Writing this makes me a better teacher

Recently a friend posted an article in which the author argues that she is a better writing teacher because she writes frequently.  I merely skimmed the article, but she seemed to primarily focus on how she writes creatively on a regular basis, and as a result of this, she is a better writing teacher.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I tackled any sort of creative writing, and I can only think of a select few assignments that I have given over the years that force students to write creatively.  I love fiction; I don’t consider myself a strong fiction writer, nor do I feel confident in grading students’ fiction writing.

That being said, I do assign a great deal of academic writing ranging from short responses to multi-page research papers that go through many drafts.  I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years now, and as I think about it, I’m not just a better writing teacher because of it, but an all around better teacher because of it.

Writing, though seemingly simple, is actually a difficult task.  When writing, students not only have to flesh out high quality ideas, but they need to communicate them in the most effective way possible, which is, of course, a matter of interpretation.  While there are many writing rules, none of them are truly set in stone, and good writers break them all the time.  Imagine how complicated this must be for students.  As a teacher, when the last thing you wrote was in college, think of how difficult it is to sympathize with what your students are tasked to do.  Even the best writers come to a stand still and get writers’ block, and yet our students are still faced with deadlines that don’t really care about writers’ block.

Writing this blog on a  semi-regular basis helps me sympathize with what my students are forced to do not just in my classes, but in all their classes that require some writing.  I share this with others on social media and receive a great deal of feedback from educators around the country and plenty of non-educators as well.  The comments I have received on this blog via Facebook, twitter, wordpress, etc. have helped me flesh out my ideas more clearly and helped me realize where I lack in communicating those ideas that leads to confusion and misinterpretations.

Pretty much everything I write in here is what I consider first draft writing.  I rarely re-read and edit before posting.  Seeing how people respond has helped me understand my own strengths and weaknesses as a writer which allow me to understand my students’ struggles more clearly.  I only have anecdotal evidence, but I conference better and provide much better feedback to my students since I have taken up writing this blog.

Not only that, but I am an overall better teacher because I write this blog.  I’m an education nerd.  I love talking shop, and this blog has allowed me to do that and reflect on so many aspects of education.  Educational leaders are constantly reminding us that we should be reflecting on our practice.  This blog allows me to do that, and then allows me to re-read and reconsider my practice.  It also allows me to reflect on policies and trends in education, so that I can figure out how to best implement theory into practice.  This blog has opened up dialogue with my students, my colleagues, to some extent my bosses, as well as people outside of the educational community who offer interesting insight into what education can offer.

I cannot off the top of my head point to particular and specific data that demonstrates growth as a teacher as a result of this blog.  But I can think of how I have taught in the past and my educational philosophies and I can quickly realize that writing this blog has helped me grow as a teacher.

This has been a very self actualizing project for me.  As a teacher, time is perhaps our most precious commodity, and it can be very difficult to find the time to do all that we want nonetheless add another task to our to do list.  And while I have not blogged nearly as frequently as I’d like this past year, I think this may be the best professional development tool available to me on a regular basis.  After all, when we sit in workshops we are not developing professionally; it is when we think about and wrestle with the ideas presented that we actually develop professionally.  That is what this blog allows me to do.

 

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It’s a sad day for education

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Today Betsy “watch out for bears”Devos was confirmed by the slimmest of margins as Sec. of Education.  As a teacher, this upsets me greatly.  This isn’t about republicans vs. democrats; this isn’t about her support of Charter and private schools; this is about so much more.

Her absolute lack of competence is staggering.  Forget the fact that she has no experience in education and her lone qualifying attribute seems to be that she has donated lots of money.  I keep getting told I need more leadership experience for an Assistant Principal job, but evidently that same experience isn’t needed to run the nation’s public schools.  Astounding.

Her inability to answer questions during her hearing is something like I’ve never seen before.  If she actually did any preparation for these hearings, she did a terrible job.  What an awful message that entire hearing sends to our nation’s students.

It disheartens me that someone so clearly unqualified could be nominated, nonetheless confirmed, for such a position.  This is a true insult to educators everywhere.

The reality is that she now has a fair amount of power to change public education.  Will she?  Who knows, but the thought is scary.  A much bigger threat in actuality is each state’s secretary of education (which is even scarier as a NH resident–Edelblut is nuts!)  I’m confident that I will see proposals that I don’t like coming from the education department, and I will vocally oppose those, but I can only hope I don’t see massive changes that affect my day to day teaching.

In many ways, teachers see themselves as powerless in the system.  We are but mere cogs in the greater machine.  But we are very important cogs, and we need to use our collective voices.  We lost this fight, but as educators we must continue to speak out against changes we don’t approve of-from the local school level all the way to the national level.

And more importantly, we must continue to do good work in our classrooms.  We must work harder to ensure that our students are critical thinkers.  Our curricula just became more important almost across the board.  We mustn’t just lie down and accept this; we must become even better teachers.  The time is now.