Over the past year, I took up the activity of blogging. I find that it is a great way to publically personalize my work as an educator. I get a chance to write in whatever form I want (where my private style for writing takes on the form of free thought… a running narrative if you will). But, as I move forward as a blogger, I realize that blogging, for me, is more difficult than all of my other writing projects.
And here is why…
Blogging, particularly writing a weekly blog, takes discipline. While I am highly disciplined, I am an introvert that would much rather not expose myself to the world. So, when trying to commit to the act of blogging all while wrestling with a desire to stay inward, it is quite easy to re-prioritize to something a little less public. However, I plow through this dynamic tension not simply with discipline but with a schedule. I have writing days… Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Even when I did not feel like writing, when I wanted to tend to my not-so-public projects, I wrote because it was the time of the week I had set aside to write. And, I did it!
Blogging also takes heart and courage. To write about student empowerment in an education reform climate caught up in battle over funding and infrastructure is a notion to consider. Much of what I have to say about the empowerment of marginalized learners appeals to those who have a vested interest in protecting public education in its traditional structure because of the power and protection it gives to the working class. However, in that there is a strong argument that this structure has not adequately served those who are the poorest and the most politically marginalized, my writings have also appealed to school reformers who see value in the privatization of public programming, taking power away from the public that has been OK with (or not frantic enough about) the perverted mistreatment of disadvantaged learners. Either way, I have an appreciation for both sides of the battle. I want to challenge the oppressive structures embedded within traditional schooling yet I am not interested in a privatized silencing of the public.
In all, I have found the pervasive polarization of the conversation to be not only taxing… but to be off putting. To continue to write in this climate takes heart to remember the vision, and the writing objectives for that agenda, and it takes courage, to continue to write when each side both challenges you to come a little closer to their sphere of the world. It takes courage to keep a strong position not necessarily in the middle but in the spirit. Because it is in the spirit that I am reminded that marginalized children have it bad in both camps because both camps are not embracing the social-structural threats of student empowerment. So I try to stay in the spirit of empowerment, give myself permission to agree and disagree freely, and embrace the consequence when I show myself not blindly aligned to simply one side. It takes courage to withstand the power (and community) of group think. It takes courage to hold fast to the vision.
Finally, blogging takes hustle. While there is a lot written out there about how to be an effective blogger, one still has to create her own path. This path creation, in the absence of prescription and the absence of a guaranteed readership, requires one to locate and activate every entrepreneurial bone in her body. There is the process of locating supportive links to embed in the article. There is the process of finding unique websites to cross-share your piece with new and relevant readers. And finally there is the social media world where it is not just enough to share a link to your work. Instead, and rightfully so, there must be a courtship. A dance of ideas that allows you to find those who would appreciate and benefit from what you have written. To assume writing the piece simply warrants a reading of it is just down right naïve. Unless you have a ridiculously strong fan base, very few people care enough about the topic to just read random musings on it. They want to know it will be a good investment of time. So the dance, the courtship, must entail engagement. You must interact with people to find those that matter. And, such a courtship should not lead to a one sided affair… a relationship where you get yours regardless if they get theirs. You have to care about their work, their person, and their goals. To build a community of relevant and mutually benefitting readers is a pursuit that has no clear pathway. It requires a commitment to figure it out.
Towards the end of this year, I put my writing on hold. Well, I put my blogging on hold. It was not a decision that came with a plan. In many ways, it did not even come with a great deal of consciousness. I found myself unable to write for others. Blogging represents that for me. It is writing for what others want to hear. A friend of mine has been encouraging me to return to more formal writing projects. To her, blogging is a sterile process where it is underdeveloped and controlled by an unspoken demand for group think. But, I like the connectedness that I get from blogging… being a part of the world in a way that is different from when one has no direct interaction with her readership. I also like that my blog allows me to connect to right now realities. It gives me a process to figure out that which I really believe. It allows for the space to know, to aspire, and to then change my mind if that is what I feel inclined to do.
As I close out the year with a new level of understanding for the ripples that blogging entails, I recommit to the discipline, to the heart and courage, and to the hustle of blogging. But, I will do so with a level of maturity that I did not have when I began.
I enter into 2016 resolved and renewed… not as an official writer but as a seasoned practitioner with a burning desire to express in written form that which I think and feel… in the moment.
To my few faithful readers (and those still to come), I will see you on the other side!!
Happy New Year!
Angela Dye, PhD, Executive Director of the Empowerment Network https://empowermentstartshere.wordpress.com