Reflections on My 200th InterACT Blog Post
When I started blogging as part of my work at Accomplished California Teachers, I was just figuring out what I wanted to write about, how to use WordPress, and I don’t think reaching any milestones even crossed my mind. Publishing my 200th blog post today has me in a reflective mood, and rather than take on any particular issue today, I’m going to offer up some thoughts about what I’ve posted at this site over the years, and why I’d recommend blogging to more teachers.
I’ve gradually realized something that I don’t like to admit, which is that the balance of my posts have veered from the original purpose of the blog. The idea behind InterACT was to offer a classroom-based perspective on education policy, with the hope that readers would better understand how decisions that occur far from our schools have a noticeable impact on teaching and learning. With that understanding, all stakeholders would be in a better position to advocate for or create better policies that truly support students. And while I’ve frequently noted in my work that I am a teacher, I haven’t really helped readers see into my school or classroom all that frequently. There are two posts that come to mind right away where I think I used that school perspective well – a post on improvisation in teaching, and a reflection on graduation – but really delving into my own teaching turned out to be less integral to my blogging than I expected. Instead, I’ve found myself drawn primarily towards discussing the false assumptions in the myriad policy disasters unfolding not only in California, but around the country.
However, those problems don’t hit particularly close to home for me, as no one has proposed evaluating my teaching based on test scores, no one has attempted to force me to do more test prep, or put my students into an entire course for test preparation, and no one has proposed experimental and radical “turnaround strategies” for my school. The inequities between wealthy and poor districts are striking and unconscionable, and yet there are myriad education policies (existing and proposed) that would make it even harder to do great work in a struggling district. So, my own classroom has become more of an unspoken subtext, one part of the frame that I use to evaluate what’s going wrong in education policy, mainly in contexts beyond my own immediate experience.
Bearing in mind the limits of personal experience, I’ve sought to include as part of my advocacy the voices of other teachers, and the successes of various schools, districts, and programs around California. That focus has been most pronounced since the publication of ACT’s report on teacher compensation and career pathways, as I’ve highlighted various approaches to promoting teacher leadership and putting that leadership capacity to optimal use for the benefit of students. If you look at the totality of this blog, I think you’ll find that I’ve pushed beyond reliance on anecdote, or even reliance on schools-based analysis; I’ve made a point of incorporating relevant education research, and the the perspectives of experts in various other fields as applicable. We certainly must tell our stories to illustrate what’s important in schools and what helps students and teachers thrive in their work. However, when the story has drawn in the reader or the listener, we need to be able to back up our claims with evidence, and I’m proud of my efforts in that regard.
I recall the first time I introduced myself to someone who responded, “Oh! I read your blog!” – and I still find that a bit odd when it happens. But I’m gratified to say it has happened quite a few times, and after all, that’s the point (people read the blog, I mean – not having them tell me). Though I find it hard to imagine I’ll put another 200 posts up here, I can guarantee I’ll continue writing enough to fill another 200 posts, whether that writing all resides here or finds other outlets. Once you start writing, it’s addictive – in a good way. I’d encourage anyone who’s considering blogging to take a chance and try it. Blogging has its own rewards and its own value in allowing the author to organize and articulate important thoughts and ideas, or to explore difficult questions and challenges. It has the potential to open some significant dialogue, and even to reach unexpected audience, to influence people we didn’t even know were out there. Don’t be intimidated by the number of blogs already out there – we can expand the internet a little more to fit you in.
It seems like an appropriate time to offer my gratitude to some important people:
- Linda Darling-Hammond, Sandy Dean, and Anthony Cody – for starting ACT, trusting me to help run it, and supporting InterACT (and Colin Dean, for help setting up the blog).
- Martha Infante and Kelly Kovacic – for helping InterACT launch with so many of your excellent blog posts
- Lisa Alva Wood, Alice Mercer, Lynne Formigli, Jane Fung, Alex Kajitani, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, Pat Guggino, Christal Watts, Dave Reid, Leslee Milch, Chris Miraglia, Valerie Ziegler, and Jairo De La Torre – ACT members who have contributed guest blog posts to InterACT.
- Larry Ferlazzo, for countless retweets, for EduBlog award nominations, and for inclusion in multiple lists that include the word “Best” in the title – more than I deserve.
- Everyone involved in Stories From School, the group blog of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession. You were our original role model, and you remain inspirational. Thanks especially to Mark Gardner and Tom White for the frequent comments here at InterACT.
- For reposting or otherwise sharing some of my posts for a broader audience, thank you to Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, and Larry Cuban, and Faith Boninger (of the National Education Policy Center).
- And for inviting me to submit pieces based on some of my InterACT posts, thank you to John Fensterwald (EdSource Today), Matt DiCarlo (Shanker Blog), and Lois Kazakoff (San Francisco Chronicle).
To those who provided encouragement as I began writing about education, even before the launch of InterACT:
- John Norton, a wonderful mentor and muse for many of us participating in CTQ’s Teacher Leader Network
- Anthony Rebora (Teacher Magazine, now EdWeek Teacher), who supported my first real blogging for a public audience when I “live-blogged” the NBPTS Conference in 2009
- Nancy Flanagan (Teacher in a Strange Land), whose wisdom and insights always impress me, and who is a true model of the “critical friend”
- Bill Ferriter (The Tempered Radical), whose musical use of language and use of musical language have always energized me and cut through any fog of self doubt
And many other TLN friends whose steady engagement inspired the writing of perhaps hundreds of thousands of words that will never see publication beyond our emails and message boards. Those discussions have made a great difference in my knowledge, my thinking, and my writing. Thank you! Renee Moore, Susan Graham, Lori Nazareno, Bill Ivey, Ariel Sacks, Jose Vilson, John Holland, Steve Owens, Cindi Rigsbee, Gail Ritchie, Marsha Ratzel, Claudia Swisher, Mary Tedrow, and the man who got it all started, Barnett Berry.
And finally, some notable blog posts from the previous 199…
The first blog post: Beginning in Sadness
The top five most viewed, in order:
- Common Core Confusion: ASCD Edition
- A Silicon Valley Lesson for Secretary Duncan
- The Danger of a Single Story (Part One)
- Eugenic Legacies Still Influence Education
- Fundamental Attribution Error
The most commented upon post: Common Core: Implications of Collaboration
And a few of my favorites:
- A satirical post I wrote under a pseudonym (which doesn’t show up in my count, which means this is really #201 – oops!) – Batter Up! A Lesson in Value Added
- The truth that value-added proponents and policy makers can’t handle – An Open Letter to California Public Officials
- The cross-examination I wish I could seen in court – Turning the Tables: VAM on Trial