Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

Are you ready for a truly startling statistic?

This is the 1,000 post that I’ve written on the Radical.

#holycrapchat

If you would have asked me nine years ago what I hoped to get out of blogging, I probably would have told you that my goal was to elevate teacher voice into important conversations on educational policy.  I probably would have told you that I wanted to prove to critics of our profession that folks who choose to make a career in the classroom CAN be experts on everything from school leadership to instructional techniques.  I probably would have told you that I wanted to give readers a better picture of what happens inside our nation’s classrooms every single day.

And my guess is that I’ve accomplished most of those outward-facing goals.  I’ve written extensively about the impact that the policy decisions — think No Child Left Behind, Merit Pay, and Race to the Top — passed over the course of the last decade  have had on my classroom.  I’ve pushed for teacher leadership and professional learning communities and other strategies that empower practitioners.  And I’ve shared countless handouts and lessons in an attempt to help readers improve their teaching or the teaching of the colleagues that they support.

But if you asked me today why I continue to write, I wouldn’t list any of those goals.

Instead, I’d tell you that:

I continue to write because writing gives me weekly opportunities to reflect:

Over the last ten years, I’ve fallen into a pretty comfortable routine — sitting down every Friday night and/or Saturday morning to write for a few hours.  Those hours are selfish moments of reflection for me.  Trying to put my thoughts about issues or instructional practices or policy decisions or my position within this profession into words forces me to think carefully and to polish my thoughts.  Sure, I walk away from the keyboard with a new post a few times a week.  But I also walk away from the keyboard with a better understanding of my own core beliefs about the true nature of teaching and learning.

I continue to write because I see it as my responsibility to give back to the educational commmunity:

One of the things that blows my mind about being an educator in today’s day and age is JUST how easy it is to find valuable resources and ideas.  Gone are the times when finding new lessons or materials was a time-consuming process of ripping through someone else’s file cabinet or subscribing to Mailbox magazine.  Instead, great ideas are a few digital clicks through our Pinterest pages or Twitterstreams away.

But what many forget is that those great ideas aren’t magically dropping out of the sky.  They are being shared by regular people just like you and I who are willingly giving away their best thinking in order to improve education.  The way I see it, if I am going to take from that well of shared knowledge, I have an obligation to give back.  Each post I write is my contribution.

I continue to write because transparency keeps me tempered:

Calling myself the “Tempered Radical” isn’t a mistake.  In fact — as I explained in the very first post written here on my blog — I don’t think there could be a more accurate description of who it is that I want to be.  Being radical comes easy for me.  I am a guy who makes up his mind quickly and is ready to move forward whether you are willing to come with me or not.  I’m also always ready to tell you what I think whether you like it or not.

The hitch is that in my haste to push forward, I often fail to think through all sides of important issues or to listen to people who disagree.  Everything becomes black and white to me.  Merit pay?  Terrible idea.  Race to the Top?  Failing America.  People who work beyond the classroom?  Not as important as us teacher types.  North Carolina’s legislators?  Don’t get me started.

I can’t get away with that here on the Radical.  Take a one-sided stance online and you’ll hear about it pretty darn quickly.  That means when I’m writing about controversial topics or issues, I’m far more thoughtful than I am when I’m shooting the breeze with my buddies over beers.  My positions are more measured and I’m intentional about looking at things from more than one angle.  That matters, y’all.  Not only does it make MY VOICE more powerful because it is reasoned, it makes ME more powerful because I see value in tempered positions.

Long story short:  The most important lesson that I’ve learned in a decade worth of writing here on the Radical is that blogging isn’t about voice or audience or influence in our profession at all.  Instead, it’s about reflection and making contributions and learning through thinking. 

And I can’t wait to do more of it

____________________

Related Radical Reads:

So You Found Me

The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls

Lessons Learned from an Amazing Group of Student Bloggers

6 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

  1. Damian

    I’m right behind you, Bill – this August marks 9 years for me. I’m also with you on the voice vs reflection piece; I started from a very externally-focused place in the summer of 2007, but over the years that focus has since retreated inward for me, for better or for worse – and I’m honestly not sure which one that is for me. I go back and forth over whether I should write to drum up an audience or for myself and damn what anyone thinks of it. I’ll probably do up a sufficiently navel-gazing post about it this summer; I’ll link you when I do. Thanks!

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Damian,

      You bring up an interesting point: There are tons of people in our social spaces who have been really successful at drumming up an audience for themselves by using their blogs and social spaces! At times, I’m jealous of those guys and gals because they are obviously making more cash and having better experiences than I am. So in some ways, that outward focus is pretty damn enticing.

      But in the end, I want to be a full time practitioner — and the reflection is the greatest reward for improving my practice.

      If I wanted to be a full time public speaker, maybe the audience would matter more to me. But right now, I don’t. So I embrace the chance to reflect week after week and to give and to share and to think and to challenge, whether or not anyone is listening.

      To be honest, guys who sustain that attitude like you and I will have a longer term impact on education as a whole simply because our work better resembles the kind of work that we want average teachers to do on a regular basis. Audience building isn’t attainable for most people, but thinking deeply about their own practice is. Someone has to send the message that thinking deeply is just as rewarding.

      Anyway — looking forward to your post this summer!
      Bill

  2. jlevno

    Spot on! Writing/keeping a blog does, inevitably, lead to reflection (and self-discipline to keep a regular time and commit to writing… something I have dropped the ball on, big time!). I do think that the more teachers we can encourage to start and keep a blog, the more reflective practice we would see as teachers read and reflect on each other’s posts. Thank you sharing your insights!

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      I’m with you, J — Reflective practice WOULD increase if we could convince teachers to blog more regularly.

      One of the hiccups, I think, has been the increase in “liking” or “favoriting” or “retweeting” as a form of audience interaction with blogs. Comments have sort of slipped by the wayside. What novice bloggers want most is proof that someone is listening and interacting and engaging and challenging them. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

      So that nurturing process has to include some measure of “let’s read and respond to each other’s blogs!” Back in the day, we did a “30 days of blog commenting” thing that generated tons of practical feedback for folks — but people now see mashing the “like” button as enough.

      I think that is why blogging is not as popular as it once was!

      Anyway — thanks for stopping by!
      Bill

  3. Kim

    Congratulations on your 1000th post! I enjoy reading your blog. As educators I believe reflection is key to improving. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Kim,

      You’ve got that right: Reflection matters more than we give it credit for! But it requires time and attention — something that is really hard to come by.

      I think that novice bloggers often want an audience — and I have to remind them that the only audience that matters is themselves. If you are learning when you are sitting behind a keyboard blogging, you win. If people read your reflections, that’s just icing on top.

      Anyway…thanks for following along!
      Bill

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