The knowledge gained from such collaboration can be limited by the number of teachers around.
The internet is now playing an important role in closing the gap between teaching professionals, with many sharing their experiences in online blogs.
IE focusses on three Australian teachers who have improved their craft, and the craft of others, through blogging and sharing their experiences online.
Corinne Campbell is an Assistant Principal at a primary school in NSW. She blogs at aboutteaching.net — a wide-ranging blog dealing with all teaching issues from behaviour management and pedagogy, to the use of ICTs in the classroom and advice for beginning educators. She has been blogging since 2009.
“I was having lots of discussions with other teachers over Twitter. That is what originally gave me the trigger to create this blog as it was impossible to answer their questions in 140 characters or less.”
Corinne stresses that what she likes most about her own blog is that it shares her experiences as they happen.
“I think my blog is a contrast to some other blogs that seem to offer solutions and tell teachers how to do things perfectly, rather than offering a tale of day-to-day teaching — warts and all.
“I find that presenting only the perfect scenario often adds to teacher anxieties and makes things worse. I think it is really important for all teachers to know that we are all going through the same experiences every day.”
Corinne’s blogging doesn’t just improve the skills of others; Corinne insists the most marked benefit has been seen in her own teaching.
“I find writing a blog helps my teaching so much. For instance, last year I was trying to wrap my head around a new rewards program at my school. I couldn’t figure out how to hand out all the certificates. But writing about it through a series of posts really helped me find out how to use the rewards for best effect.”
Reflections on kindy
Louise Fitzpatrick Leach is a kindergarten teacher in rural Victoria. She has blogged about her experiences since 2009 under the title Tales from the Sandpit.
“My blog is incredibly reflective and has improved my teaching immeasurably. Granted there are times that I am in a rush, and time is at a premium, but I feel this is so important that I make the time.”
Tales from the Sandpit is directed at parents whose children attend the kindergarten, but Louise has received messages from many other teachers who say they have learned a lot from her posts.
“I have had other teachers come up to me at conferences telling me they are fans of the blog, which is so nice to hear.”
However, Louise says she doesn’t blog for popularity.
“I do not get hung up on it. I do this because I just want to show what is happening at my kindy. However, when I hear a parent say that they liked a particular photo or sent it on to some of their interstate relatives it really gives me a buzz.”
Ian McLean is a passionate teacher-librarian who has operated the blog Booked Inn – Heroic Adventures in Teacher-Librarianship since 2008.
“The main reason for starting the blog is that there tends to only be one teacher-librarian in each school. If you’re having a particular problem teaching a group of students you really have no one else to turn to who knows exactly how you feel.”
For Ian, it wasn’t just about sharing experiences with other people in the same situation, but positive experiences. He wanted to avoid getting bogged down in the negativity that can occur when teachers share their frustrations.
“I thought what I would love to be able to do is only ever post a positive angle on something. That’s not to say that sometimes I might not be really angry about something. What I try to do is give you the problem, but then more importantly, how I attempted to make things better.
“I realised that the blog technology was actually really good for being able to articulate your thoughts on something because of its public nature. You have to stop yourself and say ‘what is a really positive way to say this?’ or ‘out of that horrible disaster that happened how can we improve ourselves?’”
So would these teachers recommend blogging as a way to improve the craft?
Louise says it has been a great help to her, but warns that it does take a lot of time to do it properly.
“I work part-time as a teacher, so I give a lot of my outside school time to do this. I would be impressed by any full-time teacher who could squeeze the time out of what would already be a very taxing week.”
Corinne gives an emphatic ‘yes’ – but with some caveats.
“It took a little while to figure out how to talk reflectively about my experiences as a teacher and not violate any students’ privacy or my school’s social media policy.
“Even if you don’t expect readers, people will find what you are writing. You should always assume that anything you write will be viewed by other teachers at your school, the principal, parents and students, and think about this before publishing anything online.”
However, Corinne insists it has all been worth it.
“If you think you don’t know what your passions are yet, just write. Looking back on the last couple of years of writing I can definitely see some themes and passions emerge that I didn’t think I had. You cannot be too niche if you are writing about what you love.”
Corinne Campbell’s blog About Teaching can be found at aboutteaching.net/
Louise Fitzpatrick Leach’s blog Tales from the Sandpit can be found at ouyenkinder.edublogs.org/
Ian McLean’s blog Booked Inn can be found at ianmclean.edublogs.org/