Apparently a “blog hop” is a thing. I’ve been invited to participate in this one by my friend Anita Lahey, whose fascinating blog Henrietta & Me is all about the books she’s reading and the people in them. Anita is a poet, essayist and journalist; her poetry collection Out to Dry in Cape Breton was an indelible reading experience for me (I will never look at a clothesline the same way again), and her latest book, The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture, is on my to-read-as-soon-as-my-end-of-term-grading-is-done list.
I’ve chosen to answer these questions wearing my education-writer hat and not my fiction-writer hat, as education writing is what I do on this blog.
What am I working on?
My M.Ed. thesis: an investigation into tools teachers can use to encourage/nurture lifelong reading habits in college students. As a first step, I’m working on a literature review addressing the question “Is reading for fun really all that important?” (The upshot so far: probably.) I hope to produce a thesis that is of interest to a general audience, or at least to teachers in general, and not just to post-secondary academics and researchers.
How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
In this blog, I reflect on my own teaching practice. I do this because I believe that almost any experience will be of interest to someone else if it is examined with attention and expressed carefully. (I guess this is one of the basic principles that drives people to write things.) The title Classroom as Microcosm is a good indication of what I want the blog to be about: I’m writing about school, but school is a great metaphor for a lot of other stuff. I hope my attempt to link the little world of school, and in particular MY little college-teaching world, with the greater scheme of things makes this blog unique.
Why do I write what I do?
I started writing Classroom as Microcosm because I was ready to quit my job. My resentment of my college students and their bad behaviours, my uncertainty in my role as an authority figure, and my disillusionment with the teaching profession and the education system as a whole were making me miserable. I was also floundering as a fiction writer. One summer day in 2007, as I poured these troubles out to a friend over coffee, she said, “I think you need to start keeping a blog. It will be a place to write without the isolation. Maybe you should start blogging about teaching.” So I did, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this blog saved my career.
I’m a less productive blogger these days in part because I have come to a much more solid and self-confident place as a teacher. That said, there are other things I want to explore here now, so this summer, I hope to start posting more about reading, literature and the place of books – especially narratives – in our textually fragmented world.
How does my writing process work?
In my most productive years, I posted twice a week during the school semester: a new post on Monday and a reprise of a popular past post on Thursday. These days, I post only when I’m powerfully inspired, but I’d like to return to that more diligent schedule. I try to view writing of any kind as a professional obligation: churn it out, edit it meticulously to make it as good as you can, and then just get it out there without thinking it to death. Blog writing is an excellent platform for this approach. I’ve been working on a novel manuscript for thirteen years because I have become mired in self-doubt; this blog is an excellent reminder that the real goal of writing is to communicate with people. You have to let your writing travel out into the world. If a particular piece doesn’t speak to anyone, write the next thing.
Next week on the blog hop:
My friend and colleague Stacey DeWolfe, who, in addition to being an inspiring teacher, blogs on teaching, food, music, books, dogs, and lots of other important things.
My high school and college crony Rebecca Coleman, who knows everything there is to know about social media, but also keeps a terrific blog on things she likes to cook.
Image by Michal Zacharzewski