Blogging and The Trap of Assumptions

29 December 2014 · 4 comments

in Creative STAR Blurb, Interesting Issues & Hot Topics, Personal & Holidays, Whole School

Recently I listened to Jonathan Freedland’s Radio 4 programme, The Long View, where the subject of Victorian diaries and social media was being discussed. It was comparing the boom in the keeping of personal diaries in the Victorian Era to our use of social media today. There was a good mix of opinions which got me thinking about what my vested interest in blogging is, and why anyone should want to start blogging, tweeting or using other forms of social media.

One of the most confusing things is that there is no prescriptive way of using social media. How you chose to use any of the tools out there is entirely up to you. The trick is not to fall into the Trap of Assumptions. This is very easy to do, particularly when there are many prevalent ones out there which stop people from making the most of social media. In particular, confusion reigns between blogging as a marketing tool and personal blogging. Most advice is about the former when most educators want to do the latter.

So, feeling a tad mutinous, I’ve compiled an anti-assumption list of what blogging does not need to be…

Firstly, blogging does not have to be a form of self-promotion. You can blog anonymously, have private posts or create ones which are password protected. You do not have to provide any personal information whatsoever. Most bloggers are nice, normal people who choose to write online and not get paid for doing so. It is usually about the satisfaction of doing something creative. As with other facets of life, blogging is not generally a route to fame and fortune.

Second, you do not need to have a reason for blogging unless you are the sort of person who has to question and justify every detail of your existence. Just like you don’t have to tell visitors to your house why you insist upon putting milk in the mug before adding the tea (as opposed to the other way round), there is no reason why you have to announce to readers of your blog why you blog. Will they really care?

Third, you do not have to be clever, a wonderful educator or other professional, or offer wise, witty insightful posts. Whilst such bloggers make the world a better place in their own small way, diversity is good. It is easy to assume that to be a blogger one has to write in a particular style or offer a definitive perspective. Says who? The Blog Police?

Fourth, strongly question the validity of “top 10 educational blog” lists.  Upon closer inspection, these often tend to be dominated by white, male, promoted secondary teachers who happen to tweet and be retweeted in the education Twittersphere. Gender, ethnic and sector bias is found online as well as offline.  A good example here is Teach Pre-School, written by the unassuming Deborah J. Stewart. This blog is rarely listed but her work is known throughout the world by early years practitioners and has over 1 million “likes” on Facebook. Hey big boys – beat that!

Fifth, be a selfish blogger.  You do not need to write for an audience. You can write and post for your own amusement. If you are boring yourself with your blogging, then stop. It’s okay to have lots of “unfinished symphonies” – blog posts which never make publication but lie around in draft format. Experiments are an essential part of any writing process.

Sixth, your photos don’t need to be masterpieces unless you are a professional photographer or a very good amateur one. Just don’t nick other people’s photos and post them on your blog as your own. Also how many photos you use is up to you. Adding photos is time consuming and takes up a lot of available space on your website. Yet at times they provide information that can’t easily be described succinctly in words.

Seventh, you do not need to blog regularly. If you are blogging as a marketing tool, it’s different. There are lots of marketing tricks and tools out there which education bloggers can use but don’t have to. There are enough pressures in our lives without adding unnecessary expectations which detract from other fun things to do in our personal time.

What I am really hoping is that some of you reading this post will start blogging in 2015. That you will do this in an authentic way. That you do this for yourself. And that it helps you reflect upon your personal and/or professional life. Please do let me know if you do dare to blog about outdoor learning and play – whether you set up a dedicated blog or just occasionally write the odd post about learning and play out doors, I would love to know. So please get in touch and send me the link.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

P.S. Thanks to everyone who voted for this blog in the National UK Blog Awards 2015 – your efforts got “I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!” shortlisted.

Thank you very much for all your votes!

Thank you very much for all your votes!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kierna December 29, 2014 at 15:19

Such good advice, Juliet! Not to make an assumption (!) but if people start blogging with an eye to self promotion etc. it will probably just feel like another chore or job to be done, rather than something inspired. Here’s to lots of new bloggers being inspired by you in 2015.

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Juliet Robertson December 30, 2014 at 11:48

I would agree – I actually think for most teachers the self-promotion aspect is a myth.

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Lesley December 30, 2014 at 14:01

Thanks for these reflections. We have an internal blog for enrolled families which is a training tool and information sharing. This is updated weekly for each class. On our external website, I struggle between posting regularly, having a resource for families to learn about our school and our practice. I wonder if we are posting enough or if it is relevant, helpful, etc. So with your post, I thought about it a bit . . . We do have enough posts under our belts to show what we are all about philosophy-wise as a school. Since now so many of our parents come to us via the internet, they know what they are getting into simply by scrolling through the blog posts. And(!) I post when I think of something rather than meeting a deadline. Win/win. In the end, stopping to think about the ‘why’ of posting without layering on assumptions is a good thing to do regularly. In the end, I feel like any writing (external or internal-use) is a good thing for me to do because it gives me the opportunity to check in to improve or change and even discard some practices. So all sorted over this way, thanks again!

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Juliet Robertson December 30, 2014 at 14:24

Hello Lesley

Thanks for such a detailed and reflective comment from an experienced blogger like yourself.

I think once a person has got going with blogging then the assumptions tend to fall by the wayside – other than perhaps the pressure of blogging regularly which is certainly something I struggle with. This is not so much a question of having enough to blog about, more that I simply do not have the time to blog about everything with all the other commitments I have both personally and professionally.

I think your comment about having enough posts is valid – the other challenge is not to fill up a website with gunky posts! I’m slowly pruning my collection but it’s a matter of ongoing debate about what to keep, ditch or merge.

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