“Get into Blogging”
On and off I’ve kept ramshackle blogs for nearly 20 years. Lots have been lost to the digital dustbin of time but a few still haunt the net in subfolders of websites and in places like blogspot or tumblr. I’ve not been good at maintaining a regular blog though and recently my Instagram feed – mostly photos of my children plus random things I buy like comics – has been my sole output. Even twitter has ended up as nothing more than the occasional retweet of Instagram.
I’m challenging myself to do better this year – especially in terms of blogging about education. Many of the teachers I admire blog as a means of reflecting on their practice, sharing success or challenging assumptions.
Several things have triggered setting up this blog. Foremost is that I’m feeling a little “lost” in terms of my practice as a classroom teacher of English and need to think about what I’m doing more. After Christmas I should be starting an MA and it’ll be good to keep as an online journal of sorts. As an assistant head I’m involved in managing strategies that have a direct effect on teaching and school organisation. I’m also about to embark on some “action research” training. There’s also my never-ending attempts to improve productivity which need refreshing. Mostly, it’s about developing a habit of discipline in reflecting on my practice qualitarively.
The direct trigger for this blog was an article, Get into Blogging, in the 6 March edition of the PiXL6 is newsletter. I found it as I was sorting through papers at the start of the half-term holiday. It’s actually a very good introduction to the why and how of blogging for teachers who’ve not ever tried. It gives a handful of blogs to check out and advice about what to write about, where to host and links to places where bloggers can promote their writing. The emphasis is on contributing to an online community, but for me, it’s this part of the article that reveals the most impactful aspect of blogging:
…[blogging] provides the ideal format to help transform initial ideas into concrete plans. The very act of writing can help to clarify thinking and, more importantly, to identify possible issues with regards to the implementation of a new strategy, whether this is within the confines of the classroom, or from the point of view of a leader, looking at the impact of change across a school as a whole. Taking the trouble in the short term to write out some thoughts about a forthcoming idea for school improvement can save valuable time and stress in the long term, when it is not always possible to undo something that the process of writing could have helped identify and overcome.
Why Not the Classroom as the name of the blog? It’s drawn from a piece in The Guardian by the writer Michael Morpurgo. He discusses his “voyage through many classrooms” until he argues that “It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.” Morpurgo believes that for many children regular school classrooms don’t provide enough education. Elsewhere he champions the cause of enthusing, inspiring and engaging children in learning – particularly in terms of encouraging reading. It’s something I believe fundamentally: effective teaching can’t be reduced to a series of techniques or classroom “tools” (though I don’t want to downplay their importance), it’s more about an attitude of enthusiasm and the up-beat energy that is transmitted to the learner. The name also reminds me of Not the Nine O’Clock News comedy show from the early eighties. Which made me laugh.