What’s the point of blogging? Since 2006 when I started this version of the website, I’ve gone through long periods of not updating my blog properly, usually when time is in short supply, or when things are difficult at home or at work. I’m not a confident blogger, and when I’m feeling un-confident professionally, I tend not to blog at all.
I usually like to blog positively – perhaps when I’ve been to a conference or met someone who has inspired me to try something new, or when I have taught something that I feel proud of. I wish this wasn’t always the case however, as sometimes the best thing happen as result of blog posts that express some lack of confidence, or ask for help with something that hasn’t gone as I hoped it would.
A couple of years into my teaching I wrote a post about ‘imposter syndrome’ on my personal blog. This led to me being interviewed by the TES about the feeling that any-minute you’ll be caught out as the imposter you feel you are – that someone will spot that you’re just winging it. I had lots of great feedback and conversations with other teachers who, under the pressure of marking, reporting, planning and teaching (as well as keeping their own lives going) felt as I often do, that no area of my life was getting the attention it deserved. Confessing to my lack of confidence improved things.
There is some evidence that writing about things that make you unhappy or unsure can improve not only your mood, but also your general health (http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full). When I was doing my masters last year I came across a brilliant chapter in Mark Murphy’s (@socialtheoryapp) book Social Theory and Education Research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida (£) about writing as an act of confession and/or reflective practice, by Andreas Fejes. Fejes relates Foucault’s study of ‘care of the self’ in the Roman and Greek tradition, in which writing was not a way of ‘knowing oneself’, but instead a way of ‘finding the truths one needs to turn life into an art of existence’. Fejes presents an attractive mode of thinking in which writing is not about weighing up our moral worth, or finding out our limits, but instead as away of monitoring our lives, and devising strategies for better living. He contrasts this with the later Christian tradition of self examination which took on a more moral and judgemental character. If we take these ideas seriously it seems that how you blog is important – self examination can be destructive or constructive.
Without getting too confessional here myself, I think I would like to try to blog about when things go wrong much more often. Yesterday I posted about a lesson with a year 8 class that had not gone as I had hoped. My blog updates my Facebook feed and a couple of colleagues who I used to work with, and whose opinions I value, posted their thoughts on what I could do next time:
My experience for year 8 feedback: 1) be more specific on improvements needed 2) give whole lesson to improve don’t try to do as a starter 3) still have an settling activity 4) group seating plan so students with similar improvements sit together, this then allows you to give extra teaching on s particular issue to several students at once
Totally agree with the second point. Maybe students could complete in less time as they get used to it, but it was always the best part of a woke lesson for my science classes.
My autistic students really, really struggle with this by the way. The range of responses I get includes “if it’s no good just say so” followed by ripping up work; “actually I think you’ll find my way is better” and “I’ve already done it once, why should I do it again?”.
Slowly but surely we’re getting there by doing tiny bits of improvement in tasks they’ve enjoyed, but they’re so desperately sensitive to anything they perceive as criticism it’s really tough. I wonder if mainstream students with autism struggle similarly, our if part of why ours do is because they come to us feeling like they’ve failed already in previous settings.
So, not only do I feel better because I’ve shared something that I found difficult, but I have gained sage advice from too friends. Perhaps that’s why I’m still blogging?