Some days, I teach because I blog.
When I began this blog in 2007, I was seriously considering giving up teaching. It was just too hard. Then Vila H. convinced me that I needed to start blogging about something. Teaching is the only thing I know much about, so it seemed a natural fit.
It’s a bit odd that I didn’t realize, at the time, the potential blogging had for saving my sanity. I kept compulsive handwritten journals from the age of nine until the age of twenty-five or so. I stopped because all that writing gave me a repetitive stress injury in my writing arm, shoulder and neck that continues to plague me (it makes marking papers even more of a nightmare.) During that time, though, writing stuff down was my main method of dealing with the world.
Keeping a journal on the computer never felt the same to me, and although I took a couple of stabs at it, it never stuck. This makes sense to me now. The computer feels like a tool for communication; a notebook feels like a private box for private thoughts.
Although, for most of my writing career, I thought of myself as a fiction writer, my greatest writing joy came through writing letters. And later, emails. Long, rambling, cathartic emails. At around the same time I was questioning my choice of a teaching career, I was also questioning my choice of genre as a writer. Did I really care about fiction that much? I didn’t even read a lot of novels any more. (This is changing, but slowly.)
So I started blogging, and it made teaching so much better.
First off, when you’re a writer of any sort, everything becomes material. No matter how impossible/irritating/terrifying the situation I’m dealing with, it’s something to write about. I’m grateful for problems because they make good posts. My struggles with Khawar and the very bad day that turned unexpectedly good were not, on the whole, pleasant experiences, but writing about them was extremely enjoyable.
Secondly, blogging – unlike, say, working on a novel manuscript – comes with an audience. Not only am I writing, but people are reading what I write, in some cases immediately after it’s written. Ask anyone who’s been working on a book for a long time how valuable this is.
And not only do people read, they make comments! Sometimes these comments come in the form of colleagues stopping me in the hall or friends messaging me on Facebook. This is great. But often, people leave comments right on the writing! People read what I write, and then they want to talk about it. They have things to say about my difficult experiences – sometimes very encouraging things, and almost always helpful things. (Sometimes not. But hey, if people get mad, at least you’ve got their attention.)
This combination of writing and interaction is the sweet spot for me. If I had to give it up, I’m not sure I’d have the mojo to keep teaching any more. There’s no question: I take my bad teaching days to heart. The blog turns them into something I can use, and share, and then they’re not so bad. In fact, they’re precious.
Things that are also wonderful:
#4: Harry Potter
#3: Early Mornings
#1: My IB Students
Image by Martin Boose