When I find something that works, I tend to fixate on it. Right now I am fixating on my students’ blogs. I have a few “greatest hits” as far as things that I’ve tried that have gone over well in my career and I’m officially adding blogging to the top of that list. I’ve tried blogging or some form of it in the past and nothing has worked as well as this year’s blogs. One year I had students “discuss” novels in the comments of a blog I posted. Another year I had students respond to literature in their own personal blogs. In the grad class I teach in the summer, I’ve tried group blogging and I’ve tried individual blogging, and grad students will do pretty much whatever their instructor asks, but that doesn’t mean that they will do it passionately. (It doesn’t mean they WON’T either, but it is the exception and not the rule.) One thing that I did differently this time is I asked the students to generate their own topic based on their personal passions. This seems to have done the trick for most of my students.
PASSION was the missing ingredient.
How silly of me to have overlooked this precious commodity. I mean, I have meant well over the years. I’ve made attempts to INSTILL passion in students, but when you get down to it, passion is innate, it is familial, it is written in the unique code of our DNA. It CAN be contagious, but there must be a seed of interest there in order for it to grow. YES, I am passionate about reading and writing, and so are SOME of my students, but for those who have other interests (which would include nearly every single student I encounter), blogging provides an opportunity to dig into their interests whilst practicing invaluable skills! It’s a win-win and it’s going to help us meet and exceed some standards along the way too.
I don’t want to give off the impression that this has gone off without some hitches … In fact, NOTHING! … *REPEAT* –> NOTHING! I do ever turns out PERFECTLY … I’m convinced there is no such thing as “perfect” in education, and I do think we do not SHARE our failures and imperfections enough! I could blog exclusively on my daily fails, but it’s more fun to promote what goes well!
Some students are still experiencing a bit of writer’s block and some suffer from apathy or Senioritis, but for the most part, this whole blog thing has proven to be an effective way for students to practice their writing and in many cases, their research and to stretch their thinking and creativity. And frankly, this is more interesting for me as a teacher than reading 80+ canned responses on a piece of literature half the students weren’t interested in anyway. It’s pretty painful to read through so many similar pieces of writing only to discover they are nothing more than regurgitations of what I said in class or — worse yet — responses designed to appear as if they are regurgitated forms of MY thought, but it’s clear that the writer is just “faking” it because he or she DIDN’T read the text AND/OR DIDN’T listen in class. That’s REALLY painful.
These blog entries are a delight AND I’m learning things about the topics the students have chosen and more importantly about the students themselves.
So, I’ve been fixating on these blogs and my TEACHER dashboard lately. I’ve been tweeting out my students’ links like crazy! I’m just as excited as the kids when they receive a comment from outside of our classroom and I’m off-the-charts, over-the-moon excited when I see someone has made another post, on their own time, just because they WANT to do it. I stumbled into a Twitter chat last night on “visible learning.” Talk about visible learning! This is why I teach! This is why I’m still learning! My students’ PASSION BLOGS have reignited my passion for teaching writing and for someone who’s been in “the biz” for nearly 14 years, that is so valuable. My students have given me this gift and I am so very full of gratitude.