I sat at the back of the the room (as usual) with a few dear colleagues at our last monthly administrators’ meeting listening to my friend and colleague Stephen Louca give a brief talk about the role and impact of social media in the area of leadership and learning. Stephen supports our schools and teachers in the area of technology integration and is a very smart, and very engaging, presenter.
Stephen was sharing some of the ways social media platforms are used by students, teachers and school leaders to connect and extend their learning. He shared some tweets, examples of ways Moodle, Facebook and Edmodo are used in education and then took us to some administrator blogs to illustrate some of the ways principals and vice principals were using blogs. He shared two compilation sites; the excellent Connected Principals blog as well as our growing ONT CLblog and then moved on to highlight some individual administrator blogs; at which point my blog, The Smaller Office, flashed up on the screen for all to see. The heads swiveled, en masse, to the back of the room as Stephen asked if I’d mind giving a brief explanation on why I blog.
Now, the whole point of blogging is to reach out to the world and make some sort of statement, to put oneself out there in a literal sense, so the fact that this attention had come my way did not provoke too much anxiety on my part. The interesting part for me came at the break a short time later, when some of my colleagues approached me to talk about blogging and ask a few questions. Usually, when I’m asked the question from this post’s title it is asked using a curious tone, or one that hints at the “how do you find the time” angle. There are those rare times when the question is asked in an accusatory tone- as in “why do you blog?”. Of course, in the blogosphere we ask this same question of each other every time we post, with the emphasis placed on “Why do you blog?” , or perhaps more appropriately; “Why do I blog?”
So, why do I blog? I started blogging as a grade 7/8 classroom teacher as we were evolving from using reading response journals towards a more collective and dynamic process for writing about what we had read. In this domain, the students and I summarized, posed questions and challenged each other as readers and writers, as soon as I set this environment in motion, there was no turning back for me. The idea that the thoughts and questions and voices, of my students and myself could be heard in such an elegant and seamless manner was powerful and empowering. As I left my classroom to become a VP, I left too, the richness of this environment and spent two years away from blogging.
As I moved into my role as an elementary vice principal I began to blog again as I was preparing for our district’s principal selection process. My Supervisory Officer had suggested that I write about my leadership experiences in a reflective manner, connecting my experiences to the Ontario Leadership Framework and capacities as a way of preparing for my Principal Dialogue. As a response to this suggestion, the Smaller Office was born.
I still blog for the same reasons I did as a classroom teacher. My posts allow me to express ideas, opinions and questions in a way that is both personal and public. I’m part of a broad community of teachers, students, parents and other school leaders who challenge me, engage me, make me think and help me in immeasurable ways. Ontario principal Shannon Smith blogs ”to participate in the conversation about what needs to be happening in education to continue making it better.” B.C. principal Chris Wejr’s blog posts and the responses he provides to my posts challenge me to think about the harmful effects of many traditional school practices and the ways school leaders can navigate towards more engaging and collaborative schools. Ontario teacher Royan Lee’s posts and responses are rich in student and teacher voice and provocative; often prompting me to formulate a response that becomes a blog posting of my own. My York Region colleague Greg Collins’ regular posts on the Lorna Jackson PS school blog serve as a model for the transparency that I aim to achieve as a principal and a blogger. These are just a few examples of a ever expanding community.
Mike Schmoker uses a term I love to describe what an authentic learning community ought to be; argumentative literacy. You see, it’s not that I’m connected through blogging that matters to me, it is how and why I’m connected that matters. How the tools of the web connect us and make response so efficient and seamless is critical. Equally critical is the notion that writing is a tool for thought andcan be driver of collective and individual change, sometimes the tools do matter. The give and take, the back and forth, the discourse and discuss, the visible and meaningful arguments about important ideas; these are the reasons I blog.