|My most popular blog of the 2017 was about reading to my 11-month-old grandson. Now he's 16 months, and we're still reading! (Read on for the connection...)|
My thrill of the week: my blog’s number of all-time pageviews passed 30,000. As bloggers go, that’s very small-time—but to me it was a thrill. That represents 243 posts over 5-1/2 years since my first one on July 4, 2012. Scrolling back to find that first post, I realized during my first year of blogging, many posts had pageviews in single digits, and none broke into triple digits. (To be honest, I was afraid to post them on Facebook, and I didn't yet do Twitter. I just occasionally forwarded a link to friends or colleagues.) Now I feel a little sad when one doesn’t get into triple digits! But that said, funny as it sounds, I don’t really blog for my readers. Okay, actually I do, but they (you) rank 3rd in reasons I blog. What are the first two reasons I blog? (1) Myself and (2) my students.
I blog for myself because when I reflect, I grow, and when I’m growing, I’m happy. Additionally, when I know I’m going to have to have something reflection-worthy at the end of the week, it shifts how I go through my days. Finally, as an introvert, once I’ve put my thoughts together in writing, I’m much more fluent sharing them with colleagues in conversation. So blogging has changed me into a more reflective, growing, happy, articulate teacher.
I blog for my students because every writing student deserves a writing teacher who is a practitioner of writing. I admire teachers who write with their students, and I don’t always manage that. But I do write. And I know what it’s like to sit down to an assignment (self-imposed though it is) feeling idea-less, fearing putting something out there that an audience will wonder why I bothered. And usually feeling really good once I’ve pulled something together. I know experientially that beginnings and endings are the hardest part, and often I have to force myself to just start putting words on screen. Sometimes, like last week, I end up deleting the first two paragraphs because I finally have come to what I wanted to say—but I never would have gotten there if I hadn’t started. I know what it’s like to consider audience and purpose. Sometimes I read my first draft and hate the tone—I don’t want to sound like I’m telling people what to do. I just want to share what I did and learned. So I change any “you should” language to “I did” language. After all, you might already be doing it, and I just figured it out! Or maybe your situation is completely different.
And that brings me to my audience—you. My third priority is to create a positive community—a community of “hey, I tried this and it was really great” or “it had possibilities with a little tweaking” or “I had this problem and I tried this thing.” A community that believes teaching is hard, but so worth working at, so let's share the ways we're working toward the joy of seeing students learn and grow, and encourage each other with our stories of growth--our own and our students'. It is way too easy to form negative communities—sharing problems with institutions, supervisors, colleagues, students. If you find any of my experiences encouraging—that’s all joy to me and icing on my cake.
With all that said, what 2017 blogs did my audience find most compelling, judging my the number of pageviews? Here’s the list of the top 10, starting with the most popular at nearly 300 pageviews:
- “Grandmothering a Reader” Usually I write about inducting adolescents into the world of reading. This was about doing it with my 11-month-old grandson when I got to visit him last summer. Clearly, if I were after increasing my readership, I’d write more about family/babies and less about teaching/adolescents.
- “Baby Steps in Differentiation” My action step--an editing lesson--in response to a faculty book discussion.
- “Teacher Self-Care: Count Your Classroom Blessings (the Unsung Best Practice)” Noticing moments of teaching joy in the week.
- “What Makes a Great Assessment” I wish all my assessments could be this authentic: students write a new Screwtape letter to demonstrate mastery of novel, satire, writing skill, and life application of theme.
- “Three Keys to a Good Jigsaw Activity” Jigsaw activities are great—at their best they combine choice, reciprocal teaching, and interdependence for intrinsic motivation to understand content and use good collaboration skills.
- “One Easy Trick for Better Group Work #2” Another action step in response to a faculty book discussion: a protocol with graphic organizer for scaffolding better discussion.
- “Three Tips for Better Argument Teaching” First time I ever required students to collect their own model sentence stems for argument or find at least one source from the opposition. (I forgot what the last tip was.)
- “Vocabulary Preview the Quick and Easy Way” Just hand out the list before reading the selection from which it is takes and have students mark familiarity +/o/- and see if they can help each other with -’s.
- “Inviting My Walls into My Classroom Conversation” The walls don’t have to be beautiful—just useful. I'm learning to curate learning with anchor charts, word walls, work that captures student thinking. Then be sure I actually refer to them.
- “Creating Cultures of Thinking” Review of a great professional book I read last summer. Author Ron Ritchhart explores how we can change school culture from one of right answers to one of thinking using 8 forces: expectations, language, time, modeling, opportunities, routines, interactions, and environments.