A Navel Gaze about Navel Gazing

I was just checking through my stats and things when I realised I’d just missed my blog’s second birthday. Hey blog, happy birthday, I thought. Rather scarily this also means I started writing it two months after my son was born. How did i manage that?

Anyway, I’m averaging at least 1 post every couple of weeks, although averages are deceptive. I started very tentatively, maybe a post or two then a month or so hiatus. Now I’m running on about a post a week, which is fun. Rather sadly I have also been enjoying reading the stats for the blog too: there was a huge spike a month or so ago, with my Problem with ESOL post being publicised elsewhere and although I’ve never really managed to hit the lofty heights of hundreds of hits since then, I have managed a fairly respectable regular 50-100 hits a week. Which is nice, but not, as Mike Harrison has said very eloquently, the point of a blog.

And you are probably now wondering, where is the fire, the aggression, the relentless flow of creative and innovative ideas? No? Oh, well, maybe you are wondering where this is going.

Go back up to the title. Read it and bear in mind that you just followed a link to a personal blog. This is important. I’m blogging about blogging today, and fully expect there to be fewer readers of this post. So feel free to leave now and come back when I have something exciting to say!

I like blogging. I kept a diary between the ages of 15 and 18, a life sadly destroyed on my 18th birthday exactly: the details are rather unpleasant, but let’s just say the diary was unreadable. But I also stopped because there was no audience. I was hardly recording my rather tedious middle class teenage angst for posterity, after all.

Blogging isn’t like diary writing. It’s taken me two previous stabs at blogging, one of which is still out there somewhere, I think: the other, thankfully, has been taken down and is as destroyed as it can be. Both experiences taught me two things, which distinguish it from diary writing.

1: blogging needs a focus to work. For me anyway. I’m neither celebrity enough nor a talented enough writer to be able to hold forth on any given subject and gain a following. I have a small following (hi everyone, thanks) mainly via Twitter, in the field of what I do, which is teach ESOL and train ESOL teachers in the UK FE sector. But beyond that (in internet terms) I am Mr Nobody. But the focus helps. A diary is free to ramble, records minutiae, and be a bit tedious. A blog works better if it has a focus to it, otherwise you will lose your audience. Which leads nicely to point 2.

2: blogging has an audience. This is vital. An audience gives writing meaning. It also makes you a better writer. If I am writing just for me, as I do with fiction (which is never likely to reach the wider world) then I can leave something unfinished, or not bother with it, or abandon it, or whatever. With my blog posts I have an audience and therefore an internal editor. This also being nonfiction and nonfiction I feel strongly about, there is a temptation to, as I put it, “go off on one” and the permanent (ish) public record, after a hard learned lesson, is a good yoke on that: knowing thatyour words could be, or indeed are, read by your colleagues and employers, current or future, forces me to be more careful and less emotional about what I want to say. It also forces me to be critical from an outside perspective, both in terms of how I write and how well supported are my assertions. OK, well maybe not always that last point, after all, this isn’t a dissertation, but certainly when I really want to go off on a rant the public audience aspect makes me go off and find stuff out. Of course, when I don’t find anything, like my SMART targets grumble

A blog is personal, yes, but not necessarily private. The transparency this engenders is important. I’ve liked the psychological nudity of the blog about my work, that I have been more or less laying out and clarifying my thoughts and feelings about the work I do: it reflects something of the change that has taken place in my attitudes to classroom practice in the last 4 years or so: here is what I do, come and have a look if you like. An open door policy to my teaching, both in practice and in theory.

So thank you for sitting through this post, I hope it’s been fairly enjoyable. No major insights into, or passionate criticisms of ESOL, FE, or teacher development, alas, but it’s the middle of the summer, and there’s precious little teaching going on, and a token amount of development! So again, cheers and I’ll probably post next in September.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for this post, Sam, and thanks for the link to my little grumble.

    Finding focus for blog writing is something that I’ve had trouble with, perhaps because I’m a little general – I rant (sometimes, but more often recently), share lesson ideas (more often, but less so recently), advice on using technology (how useful this is may be debatable), but there’s no real clear focus. I’ve got a few ideas for upcoming posts to help with this, focusing in personal, professional development, and some ideas about teaching.

    I’m impressed by people who always seem to have something to write about – like Chia chiasuanchong.com – they seem addicted to blogging! But also those who write less frequently, like yourself, I also appreciate a lot. I think this is a nice thing about blogging – of course you’re likely to have better stats if you post more regularly, though as you rightly say, it’s not the whole point (although addictive!).

    Yours is definitely one of the ESOL focused blogs that I enjoy the most, and always take away a lot, even if I don’t comment. So thank you for writing what you write.

  2. Hi Sam
    Just came across your blog post via Twitter. Strange, that I am sitting here writing about blogging too! May I include this post in my moodle course because it highlights the “personal” nature of blogging whilst being mindful of a public audience. In my own experience blogging pivots between a dialogue with self (monologue) and a dialogue with others (community of practice). I find it valuable although I haven’t blogged for some time. I read O’Donnell’s journal “Blogging as Pedagogic Practice” and reflected on it in my own blog post where I got rather carried away with manipulating spiders’ webs http://blogging4education.wordpress.com/author/blogging4education/ Nice to catch up online.

    1. Feel free to include it! It’s been interesting and I know one or two posts have occasionally sailed a little close to the wind, but it’s been a therapy and a stimulus for conversations online and off. I’m not by nature verbose or terribly good at thinking on my feet when it comes to discussions, so I find the blog a safe place to sit behind and articulate my ideas. I think I also have stronger opinions online than off!

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