isn’t always pretty but it has made me a better teacher, a better thinker, and someone who is constantly in a state of learning. Blogging this way also reminds us what it is like to be the student who is constantly turning in “work” to be reviewed by others. It can be scary, it can be a proud moment, it can be stressful. That is always important.

  • [...] to solve problems. I am encouraged by his message in Why a Blog Instead of a Private Journal: http://jasontbedell.com/why-a-blog-instead-of-a-private-journal where he states, “After a particularly troubling day or difficult lesson, it is easy to [...]

  • [...] J (2010). Why a Blog Instead of a Private Journal (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://jasontbedell.com/why-a-blog-instead-of-a-private-journal (2010, September [...]

  • [...] Pertaining to my students, this web collaboration means I do not need to reinvent the wheel. I can go online and Google ‘Wendy’s Pecs’ and something should pop up that makes my life easier, save my time, and likely leave my student better served. The creativity is thinking about the initial ideas and how to implement them. The big ideas, and breaking them into little, manageable pieces to slowly but surely implement every day in the classroom. As Jason Bedell says, sometimes it is lonely in a school when a teacher is trying to implement a new idea or technology, however the online community can cultivate this, and to be an intentionally reflective educator. [...]

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