Does blogging empower teachers?

Cazzypot

A teacher for 19 years, ‘cazzypot’ has taught in key stages 2-4 in mainstream schools, special schools and, more recently, in the role of Subject Leader for English in a Pupil Referral Unit. She also worked for some time in an LEA funded advisory capacity, providing strategies for dealing with pupil behaviour issues. She’s also offered teachers advice, resources and guidance on the National Literacy Strategy.

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Website: www.cazzypotsblog.wordpress.com/ Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Much has been made of how powerful blogging can be in education, by experts such as David Mitchell. But how can online writing platforms benefit teachers? English and SEN educator ‘Cazzypot’ discusses how blogging has helped her over the last couple of years.

Late in 2012, I decided I'd start writing a local history blog. Although, having been an English teacher for the last 19 years, this possibly wasn't the most logical choice. I did write one history post, but it wasn't long before I realised that I had far more to say about issues that were happening In the world of education.

In order to provide myself with a bit of anonymity, I removed my real name from my Twitter account and drafted an article about the GCSE exam boundaries. The article was published in an online political magazine, and I was delighted.

Over the next few months, I had several articles published online. However, because they were featured in a general politics mag, the audience for these was sometimes very small. So in July last year, I decided to set up my own blog site. Thanks to the support of several prominent teachers, including Tom Bennett, who publicised a couple of my posts and Old Andrew, who re-blogged some on his education blog site @theechochamber2, I had soon developed more of a readership than I ever dreamed possible.

I wrote about contentious issues - issues that were often having a direct effect on me, confounding things that happened in the course of my day to day teaching. I also shared Ofsted anomalies and discussed how the Ofsted culture permeates schools. I wrote about behaviour; the labelling culture; the removal (or not) of national curriculum levels; assessment and lesson observations and PRP. All quite positively received. Blogging had given me a voice.

My most popular post by a long way was what I call my 'primal scream'. It was written in the early hours of the morning after a fairly distressing experience at work via a learning walk.

It was the response to this frustrated outpouring of grief that demonstrated to me the true power of blogging. I had no reason to feel alone with all this, because I clearly wasn't alone with all this. The level of support on social media was incredible. It wasn't just classroom teachers, either.

And education bloggers are being listened to by the people at the very top of the education chain, too. Several groups of bloggers have now been to visit both Ofsted HQ and also the DfE. The top people at these institutions are clearly well aware of the influence of blogs. A cynic might suggest that they are trying to keep bloggers on-side and garner a bit of PR-style positive publicity. Either way, if the end result is the views of chalkface teachers being listened to, then this can only be a good thing. In addition to this, groups of bloggers regularly meet up with each other at social occasions. Then there are the courses delivered, the conferences organised and attended, and the books that are written and published - all as a direct result of teacher voices sharing their views and experiences through blogs.

If all of the above wasn't empowering enough, I must also make mention of the professional development aspect. Many generous bloggers regularly share elements of good practice and resources via their blogs. I only wish such a wealth of real-life, reading matter had existed when I first started teaching. As it is, even now, I frequently incorporate teaching ideas I've gleaned from blogs into my lessons. Thus blogging has the power to improve and enhance teaching practice itself. As fellow-blogger @WatsEd recently said, “Reading the thoughts of other professionals is one of the best ways to gain an insight into what is happening everywhere else... it has taught me that I didn’t realise how little I knew! Well, now I am working to rectify that.”

I think that's an excellent conclusion. Seconded.

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