By Teachers, For Teachers
John Spencer is a man of many blogging identities. He is "Musings of a Not-So-Master Teacher" on his personal blog, "Learning with Impact" for his education-specific forum, and the orchestrator of a student blog/online social studies magazine "Social Voice." With each of his blogs, John explores the possibilities in education and different ways to tap into his students' potential.
We are excited to share the insights of this not-so-master teacher who dove into teaching 2.0 and lived to tell the tale.
What inspired you to start blogging?
It actually began when all my friends started to move away. I would write about politics or books or movies and sometimes my teaching experiences. Later, I decided to start a blog on TeacherLingo as a way to express my thoughts on education. I titled it "Musings from a Not-So-Master Teacher," because I'm not an expert or a guru or anything like that. Later my personal blog and my education blog sort-of blended into one.
Why do you continue to blog?
I have real mixed motives. On some level, I blog out of a darker desire for power or fame or validation. Sometimes I just want to know that my thoughts aren't as crazy as they might sound in a staff lounge. On another level, I love the dialogue. I enjoy the chance to ask questions, comment on other blogs and share my own insights. Over time, I've broadened my blogs to include sketches, videos, podcasts and practical ideas.
Why do you think your blog is so popular?
I didn't know it was popular. I don't get a ton of comments, really. I don't have a very polished blog. I don't have a lot of the "seven steps" kind of posts. My blogs can sometimes ramble and sometimes get too opinionated without backing it up with facts. I guess people seem to like it because it's real and it's narrative in style and I'm not condescending to my readers. The more transparent I've been, the more people seem to enjoy it.
How do you approach your student blog differently than your personal blog?
My student blog is really structured and run more like an online magazine. There are some similar aspects (the style is pretty creative in both), but the student blog is much more social-centric in its aim. It's much more of a community thing and therefore it's more urban and edgy in its style. I love writing my personal blog, but I'm more proud of what my students have created on our Social Voice blog.
Do you have a favorite post(s)? If so, what is it about?
I wrote a post called "Grounded" and nobody commented on it. But I changed it up a bit and added it to the book I wrote. For me, it captured so much of what I believe about education. I also wrote a post about Charlie Brown and included it in my TV and Teaching Blog.
Blogging is obviously about interaction, not just a one-way stream of thoughts. Who are your favorite education bloggers?
That's a tough one. I probably enjoy Science Teacher (Michael Doyle) and This Brazen Teacher the best. But there are so many that I read on a regular basis and really enjoy (Betty, Cornerstone Blog, Mr. Bibo, Ms-Teacher).
What is your most-viewed and/or commented on posts or topics?
One post that got a ton of response was a sketch I did during a staff meeting, where I ranked coffee on a sliding scale. Another popular post was about changing honors classes up. Also, I had a lot of response on a post where I sent a note to myself as a first year teacher.
What three tips or rules would you give to a teacher starting a blog for the first time?
1. Be careful about advice. I think teachers get irritated with the constant barrage of expert advice.
2. Be honest. Don't self-censor too much.
3. Be yourself. It took awhile for me to write about my family or my faith or use humor. My style has grown more personal over time.
What do you get out of your online community that you didn’t get at school community?
I get a broader perspective from people and there's less of the politics and fear that permeate the school environment. It's more open online.