I used to say I don’t blog because if I did, I’d never have time to write. In my writing life, I see myself as a novelist, and I have to fight to fit that role into the confines of teacher/ mother/wife. Oh, I’d researched the how-to because I want my students writing authentic texts whenever possible, so they blogged, but I never had a reason until I wanted to know more about a local band.
Blogging is a great excuse to satisfy your curiosity. Researching novels, I’d already said the magic words: I’m a writer and I want to ask you a few questions, but the subtle difference between listening for the bits of truth you can work into your lies and listening for the essence of someone’s point of view, then imagining a narrative structure for unstructured conversation, is a delightful challenge.
That challenge is also an excuse to learn. Listening to music my whole life did not prepare me to write about it. I had to review basic music theory that I haven’t thought about since 4th grade. I read Greg Milner’s, Perfecting Sound Forever, and asked a lot of follow up questions.
Like the lens of the camera I carried around all summer, new learning re-frames your perspective and becomes an excuse for creativity. Listening to an artist layer tracks for a solo, I developed a new way to conceptualize grammar’s stylistic effects for my students. Talking to musicians, about how and why they play, has given me a new vocabulary for talking with students about how and why we write.
I understand, more clearly now, the relationship between the creative impulse and the need for a structure that will allow that impulse to take form. Not only have I released imagination from its academic ghetto in my classroom, I can now explain why it doesn’t belong there.
External reform movements that champion high stakes testing play well to people unfamiliar with education. They paint a picture of uniform knowledge delivered to every student in safe-sanitized-easy-to-open packaging. Responding to these top-down mandates, we’ve become so focused on getting kids to reliably give the the correct answer that we’ve removed too many of the elements, such as exploration and risk, that fuel and motivate learning.
It’s like we’re teaching them to cross the ocean on stepping stones instead of giving them a reason to get their feet wet, float, swim.
The idea that we should give kids a reason isn’t new, but blogging has helped me see the potential for inquiry based learning that doesn’t rely on my creating some simulated project or experience. Writing is thinking and becomes it’s own reason, but it’s the potential audience, that imagined ideal reader, that pushes us to refine words into what we really want to say, which challenges us to figure out what we really mean, which pushes us to further tweak our words and ideas in (hopefully) a never ending cycle of epiphany.
Blogging is democracy, not just because every voice has the potential to be heard, not just because we’re directly responsible for the representation of our ideas, but because when everyone can speak, we can no longer rely on authority to tell us what’s real, true, and good. We have a reason to think critically and decide for ourselves.
In an interview Paul McDaniel talked about using technology for a “good human purpose.” What’s more human than who we are, what we think, what we see, and how we can lead each other to whole new realms of understanding?
When I pick up my camera, when I go looking, that’s what I hope to find.