What does it mean to blog about your teaching life and learning life? How has blogging transformed your teaching and learning life?
My blog Learning is Growing was born August 9, 2010. I am in the infant stages of blogging, but can already feel a transformation. Learning is Growing is my home to record reflections and new learnings. The name was inspired by the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. In this book Dr. Dweck introduces two mindsets, that of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. More information on this concept can be found in Dr. Dweck’s article Even Geniuses Work Hard (Ed. Leadership, September 2010).
To reflect on my transformation, I go back to a motto used in my 4th grade classroom. When my students were faced with challenges in learning I would remind them the task may be difficult, but they could do it. I’d apply what I knew about scaffolding and the gradual release of responsibility so that they became comfortable with the task. I’d seek a variety of ways to teach the task as well as provide opportunities for students to teach each other. The motto seemed to work and students got to the point that they were the ones initiating it – showing they were becoming more confident in their learning. As it turned out, they taught me more about the power of the motto than I ever taught them.
Flashback… As a young child I loved to watch old Fred Astaire movies. I dreamed of being able to tap dance. I don’t think I ever voiced that dream and never took lessons as a child. My first teaching position was in a community that valued the fine arts. Denison, Iowa was the home of Donna Reed. It’s a Wonderful Life, From Here to Eternity and The Donna Reed Show were a few of her claims to fame. Her legacy still remains in the community through the Donna Reed Foundation of the Performing Arts. One aspect of the fine arts known well in Denison is dancing. Many of my students took lessons at the local dance studio. Dancing taught them how to collaborate with others, build stamina in the learning process and gain self-confidence. At the age of 25, I decided to live out my childhood dreams.
Dancing brought new connections with my students. They took a lot of pride in helping me learn the difficult dance steps. They became quite good at scaffolding by breaking down the steps in easy to understand formations! I was enjoying the process until it hit me that dance lessons = performing in a recital. Going public with my dancing was scary. I didn’t want to humiliate myself, but I knew I couldn’t let my students down.
All was well until 15 minutes before my dancing partner and I were to take the stage. I was told that she had broken a long-standing rule of the studio and unable to take part in the recital. I would be going solo. Our number was the first one after intermission. I kindly told my instructor that she could just skip the number. At that moment my own words came back to teach me a powerful lesson. Two of my 4th grade students turned to me and said in unison, “It’s difficult, but you can do it.” The show went on. My students taught me to believe in myself.
So, what does this have to do about blogging? Right now, blogging is difficult for me. Going public with my writing is scary! I’m a product of the “red pen” era. My writing was usually handed back to me unrecognizable. The “red” corrections humiliated me and the revisions and editing turned my thoughts into my teachers. Now I work for hours (and sometimes days) on each blog post. I’m nervous about how they are being received. I wonder if anything I’m writing is making a difference.
I’ve always believed that teachers need to take part in what they are asking their students to do. For many years I taught using the reader and writer workshop approach. I would read and write along with my students. Our audience was our classroom. Now my audience is world-wide. With each blog post I’m becoming more confident in my writing. Soon I will be helping teachers incorporate blogging with their students. I’m proud that I’m walking the talk and leading by example.
|I was told what to write.||I choose what to write.|
|I wrote for grade.||I write to strengthen self and learning.|
|The feedback I received often was in the form of what was wrong or suggested changes.||The feedback I receive is in the form of comments to deepen reflection.|
|I didn’t like to write.||I’m facing the challenges and becoming stronger and more confident in my writing.|
I’m committed to the process and holding myself accountable to post weekly and am setting goals to blog even more. I look to my experiences with teachers and students as avenues for new learning. I’m being honest with myself and my readers by reflecting on my experiences thus transforming and growing as an educator. I’m courageously taking this step into the blogging world, even if it is a challenge. I’m holding on to the lesson that my 4th graders taught me. It is difficult, but I can do it!
Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers Photo: CC licensed Flickr Photo
Dweck, C.S. (2010). Even Geniuses Work Hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.