After 100 blogs you’d think an English teacher would have a pretty good handle on audience and purpose. Well, this is my 100th blog post, and I’m still not certain.
I started in July two years ago and have been publishing once a week (with a miss here and there) ever since—except for the summer of 2013 when my oldest daughter got married. Missed those three months entirely. Still, that’s a fair bit of consistency, and I’ve learned a few things.
When I started, it was simply as a way to capture and process my summer professional reading, and since the first book I’d read that summer was about 21st century literacies, I decided I might as well practice one of those literacies while I captured and processed my other reading. Plus it made it easy to share what I’d read with department members.
At the end of the summer, I decided blogging was a good discipline—both the reflecting and the writing—so I would continue it into the school year. The focus would shift slightly from the reading and musings about how I could apply it, to a forum for reflecting on the applications I’d tried. Thus it would also serve as a form of accountability for trying those ideas I’d said I was going to. Sometimes, indeed, I’ve come to Friday morning in a panic: “I haven’t tried anything new this week, and I’ll have to write about it tomorrow, so I have to do something today!”
Then, of course, there is the writing itself: Every single week, whether I feel like it or not, whether I have a great inspiration or not, having to sit down and produce something. It’s rather like the spot I put students…and it’s also what I hear most frequently from professional writers about the most difficult part of writing—the daily discipline of just showing up and doing it.
I’ve had to struggle with all the things I teach my students: Coming up with ideas worth writing about. Intriguing beginnings and satisfying conclusions. Transitions, logic, and support. What a thesis looks like in real writing—does it need to make a personal appearance in a given piece, and if so, with how much fanfare, and where? How does audience and purpose shape my writing—the tension between my need to capture something in print (writing to learn) vs. any reader’s need to be captured and held (writing to communicate).
So what have 100 blogs done for me?
- They’ve made me a better teacher—both by holding me accountable to practice and reflect on my practice weekly, and by making me a practitioner of the skills I teach.
- They’ve connected me with colleagues—the ones who I interact with daily, with whom my interaction is deepened either because they read my blog, or because I’m just more articulate when we talk for having already figured out how to express my attempts, struggles, and discoveries in writing.
- They’ve given me experience with 21st century literacies.
Which brings me back to audience and purpose. Mostly it’s for me, because, realistically speaking, I don’t have much of an audience. My counter just clicked over 4,000 in this week. That averages out to about 40 per post. But it sure is fun to think of those 40 people I connect with each week—whether it’s my mom, a faithful core of Facebook friends, or the 50 page views from Russia I got one week this summer…and the 21 from Romania I just saw when I checked my stats before writing this blog!
So here I am, sounding my 100th barbaric yawp over the schoolrooms of the world (to borrow a phrase from American poet Walt Whitman). And maybe my audience is both myself and other teachers out there who love their subject and their students, and maybe my purpose is to say, this is what it feels like for me when I’m working at my subject of reading and writing, working at my profession of teaching, working at my life of keeping up with the possibilities of technology. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, almost always rewarding. If it feels like that for you, too, join me—it’s difficult but not impossible—let’s figure it out together. Because it’s so, so worth it when it works.
Like just now—when I finally figured out my audience and purpose!