Oh – Just Blog On!

I’m writing this in response to Chris Leoffler’s blog ‘The Sophomore Slump’. I nodded along, thinking…’yep – exactly!’

I began blogging a couple of months ago, as a result of the #IMMOOC and a persuasive nudge from a colleague. Initially, it was enough that a couple of people read my blogs and added the odd comment – great. And then I blogged about something that was, for me, a little surprising – perhaps controversial, even, given that I’d just begun the ‘Innovative Teaching Academy’ course… I tweeted it…and it got retweeted and like Chris, I had many more visitors to my blog – over 200 – literally overnight.

And then, I wrote another one. It was balanced I thought, as was the first – and I spent ages on it – 4 hours, I think – wording it right…you know – I loved the writing side, but it was a complete brain-ache. I even considered when best to Tweet it (!) given time differences (I’m in Brunei and it was a UK ‘audience’ I was aiming at). I went to bed in the early hours, content that I’d got it absolutely right, feeling a little like a kid on Christmas Eve – hoping (maybe even ‘knowing’) that there’d be something in my ‘Twitter Stocking’ when I woke up. Worrying.


Surprisingly, I didn’t burst into tears and wonder why I’d been forgotten – or overlooked. I did feel confused though – being new to this ‘game’, I thought that because I’d had a good round, last time, it would simply get better – an increase in ‘likes’, in retweets and yep…in dopamine – people would suddenly ‘know me’ and therefore read what I had to say. And then, thinking some more, I realised that I was already asking the question… ‘right, what can I blog about now to get my ‘audience’ back’? Really, though, it wasn’t my audience – I simply got one ‘on loan’, briefly, via a retweet. But I found this question just a little soul-searching, and began feeling uncomfortable that I’d even asked it. There was also the undeniable, growing ‘habit’ of checking my phone…

So – where does that leave the newbie blogger with slightly dented pride? I think it leaves you with what you’ve always known deep down – that to write, or to do anything meaningful – to you – must be done primarily because you are intrinsically motivated to do so, regardless of ‘likes’, retweets or levels of dopamine. It leaves you with the self-assurance that if you’re blogging about something you care about, you aren’t making yourself vulnerable by doing it for the wrong reasons; your reasons will be good and you won’t find yourself trying to desperately defend it – because you were compromised along the way (even just a little) by the thought of those ‘likes’ and the approval of that unseen audience.

I guess my point is, if you are blogging because you want your opinions and ideas to be noticed, you need to take a moment to realise, that your opinions and ideas might get noticed. Play the game fairly and with passion but without cheating yourself, or breaking your own rules in order to win.

And finally, I considered whether we have the balance right (there’s that word again…balance) between writing for the thrill of an ‘audience’ – and writing for the simple release of self-expression – for the enjoyment of it. Perhaps a blog on the subject of intrinsic motivation in the classroom, has just joined the queue.

As I’m writing this, I hope somebody will read it, perhaps they’ll nod along. Perhaps they won’t. Perhaps it will prompt them to respond. But I know that it doesn’t really matter…not really – just gotta blog on anyway.

And Chris – thanks for the blog (which I definitely didn’t think was mediocre).


Process and Parachutes

So, we’ve just finished what turned out to be a good two weeks of ‘The Writing Process’. Our current topic is ‘Rainforests’ and Caspar the Caterpillar needed to make his way up through the different layers so that he could make his cocoon on the highest leaf, of the tallest tree in the emergent layer…


The intention was to incorporate this context (we’d been learning how to use a simile in our written description) across the the year-group and, if all went to plan, use pupils’ writing for moderation purposes.

The process was longer than any of us had anticipated. But – we got so much out of it. I think this was because we concentrated on the process rather than the outcome; we placed a much higher value on reflection, editing and improving, for example, than I think any of us had done before. We pushed through and made the process matter.

On the back of this, and in reflective discussions with colleagues, I realised how vital this journey is. It seems such a simple, obvious realisation – and it served as a powerful reminder that very few of us can create a piece of writing that arrives fully formed, out of the sky. So why do we test children’s ability to write in such clinical, cold conditions?

So, over pizza and coffee at a local Brunei cafe, I did a doodle… I guess that if you did some research, you may find somebody, somewhere who had a fluke, miracle-landing when their parachute failed, and who managed to survive; and there might be the odd child who can sit down and simply ‘write’ – but the rest of us need to officially and purposefully go through the process. Testing young children’s ability to write in the absence of this interactive, ‘human’ and often messy process – testing them in a way that’s completely alien to how they’ve been learning – seems so unfair. It’s a bit like jumping without a parachute; you might survive – just – but someone’s gonna have to pick up the pieces.