I have long found blogging to be an excellent exercise for the reflective individual. There is something about writing, especially self-writing, that is great for critical reflection that can be incredibly useful for self-evaluation and -improvement.
Once, long, long ago in the beginning days of this blog (okay, only over a year ago), I proposed that a program in my own university should utilize blogging as a way of promoting reflection upon teaching, something that our school of education promotes highly in its own practicum. To my knowledge, that idea was never really considered too highly, but I still stand by the importance of teachers doing real reflecting, the sort that blogging is so great for.
But the benefits really do reach beyond even what I suggested there, I think. So here is a rationale for why the reflective teacher should consider blogging:
- Blogging helps teachers learn. Reflection, for whatever other by-products it may have (such as catharsis), is a great way for teachers to think back on their struggles and successes, and it provides a chance to articulate one’s educational philosophy and record daily thoughts so that they might be revisited later. I can hardly believe some of the things that I’ve written, and re-reading those reflections has been a very important part of my personal learning and growth. For those of us who have specific content areas or specializations, I think this also gives us a chance to explore those areas and grow as scholars as well as educators. Blogging is a very active way to stay engaged in matters of pedagogy, discipline, scholarship, and professionalism.
- Blogging helps teachers learn how to facilitate learning in the classroom more effectively. In addition to help teachers grow as professionals, as scholars, and as individuals (and that is absolutely an integral part of blogging when done right!), blogging can help teachers improve their own teaching by critically analyzing the ways in which they interact with their students, plan instruction to promote learning, and provide a constructive learning environment where all students have the ability to learn. I recommend that teachers try to find ways to blog about and tag (or categorize) both successes and failures so that they can be revisited in planning to help provide more ideas for promoting learning. One of my regrets from student teaching is that I didn’t revisit the idea of the Socratic circle that worked fairly well the one time I tried it – I could have hopefully had another success! Don’t let good ideas slip away from you just because you haven’t used them in a while.
- Blogging gives teachers an online learning community where they can foster learning outside the physical classroom. I’ve seen teachers who seem to use blogs somewhat successfully to extend the learning community beyond the classroom, but I mean this in a slightly different sense. Blogging actually extends the learning community beyond even the students you teach in the physical classroom – provided you don’t make entries private, it gives any interested reader the opportunity to join the community. As far as I know, none of my students have seen this blog (but I did that somewhat intentionally), but a number of other people have joined the discussion, and, as should happen in any good classroom, there was plenty of learning that happened both ways.
- Blogging helps teachers to connect with each other and work together. This might be the best thing about blogs: they are almost collaborative by their very nature. Comments, pingbacks, trackbacks, and so forth all provide means to extend discussions and for teachers to respond to, support, and collaborate with each other. Blogging can be done by groups of people (one of my favorite non-teaching blogs, Language Log, is a group blog), and things like blog carnivals provide the chance for storehouses of information to be made available to groups of people who share similar interests. There is a definite sense, from reading several edu-blogs, that the professional community does come together in many ways through blogs, perhaps in a way that professional journals and newsletters do not. The interaction that bloggers have is more organic, more direct, and – perhaps – more authentic, and that can help strengthen the bonds that teachers have as members of a grand profession.
There are more reasons that I can think of, but these are in my mind sufficient to make blogging a very promising avenue of self-reflection for the educator who wishes to be effective and adaptive to the best practices possible. Even despite the potential problems that can come about with blogging (e.g. will districts be favorable to you blogging about your teaching, even if you do not disclose any identifying information about students, teachers, or administrators?), it is a practice and a tool that teachers ought to cultivate and use to their advantage – and to the advantage of their students.