With everything in life, in order to get better you’ve got to practice. Whether you’re trying your hand at a new sport, a new hobby, or a new skill, you are never going to improve without putting in the time. I’ve come to realize that blogging is no different. If I want my words to have reach and to make a real difference, I’ve got to practice. I’ve got to put myself out there. Simply put, I’ve got to blog.
As this challenge ends, I am making a pact with myself. I am not going to set limits or impose weekly deadlines. I am not going to apply monthly quotas or force myself to write when I am feeling uninspired. My pact with myself is straightforward: I’m going to blog. Whether I’m blogging to reflect or blogging to share ideas, my mission remains the same: I’m simply going to blog. And I'm going to blog hard.
Blogging has opened the door to a new world of passionate educators and exciting resources that I look forward to sharing with others. And... share I will. In fact, I actually am launching a district professional development opportunity on the topic. I really enjoyed the format of the #ETCoaches challenge, and have decided to bring the idea to Edison as a way to get teachers and students blogging. In my session, Blogging is the New Black, (Hehe. I crack myself up!), I am calling for teachers to take a risk, start a blog, and get writing. This experience has been so meaningful to me both personally and professionally, and I am hoping that I can ignite a similar passion in the teachers who are willing to open their minds (and laptops) to the amazing possibilities blogging has to offer.
For challenge number four of the #ETCoaches Blogging Challenge, I have been asked to reflect on how the reading of blogs has helped to influence me as an educator. As a lifelong learner, I have found that reading blogs written by teachers for teachers has been a great way to personalize my own professional development. I am always looking for new ideas and strategies for making learning fun and meaningful, and reading blogs has given me access to multiple perspectives on a given topic and has helped me to explore new ways of approaching instruction.
Reading blogs seems much more personal than just reading a text or article written on the same topic. Blogs are casual. The writing, more informal. Reading a blog seems more like an intimate conversation between the reader and the writer. Think about it: the reader is accessing an open window into the raw thoughts and reflections of the writer. For most bloggers (and when I say most bloggers, I’m not talking about bloggers who are paid to write--I’m referring to bloggers like me. The ones who do it merely for the love of writing and reflecting) there is no editor, no army of publicists making sure that every word is carefully chosen. What could be more real than that? It takes a lot of guts to share your innermost thoughts, especially when the writer is revealing a personal struggle or challenge. It is comforting when we learn that others are muddling through the same issues and it is refreshing to learn that you are not alone in your plight to make a difference. As a new trainer, I have found a lot of comfort in the blogs written by PD trainers who have been in the trenches longer. Their raw honesty about overcoming obstacles has helped me to feel like I am a part of something bigger. Teaching and learning shouldn’t be done in isolation. There is a certain power to togetherness.
This challenge has also opened my ideas to the benefits of using an RSS feed. Although I am new to the idea, I have already found that using Feedly has been a great way to collect new resources in one place and to truly personalize my PD. I now have a one-stop location for topics that interest me, and I appreciate the fact that I can visit and revisit the posts at my own pace and at my own time.
As teachers, it is important to realize that there is no one best way of doing things and that it is OK to make mistakes along the way. Reading blogs has been a great reminder to consider multiple perspectives, to take risks, and to evolve. To inspire, one must be inspired. Thank you to the many bloggers who have helped to open my mind and show me the way.
Ask any teacher. As soon as they enter their pre-service training, there is one message that resounds the loudest: in order to be a good teacher, you need to be reflective. You need to take the time to think about what works and what doesn’t work, and, most importantly, what you can do next time to improve your instruction in the best interest of your students.
I guess the same thing goes for being a coach. How can one get better without reflection? Let's take football for example. Are the greatest coaches of the National Football League able to push their teams forward without reflecting on what they could have done differently in Monday night's devastating loss? I highly doubt it. Moving forward without reflection is, well, impossible.
As an instructional coach, I always begin my post-conference meetings with teachers using questions designed to prompt their own reflection: What did you like about your lesson? What don’t you think went well? If you could teach the lesson again, what would you do differently?
It’s funny, really. I find myself asking the teachers with whom I work to reflect, but upon reflection (ironic, huh?) I realize that I take very little time to reflect on my own work with the same individuals I am coaching. Of course I think about the teachers I work with after a coaching visit. I think about the great lessons I saw, the enthusiastic students who hung on their teacher’s every word. But...do I really take the time to reflect on my role in the cycle? Was I an effective listener? Did I provide meaningful and relevant feedback? What could I have done better? Am I really making a difference?
At this point in my career, I think I know what my strengths are, and I hope that I’ve learned how to capitalize on them during formal professional development sessions and workshops. But, to move forward, I realize that I’ve got to make reflection more of a priority. Because, unlike the NFL and Monday Night Football, our students just can’t afford even one devastating loss.
Jennifer Fischer is a former middle school English teacher, full-time instructional coach, and part-time edtech nerd, who strives to help next JENeration educators transform learning for all students.