To blog or not to blog

9 11 2011

This is a difficult question on a number of levels – culturally, generationally and personally. To say that the changes in technology and access to the internet has increased hugely the chances for people to be heard is just a tad self-evident. But to me, it also begs the question, “because I can put my thoughts and opinions out there, should I? “

I remember reading about an Australian multicultural television station, whose slogan is “6 billion stories and counting”, to which one journalist reposted, “ …. But how many are worth telling?” Then there’s the quote from the Stephen Soderbergh film, Contagion, where one of the characters says,  “A blog isn’t writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.” 

At the risk of a fair generalization, ‘putting it out there’ seems almost un-Australian, at least in the traditional sense. Certainly, when I was growing up, to be seen to be telling people all and sundry was to run the risk of being seen as the proverbial tall poppy ( or mug lair in the vernacular) , and lopping the “tall poppy” was almost a contact sport. Boys didn’t even dare wear white football boots as this clearly establishing yourself as a lair & guaranteed you had a good chance of being cleaned up at some point in the game. While as a nation we now seem to be more comfortable with ourselves being more expressive in public, I think to some extent we still have this attitude towards being seen to “big note” yourself and so starting down this road now makes me somewhat nervous. (Having written this, I now hear on the BBC that Australians spend more time on social media & blogs than any other nation. Perhaps I’m just out of touch.)

In addition, simply having a blog doesn’t necessarily result in a readership. To paraphrase the old saw about the tree falling in the forest & no-one hearing, if you publish a blog & no one reads it, what is the point? On a personal level, I do ask myself, why would anyone necessarily want to read anything I have to say – am I big-noting myself be doing so? Do I really have anything that valuable to say & if I do so in my professional position of principal, do I have the skills & qualities that qualify me to do so? And really, why so much angst?

Certainly there seems to be a generational angle & those people who have grown up with the new world, seem to have little compunction or embarrassment at exposing their thoughts to the wider world. In the end, I’m not sure where one of these blockers ends and the next one starts, so perhaps I should try and answer the question, why am I doing this?

Well, for one very good reason. At our school this year, we are requiring all classroom teachers and students to have a blog & to communicate via this. It’s a bit rich then for me not to do one as well. But it’s not just this. There is a belief that much good learning comes from this sharing of ideas between both teachers and students. We tell the kids they need to be risk takers – I have to leave myself open to this possibility as well. Mind you, at the same time, I have to be aware of the possibility of the perception from some teachers that I might spend too much time blogging or tweeting & not enough on what might be seen as core business.
I can do this at home at night & I was interested to read one blog post that said caustically that teachers & principals might be at home “zoned out” in front of the TV & said this is when they could be blogging. To me that was a tad harsh – as any teacher or harassed principal knows, there are times when we just need to tune out. To hold such a hard line runs the risk of ignoring the reality that people are entitled to private lives – we aren’t all connected all the time. Where, after all, does balance enter the equation? What is relaxing for one is work for another. We always need to be other lookout for the zealot.

So, here goes & hopefully future posts will be both more confident and more literate.

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2 responses

9 11 2011
Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt)

Hi, John,
I enjoyed your first post very much. Thanks for your honest reflection!
I’ll admit my post was written back in April at a time when there was a lot of discussion about the merits of blogging and whether administrators should partake in the practice, and if the phrase you captured in your post above came off as “caustic,” then my apologies. It was perhaps a dramatic attempt to showcase the fact that we all get the same 24 hours in a day to use as we please. Many educators choose to devote countless hours outside of the school day improving their practice. For some, that involves blogging, commenting on blogs, and interacting on other websites and Twitter, in order to connect with other learners. Good use of their time? I believe so. Should it be the only use of their time outside of school? Of course not!

But, let’s be real, John, there are plenty of educators who do not spend time outside of the work day reflecting upon their practice. And, as a practicing administrator whose head feels like it will explode on a near-daily basis, it the reflective process has become so important to my work that I make the time – not nearly as often as I would like, mind you- to blog, read others’ thoughts on educational matters, and respond to blog posts such as yours. I think it’s important to contribute to the many conversations around teaching and learning that are at our fingertips.

Yes, we all must find “balance.” What does that balance look like? Well, that differs for each of us. (Read: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/2538 ) So, perhaps I wrongfully insinuated that someone who spends hours of their night zoned out in front of the TV is “unbalanced.” My mistake. The point I was trying to make is that to devote oneself to reflective practice, with or without the use of social media, requires sacrifices. I cannot contribute to conversations through social media and continue to watch as much television as I used to watch. That was one area of my life where I chose to make changes in order to support my professional growth.

Kudos to you for blogging and putting yourself “out there.” If you feel as though you “have” to do it because your staff and students are doing it, I fear it won’t be as beneficial to you than if you were using it because you truly thought it could make a positive impact on your work. But, as you state, you believe in the power of sharing ideas, and the great good that can result from doing so. For that, you should be proud that you’ve taken time out of your day to put your thoughts into writing. It’s definitely not easy, but your transparent leadership and vulnerability will surely be appreciated by your staff and school community as you venture forward!

17 11 2011
John Snowball

Hi Lyn,

Thanks for responding & for your thoughts & I enjoyed reading George’s post. I think that this is still such a new phenomenon that we are struggling with finding the right balance – we have gone to a 1-1 laptop program & this is an issue that some our kids, well, actually their parents – are finding something of a struggle. Then again, while we may end up with a different definition or different indicators of what is balanced after a few more years, it will always be a subjective thing in any case.

I guess the other relevant issue is that to some extent it’s a generational thing as well. It’s such a change from what categorised communication used to consist of. I think it’s also a personality issue. One of my colleagues has written on her blog that for some types, introverts, it’s a challenge to put their thoughts out into the public & this certainly describes me. I keep thinking – what do I really have to add that either has been said before, but more who do I think I am! Still, that’s my challenge.

I would agree with you on the benefit to me if I’m only doing it because my staff is expected. However, I do think that’s an important first step, it’s part of leadership. After such a quick response, I think that the other benefits that accrue from engaging in discussion, reflection will come as this world opens up.

I think the other point I’d like to comment on is your one about how much time teachers spend reflecting on their work and the place of communicating electronically has in this process. I think this has a great deal of importance for us as leaders. As with so many things in life, it is about – forgive the almost cliche – balance. Between an expectation of performance and an understanding of the different components of an individual’s life. For teacher-parents of young children, the demands on time and emotions can be great & we need to be mindful of that. I think I can already see the professional benefit of exchanging ideas like this, but not everyone sees this in the immediate sense. Should we see it in the same light as the way kids’ learn in that they don’t all learn in the same way?
That’s probably enough from me, but thank you again for responding. This type of interaction is going to be valuable for me.

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