Writing is Hard
I did not realize how little I wrote as a teacher, until I wrote the first post for this blog.
I majored in History in university. This entailed two things: reading, and writing. Yeah, sometimes there was discussion and presentations, but if you were to make a pie chart of how I spent my time, that slice would be the size I should take during Thanksgiving, rather than the slice I actually do. Most of my time was spent pouring over primary and secondary sources at the library, and writing about what I read.
So, when I sat down to write that first post, I faced the uncomfortable realization that teaching entailed little writing, and that my writing skills had deteriorated as a result. It was far harder than I remembered.
Or was it always this hard, and I had just forgotten? Did the words ever flow easily, in that windowless library basement?
Either way, the value of the activity, of writing as a teacher, became apparent in that moment. If I want to teach my students how to write, I need to be writing myself. I need to remember how hard it is, and what my own writing process looks like.
And it is hard. It is really hard. Writing that series on knowledge was hard. I had lost my organized approach from university, of collecting my sources and research notes, moving from research to draft to draft. My browser windows were a chaotic landscape I feared to venture into; my laptop resented me and became temperamental (we have since repaired our relationship). I wrote three drafts, and got peer feedback, before hitting publish. It was a lot of work.
It was also immensely satisfying. I felt accomplished, as one often does after doing something difficult and doing it well. Therein lies the value of getting our students to complete complicated tasks.
Now, not every teacher needs to start a blog. This is my hobby, my free time, and you are welcome to use yours as you choose. But, if you get your students to write, do it occasionally yourself. Not an e-mail, or a rubric, or instructions for a lab. Something long, and difficult. Just so you remember what it’s like.
Why I Blog
I started this blog as a platform for reflection. I never expected much of an audience. The reception I got for the knowledge series was startling and encouraging. I was my own audience, and wanted a way to work through my thoughts on education.
I even had a secondary principal who let me use it as an appraisal. I selected two areas of my teaching practice to focus on (peer feedback and writing multiple choice questions), researched, implemented what I learned, and reflected on the experience. Professional development doesn’t always come in the form of weekend workshops.
That original purpose has evolved, as my views on teaching have solidified. Now, increasingly, my blog is becoming a platform for defending my views on education. Seldom do I find time at school to discuss and debate pedagogy (nor would the slots of time be sufficient for topics as complex as knowledge). This is a forum for communicating and defending my views, complete with hyperlinks to research.
Finally, as my readership grows from miniscule to tiny, and as I become more active on Twitter, this is a platform for engaging in a broader teaching community. While I am currently based in Southeast Asia, I can reach out to educators across the world. That’s pretty cool.
As 2018 stretches out before me, well, I think I’ll keep writing. It’s good for me.