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.