Monday, November 11, 2013

why i blog

Responding to @k8nowak's post by writing one of my own, in part because I want to blog more but haven't yet managed to set my own goals the way she does. And maybe writing about why I do something will help me do more of it (public commitment, Cialdini?).

1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
I started reading math blogs when I was a 21-year old, overwhelmed, first-year math teacher in a rural high school with two other math teachers. Between the three of us, we had about three years of teaching experience. I knew I didn't want to replicate the same, rote, painful math instruction that'd led me to fear/loathe math in high school, but my teacher prep program didn't prepare me for anything else. Thankfully, the Google led me to Dan Meyer, Dan Wekselgreene, Kate Nowak, and Sam Shah, who were my (and probably just about everyone else's) introduction to the MTBoS, back before the MTBoS really existed. Their lessons were good for my classroom, but even more so, their spirit was good for my soul. It helped me believe that I wasn't crazy, I wasn't alone, and better yet, the type of teaching I aspired to (without even being able to articulate what exactly that was) existed in some corners of this world, and I could learn about it.

2. What keeps you coming back? What's the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
I don't like superlatives, so I'll name three: a) access to resources and ideas that are a million times more innovative, more inspiring, and more energizing than what I could find in published printed works, b) access to people who are a million times more innovative, more inspiring, and more energizing than society gives them credit for, and c) a safe space to be a learner, where I have nothing to prove, no real-life consequences for unformed thoughts, and no accountability to "give back," which means that when I do have something to contribute, it can be a gift rather than an obligation.

3. If you write, why do you write? What's the biggest thing you get out of it?
I've always liked written words and the way they turn, perhaps because my immigrant mother left my English language and American cultural education to Mother Goose, Shel Silverstein, and E.B. White. Perhaps because of that I've always been a (written) verbal processor, as boxes full of journals/diaries dating back to age 4 will attest. This is my third blog. My first was a navel-gazy teenage xanga where I wrote about serious things like sixteenth birthdays and high-heeled shoes, and my second was a limited-access blog where I attempted to process what it meant to teach children in the rural South who in some ways were very much like me and in some ways not at all like me.

Here, in some ways I'm trying to maintain an online presence: selfishly, a place where I can solicit feedback on ideas related to teaching, teaching adults, and teaching math, and on good days, a place where I can share some observations or ideas that might be helpful to others as well (although it's been a while since I've written anything like that). Also, making my thinking public has always been terrifying for me-- because I'm an introvert, because I'm insecure, because I'm young and inexperienced and from a culture and in a profession that venerate age and years, because I'm a woman of color in a society that doesn't often value my voice, because I'm an Asian-American woman and hammering nails instead of greasing squeaky wheels, etc.-- and so I'm challenging myself to speak up both because I can't make mistakes and get better if nobody ever knows what's on my mind, and so I am not invisible.

4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to's? Stories?
I learn best by reading. I know that's not how everyone (or even many people) learn best, but I'd want a chance to read "best-of" posts in several categories (perhaps specific lesson how-to, general pedagogical strategy, soft skills, reflective practice, etc.?) and see which spoke to me. Then I'd want to be challenged to write my own post-- or beginnings of one, or outline of one, on something that I'm proud of or that's puzzling me-- in a short amount of time and get immediate comments from those around me (in hard-copy, for convenience sake, perhaps via chart paper and post-its) so that I'm hooked on the feedback and want to try it online. I'd also want testimonials from experienced users demystifying the experience-- less about how to and more about "what not to worry about," like an expanded version of Sam's rant here.

I'll stop there, since the many other comments/linked posts say much more and more eloquently than I will :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Grace! I found this really powerful: "a safe space to be a learner, where I have nothing to prove, no real-life consequences for unformed thoughts, and no accountability to "give back," which means that when I do have something to contribute, it can be a gift rather than an obligation."

    I also love the idea of giving people a chance to outline a post and get feedback. I'd like to do that if I can manage it, logistically.

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