Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 30: NCTM Doth Loom

In one week from today, I will be at the Atlantic City Convention Center for the regional meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  I am delivering a presentation on blogging as reflective practice.  I am deeply honored to have been accepted to make the presentation and I hope that I'm able to help anyone who comes to the session.

And all I can think about is what a fool I was to start blogging in the first place.

I love getting feedback from other teachers who say they find comfort in knowing that they are not the only ones going through what they are.  We (the teacher-blogger community) spend so much time talking about the great things that we do.  This isn't a problem except that when things go poorly, as they often do, it's easy to feel as though you're alone.

I wish I had fewer failures to share, but I'm glad that my failures can help others.

And, to be honest, they help me too.

Writing this blog has forced me to look back over my day and examine what I think I did well and what I think didn't go well.  It is a ritual and a commitment that I've made to myself.  Most days, I open a blank page and sigh sadly, wondering what I'm going to talk about.  I stare at the empty Blogger form and wonder why anyone would read what I have to say.

And yet, I keep writing.  I start a post and let it flow through my fingers.  Like going to the gym, the hardest part is starting.  Once I write the first sentence, I keep going.

I dread the first sentence.

Somehow, this blog has come to define what kind of teacher I am.  I'm not sure that was my goal when I started.  I'm honestly not sure what my goal was.  I had just met a ton of amazing people and I may have been trying to impress them.

Next week, I'm supposed to talk to a group of teachers who, I assume, have read my blog (because why would you come to my session if you aren't interested in me or blogging).  I'm supposed to give them advice and pretend as though I know what the hell I'm talking about.

No matter how long I write (389 posts over the past 27 months, a post a day for every day that I've taught over that time) I still don't feel as though I'm any sort of expert on writing or reflection.  There are tons of teachers out there with more to offer on this front.

But so what?

It's a false belief to think that just because I don't consider myself an expert that I have nothing to offer.

Over the past 27 months, I HAVE written a post for every day that I've taught, as well as some that I didn't.  I can't tell anyone how to be a writer, or how to blog, or how to teach.  What I CAN do is relay my experiences to them and offer my assistance.  I know (to a certain extent) what has worked for me and I'm happy to offer that to anyone who wants it.

Since the summer of 2013, I have written almost a million words of reflection on my teaching practice.  That's not nothing.

In fact, it's quite something.

The momentum of it, however, is unnerving to me.  I missed my chance to stop.  I should have quit at the end of last year.  With a new school, new grade and a new subject, however, there was tons of pressure to continue, both internal and external.

I now feel as though I'm committed for the year and have mixed feeling about it.  Writing is exhausting, especially when you're pouring out your soul.

Hopefully, my willingness to continue to do so will help others as well as myself.

So what should I talk about next week?

I have less than 165 hours until NCTM...

1 comment:

  1. Honestly? I don't think anyone is an expert when it comes to writing or self-reflection. Or teaching. There's simply some people who have more expertise, which comes from experience - meaning, as you yourself point out, you have something to offer.

    With regards to what to talk about, allow me to come at this from the complete opposite perspective. I write fiction. I posted twice a week, every week, even in the summer, for well over two years. Did that help me reflect on my teaching practices and student interactions? No, not exactly. Did that help me reflect on what I was teaching, and the mathematics in general? Oh, hell yes. (Research! Into other blogs and sites too!)

    Now, I could have simply written it all down in a journal at home. But (like you) I elected to put it online, for everyone to see. I think that's a key aspect here - it's more than simply writing and reflecting, it's doing it publicly. It's getting the feedback from other teachers, as you also stated above. How does that change things - or does it? Should it? Granted, I'm sure a large percentage of your posts receive no remarks at all, and at the core, you are doing it to improve yourself... but don't neglect that broader aspect.

    As such, here's the cliche questions:
    -What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning? Related, if you had to do it over again, would you change anything?
    -What are the privacy concerns? (I recall seeing on Twitter the other day that a math teacher had to take down their blog... I don't know if they were reflecting, or merely posting about math.) Changing names, presumably, is there more?
    -To what degree does feedback on have an influence, given that it's not always there? For that matter, you were interviewed previously about this! How did they know? Was there any influence there?
    -Are there hashtags you use? I notice you usually incorporate a picture, which makes the post pop out on my Facebook feed. Was that a conscious decision? (I know it's part of the reason I illustrate my fiction, not that it helps me in any way.)

    Also, in the post you mentioned talking about "what worked for you", perhaps also consider did "what worked" CHANGE over the last 3 years? For the worse or better? (Aside from your teaching assignment, obv., though I suspect there was an impact.) Because there's where some experience comes in that you definitely have, that others don't. Granted, maybe this is stuff only I'm interested in.

    To flip things around one last time, don't assume people have necessarily read your blog. ;) Maybe they're coming to your session because they're introverts who really like introspection, or are wondering how to pronounce "Aion". Either way, all the best with the presentation at least! Enjoy!

    (Now, I know I'm a writer because I've rewritten this comment three times. PUBLISH already...)


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