I keep a quote wall in my classroom. It holds quotes by some of the humans I most respect in the world. On it are the words of Aristotle, Einstein, some Chinese proverbs, along with the words of some of my former students. Hanging above our classroom pet snake, Fluffy, is a quote by one of those former students. It reads: “I’d like to go to Harvard, but I’d rather go to Hogwarts.” It is a sweet reminder that we are all obligated to make our own path to push and learn more.
Last week, one of my former students and I accomplished our first podcast. It was one of the most challenging and extraordinary experiences I have had the pleasure of having.
The experience exhausted me, both physically and mentally. It was amazing to have lived it… all eight plus hours of it. The best part was inviting a former student and author of the Hogwarts before Harvard quote, Josefina, to join me.
Podcasting is only one of many experiences that grew out of our adventures into blogging. What we learned most from blogging was much more valuable. We learned to grow.
Learning Is a Team Sport
I often refer to a beautiful poster that hangs on my classroom wall. It reads: “Revising is a team sport.” What I discovered through the process of learning to blog is that learning is also a team sport. Learning requires discussions, failures, struggles, triumphs, and accomplishments. It is both uncomfortable and exhilarating. It is what we are meant to do, I think. Why else would we push so hard for it?
It wouldn’t make sense to reflect on how blogging changed the way I think without mentioning the class that first joined me on this adventure, Josefina’s class. They were just a regular group of kids ready and eager to learn just a bit more than required in a 4th grade classroom.
What happened that year was simple… we learned together. I’m not sure if it was because I have been known to become just as bored, as easily as a 4th grader, or if it was because I reached a place in my teaching career-that place where teaching days become more working days and paperwork inhales your time, your weekdays, your week nights, and weekends. Life in a classroom can easily become too much for one person.
Maybe, like my students, I wanted just a bit more too.
What’s the big deal about blogging?
The big deal is that in order to blog, thinking must happen. Writing is thinking. And when you take time to think, think deeply and critically about the world around you, it changes you. It helps you to grow. For our class, back in the spring of 2017, it pushed us to grow just a bit more than expected.
Reflecting is a powerful thing. It is probably one of the most important reasons one should write and blog. On a few treasured occasions, we had special guest bloggers, like Aaron Hogan, Jeff Mann, and Amanda Mann visit our after-school writing community. They shared their time, their energy, and wisdom with us. They inspired us… all of us.
“Each of you have these stories to tell… It’s going to give you a chance to continue to share your story, and our stories are one of the most powerful things we have.”-Aaron Hogan
“Use life experiences to help tell your story and in turn help others who are going through something very similar.“ –Jeff & Amanda Mann
Telling your story is what I remember most from our conversations. This is how we learn to think for ourselves. And it's how we help others learn to do the same.
All of them came and shared their stories. We learned a lot from their visits and our conversations.
Bogging Is A Good Thing
“Blogging is a good thing” as described by Josefina in our Kidblog podcast. Documenting our learning process is a really good thing. In fact, research tells us that making a mental effort to pull what you learn from your memory by writing it down forces your mind to keep that new information deeply rooted.
According to research noted in the book Learn Better by Ulrich Boser, for learning to take place, we must participate in “active learning” as “mental doing.” We need to engage in an idea multiple ways and as much as possible, to learn and gain some expertise. Learning is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to grapple with trying to learn something new. It forces us to focus, adjust, change, tweak, and eventually become better at whatever it is we’re trying to learn.
Sitting here doing my best to put these words together to find meaning and purpose, takes a significant amount of thought and effort. It helps to know that growth occurs as a result of trucking through being uncomfortable. Understanding the process of “mental doing” as a part of learning and the science behind that process is both fascinating and necessary in a learning environment.
Blogging fills those spaces for learning and it is most definitely uncomfortable. In case you didn’t catch that… blogging is uncomfortable. How many people do you know share their thoughts and struggles for all to read?
I often find myself coercing my students with… "It’s okay to be nervous,” or with a quote by a TV commercial I once heard: “We’re supposed to do scary… without scary, we don’t get to be brave.” Scary is something we learn to put aside. If you’re trying to do something good, good things happen.
Good things did happen in our classroom.
Hour of Blog - What did we do here?
I am an advocate for the use of technology in the classroom. However, how technology is used can be the difference between night and day. It can be used to read passages and take tests, or it can be used for something much more. During Hour of Blog, we used technology for something much more than test taking.
We participated in things completely different than what we had ever done before. Blogging helped to flip our classroom and push us all into a space of curiosity and exploration. It pushed us to grow well beyond our writing community. That process was no easy task. We failed, regrouped, adjusted, tweaked, and moved on… a lot. Our learning was a constant moving target.
Growing 21st century bloggers in a classroom required a careful combination of teacher projects and free choice. We worked hard on both. We documented our learning through the art of reflection, practiced the 4 C’s (Communicating, Collaborating, Critical Thinking, and Creativity), and became aware that we each had the ability to learn what we wanted.
Beyond the practice of those important 21st century skills, we were practicing three critical forms of communication that helped us to connect with the world.
What we were doing here was walking over untouched ground, laying tracks where none had been before, experiencing things we’d never done before, in ways we never dreamed possible. It was amazing.
Where do we grow from here?
For Josefina, she shares that it helped her grow as a writer. She found purpose for writing. Writing for her transitioned from a “chore” to having purpose. She shares on our podcast, “…now it’s a just passion I will, I know I will be doing for the rest of my life… I realized how much I loved writing… there are no limits to it, we just keep growing... Where will we grow from here?”
What I learned is to be what I expect of my students and “walk the walk.” I learned to become a living example for them, a learner and mentor. Showing students that learning is uncomfortable and having them see that discomfort as simply a part of the process is important.
We had a wonderful learning adventure into blogging, and wonderful adventures are filled with so much opportunity for growth and celebration.
Our Hour of Blog will continue. We will continue writing, sharing, and growing. Wherever the road leads us, we will continue pushing to learn more, in search for new ground to lay our tracks. The seeds have been planted, so off we grow…
May 25, 2018 - KEOS 89.1 FM - Student Bloggers
Click on the link to listen:
Marina Rodriguez is a California native, living and teaching in Texas, and a National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project, Teacher Consultant.