For seven years, I’ve been the only instructor of my course.
In some ways, it’s a blessing. I am free to create content, choose the curriculum, and experiment with biology labs with my 640 non-majors Biology students.
But it has also been a lonely road. I’m in a completely different building than the rest of the Biology department at my university. So I feel left out of the Biology community at my school. The only time I interact with my colleagues is when we have an occasional meeting (maybe once a year) or holiday party (we had a Christmas luncheon – – three years ago…). Everyone is off doing their own thing. Amazing things. But isolated things that I don’t get to be a part of.
My situation is not unique. Many scientists have lamented about the loneliness in the profession. Academia is a notoriously lonely place – from grad school, to ABD, to being a professor. No one can rescue you from the loneliness, the disconnect, and the isolation. Only you can save you.
Scientists and educators make a lot of assumptions about how other people feel – we overthink EVERYTHING. A lot of us are introverts, preferring the comfort of books and blogs over human interaction. I always considered myself to be an extrovert – until I got to academia. Then, I became so self-conscious, as people reminded me constantly how much I don’t know. I know there is so much I don’t know. And so, as others in academia smack you down with evidence and articles, you learn to be hesitant about what you say, lest you be jeered by others.
I was starved for discussions, for the energy of the graduate classroom, and to be part of the conversation with my students, instead of talking at them.
I wish I could have introduced “new teacher Amy” to my current self.
Writing has changed my life, along with Facebook and Twitter. I don’t have to depend on the (lack of) people around me. I can connect virtually to many of the people I need.
Blogging is something I wish every teacher, grad student, professor and educator would do, and stick to regularly. It can help you cultivate great ideas, and energize you to create. I truly believe that literally EVERY educator can benefit from blogging, regardless of discipline, level, experience, or location.
Why keep a blog? Here are five main reasons:
1. Bogging helps you catalog your ideas. By creating a map of where you’ve gone each day with your thinking, researching, and creating, you can create a filing cabinet of your brain. I can simply search my site for my ideas. Between this blog, and my Evernote, I can remember everything.
2. Blogging lets you share your ideas easily. People ask questions on Twitter or Facebook, and I can refer them to articles I’ve written, or articles I’ve read. I can help people find answers they may not have found themselves. Rather than digging through old notes or textbooks, pretty much everything is easily found in my archives.
3. Blogging shows how I’ve changed over time. I simply did not write one year ago, the way I write now. I changed over the course of writing a dissertation. I changed through my Master’s degree. And I have evidence of that. I have digital archives of how my thinking has changed since about 2005, which is where my digital archives of writing start. I can look back at www.amybhollingsworth.com, www.biologywithtechnology.com, http://amyandguppy.blogspot.com, my “Free Biology Resources” Google Site, and various other writing I have done, and I’m proud to have developed so much as a writer. My educational journey has been well worth the time and investment.
4. Blogging shares my story. If I don’t tell my story, who will? Allowing the internet to invent my narrative, or relying on others to tell people who I am and what I do is not acceptable (even when what they write is good). I have such a unique story in my educational journey, and my personal triumphs, that I have to let people know they aren’t alone! There is so much negativity surrounding education and teaching, and many of the articles I read are so critical. Those of us who are having a positive impact on education need to share our stories as well. If not us, who?
5. Blogging encourages others. I found Vicki Davis’s blog, “The Cool Cat Teacher,” several years ago, as I was looking to develop my own website. It was one of the first teacher blogs I read. She made me realize that amazing teachers should share their stories. She gave me encouragement and equipped me with tech techniques and tools to improve my class. Chances are you’ve been encouraged by someone who’s shared their experiences or ideas. Come full circle. Put yourself out there and give that encouragement to others. If no one published their ideas, there would be nothing to be found online. Contribute!
I hope that every educator will give it a shot. You have to start somewhere, and today can be that day! Here’s a great resource to guide you: “Start Your Teaching Blog: Resources, Advice and Examples” via Edutopia. You can start by just posting ideas. If you can write a Facebook post, you can write a blog post. It can be simple, or it can be in depth. I could write 250 words in my sleep. You can too! You have ideas, so share them with the world.
Have you started a blog or website? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. I promise I’ll go leave a comment on your blog too!