At this year’s Teaching & Learning Conference, I stepped out of my comfort zone as a journalist and twitter-holic and into the role of a presenter. I was honored to be a part of the “Writing Our Future: Blogging for Educational Change and Personal Growth” panel, along with widely-read bloggers José Vilson, Renee Moore, and David Cohen as well as my fellow The Standard bloggers Ambereen Khan-Baker and Luann Lee.
However, this was my first time speaking publicly about my blogging life, and I had to ask myself the question: Why do I blog? I knew it had to do with equity and social justice because I know that the written word is a powerful force. Indeed, if we look back at the history of our country, we see that laws were enacted that prohibited slaves from learning to read and write. For a rabble-rousing spirit such as myself, anything relating education to censorship is very exciting. What is it about wielding the language of power that is so menacing to those who wish to dictate the lives of the marginalized? What influence might my words have?
I wrote in my journal, thought about my blogging practice, and conferred with trusted friends. Before I presented, I had clarified for myself exactly why I blog.
1. Blogging makes my voice visible. My life as a blogger began with my personal blog, and led to my writing and editing a collaborative blog about teaching writing to ELLs and Students with Disabilities, as well as contributing posts here at The Standard. By blogging, I am recording my life as a white American woman and educator, someone who crosses invisible borders, learning about my students, their families and communities; I try to understand the lives of those who have immigrated to our country and those with disabilities. I am privileged to witness the incredible histories and aspirations of those who are often considered Other. By making my voice visible, I can share stories and observations that lead to a better understanding of how lives are lived across linguistic and cultural barriers.
2. Blogging allows me to initiate the conversations that I want to be having. In the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive many invitations to events that discuss a menagerie of educational issues, including teacher evaluations, charter schools, and busing. While I am always honored to give my input on issues that affect my students, there are other conversations that interest me – about writing instruction, arts integration, language development and disorders, and culturally relevant curriculum. When I blog about those passions, I clarify my thinking and join in exciting dialogue with others who are interested in American education.
3. Blogging allows me to talk back, correcting misconceptions about the professional practice of teaching. I feel personally attacked when I read local news stories that put down the work of teachers in the City of Boston. I proudly teach in the Boston Public Schools, and I am parent of three children who will shortly be kindergarten students in our district. It hurts me when politicians and stakeholders who do not live in my city or send their children to our schools profess a need for wide-sweeping changes that negatively affect my livelihood. The underlying assumption is that I, as a Boston teacher, am underworked and overpaid. I could feel angry, complain, and do nothing. But, as a writer, I can use the power of words to challenge the perceptions of those in power; blogging is a way of offering counter-narratives to those in our local media by offering the perspective of an accomplished teacher who is inside our schools and classrooms, day in and day out.
I believe that every teacher would benefit from blogging for similar reasons. As teachers we are expected to be humble and selfless, but in a time when our professional practice and our students are subject to excessive scrutiny and often uninformed criticism, we need to use the power of our individual and collective voices to advocate for equity and justice in American schools.