Having been an active blogger for about 18 months now, it has been worthwhile reflecting on the journey, some 100+ posts later. In writing this post, it would be great to see more education leaders either starting their own blogs or contributing to the discussion on many of the great education blogs that are out there on the EduNet.
So what key lessons have I learned?
Lesson 1: Blogging is a great way for you to process and share your thoughts about all that matters to you, and others, in education. It is a great way for educators to distill their thoughts on a particular topic or issue. In doing so, we, perhaps, are compelled to share our wider reading and possible sources of inspiration for what we are writing about. I have found blogging to be a good way to think about an issue that may frustrate me. The fact that what I write may possibly be read by others is a great calibration tool in considering how to put points across in a sensitive and respectful way. When writing posts about leading schools it is inevitable that occasionally teacher issues are going to be raised. It is vital to try to qualify statements and the less general the better; your staff could be reading your blog, which leads me to my next point.
Lesson 2: You do not get to choose your audience. Sure, you may well be writing about educational leadership and be aiming your posts at other education leaders, I have quickly learned that the blogosphere and the web does not quite work that way. Unless you make your blog private, you cannot choose your audience. Just a simple search using a web browser can bring up a post on your blog, which could be read by anyone who is doing the searching. It is, therefore, highly likely that education professionals who are not interested in education leadership may read your posts. Moreover, your audience could be interested in leadership in general, or they could be interested in education. It is important to get comfortable with this, which leads me onto the next key learning.
Lesson 3: Respond to your readers and followers even if they do not like what you have written. In finding out very quickly that I do not choose my audience, I have received the odd comment disagreeing with what I have written. I have learned that people will imply whatever they want from your posts, even if you try to convince them otherwise. In such instances, emotional maturity must win the day, stay calm and thank the reader for contributing; move on. If anyone ends upon shedding bad light on themselves, let it be a reader and not you. I enjoy replying to my readers when they comment, as I value the discourse and the fact that readers bother to contribute, especially if they enjoyed reading the post and / or added something that prompted me to think more about the topic / issue.
Lesson 4: Your colleagues will try to work out who you may be writing about. It is inevitable that when writing about educational leadership matters, you will bring in observations from your own experience. Authors of educational leadership books do it all the time and blogging is no different. Good educational leaders try to connect theory with their own practical experiences in order to learn, improve themselves and their schools. Just beware some of your colleagues may read what you write and try to make connections to your shared school environment. When I started blogging, I made the point of letting my colleagues know about my blog and wanted them to share in my insights. If they wanted to follow along, then great, we can talk about some of the posts, if the interest is there. I am also proud of the schools in which I have worked and the lessons I have learned from those I have worked with, so I view it as essential to preserve healthy relationships. In saying that, it is only human nature that your colleagues may read your posts a little more carefully to see if there is a subtext to what you write.
Lesson 5: Share resources through your posts. If there is something that inspires your post then reference the resource of the person who inspired you. Perhaps it is a TED talk, a specific webpage, an image, a link to someone’s blog or an author. If I refer to an educational researcher or another educators blog, I may also include a link to their Twitter name, so that a reader can follow them if they are interested. If I am referencing a book, I may provide a quick link to an Amazon, or similar website, which gives the opportunity for readers to purchase the book, which promotes further reading on the topic / issue – we’re doing this to learn after all. One of my posts was was about an inspirational TED talk by Rita Pierson called Every kid needs a champion. I embedded the video into the post, which was a great way to share what caught my attention and the catalyst for the post.
Lesson 6: Share your blog through in different forums. To increase the chances of other educators reading your blog it is worthwhile investing the time to share your posts through different social media services. I have linked my blog to both Twitter and LinkedIn, so that when a new post is published, it immediately can be accessed by my connections and followers. Even though I am a user of Facebook, I chose not to link my blog to this service because, I use it for family and friends, so no work here. I also use AboutMe to promote my blog and have a personal profile there for readers to learn a little more about where I am coming from and provide them with the opportunity to connect. These connections are crucial, as you never know when you will bump into a reader.
When I started blogging, as outlined in my first post, I felt compelled to share. We are not just leading the students in our school, in our classroom, education is more than that. The connectivity we have today and a motivation to freely share and collaborate without expecting something in return has the ability to improve a child’s education, even if you do not know them and they live on the other side of the world. That’s reason enough for me to keep sharing and learning!