Monday, November 16th, 2015...9:57 pm
I’ve been stuck. You might have noticed that I’ve been missing from this space for over a month – something that hasn’t happened in the last 7 years of blogging. I’m not sure that I’ve missed writing, really. I’ve thought about it. I’ve written snippets here and there that never met the publish button. But there have been many other things filling my time and my thoughts lately, both personal and professional.
I also think I’ve been a bit confused about what exactly this space is for these days. My children’s stories feel more and more their own with each passing day and my motherhood story seems, for now, one that I tell in private or one that bursts forth in moments I struggle to catch before I forget them, logged mostly in photos on instagram. And for now, that feels right.
This weekend I gave a mini-keynote at my district’s innovation summit. They asked me, as an early-adopter of transformational technology practices, to speak to fellow educators about my journey. I began by saying the following:
Almost 7 years ago, after 8 years of teaching and one year of motherhood, I made the best professional development decision I could have ever made: I started a “mom” blog.
And it’s true. This space has afforded me more growth, as a writer and mother and teacher than I ever imagined it would. I would never have the connections to other amazing writers, the confidence in my own power to write and convey a message, the bravery to usher my own students onto the web to begin their own writing journeys. I thought hitting publish for the very first time 7 years ago would help me focus my writing energy, help me clarify the cloudy thinking of new motherhood.
Instead, it did that and so much more. It changed me as a teacher.
At first, I kept this space secret, hid it from my students and most colleagues because I was worried that I wouldn’t be taken seriously, worried that I’d write something one day that would be skewed and used against me. But then I realized that was silly. That keeping my online presence and teaching life separate meant that I couldn’t show my students that I practice what I preach, that I couldn’t use what I was learning outside the classroom to influence what was happening inside it.
So I stopped hiding it. I showed my students my writing when I asked them to write too. I let them know that writing isn’t always easy, even for those of us who love it oh so much. I merged my online writing with my offline classroom and that’s when I really started to innovate. That’s when I changed how I teach.
Lately there is so much tension in classrooms centered around exactly what I went through. We ask students to remove themselves from their online worlds when they enter the sacred school buildings. We ask them to separate out the reality of how they live life outside of our classrooms from the reality of how we assume they should live inside them. This isn’t what I believe education should do. Education should, at the very least, help kids navigate the many complexities that exist outside the classroom, education should build bridges, not put up (fire)walls.
If we expect our students turn off their phones and only search the Internet on our firewalled computers we are doing them a disservice. We aren’t teaching them how to read and interact with the world around them. We aren’t teaching them to sift through the Internet junk to find the gems. We aren’t teaching them to use these platforms to teach the world that teenagers care about much more than selfies and viral videos.
So in my class, students keep their phones on. They research and share and ask questions. They write more than they ever thought they would and they hone ideas in a public space that holds them accountable.
And me, I’m still there, learning right along with them. This is new to all of us and I just know it feels wrong to me to cut my classroom off from the new way of learning and sharing and discovering.
So I guess this is a really long-winded post to say that over the last month of not writing I’ve realized that I’m not here anymore to write about parenting. We talk so much about what it’s like to parent kids in this digital age. But this weekend I realized what I really want to be writing and thinking about here: What is it like to teach in this digital age? How do teachers confront so many of the same questions that parents face about screen time and curated content and creating safe spaces that still encourage curiosity.
As my students work on their projects, I’m going to work on mine. I’m going to continue to practice what I preach – writing and stretching and trying new things.