This is my first blog. It feels a strange experience. I’ve been saying I’d have a go at blogging for a while. My wife, Janice, blogs regularly and has clocked up over 100 blogs, has had over 30,000 viewings and has over 50 regular followers many of whom also blog. Janice has been seriously ill this last year and her blogging community has been such a fantastic support network. (I’m pleased to say she is now doing well and I’m sure that is in part due to the support she has found around her, not least her fellow bloggers).
So why have I found it so hard to get down to it? I think it is partly because I’m not sure who I am blogging for/to (friends, relations, former colleagues, educationalists , a more generalised audience, the blogasphere?) , quite what to blog about (lots of ideas which started with reflections on my career in education and some of the lessons I’ve learnt but then why not wider experiences and topics) and what style to adopt (academic , polemical, serious reportage, ‘amusing’ reflections, honest autobiography…) . Nor was I really clear why I would be doing this – and one of the lessons from work and wider life has been that’s its best to know why you are doing something and what you are trying to achieve before you start, even if the purpose later changes (a possible blog in itself!).
In the end a good friend, Diane, gave me some advice – blog for yourself, write what seems interesting/amusing/important to you at the time and just have a go and see what comes out. Pretty straightforward really (as usual, thanks Diane). If I enjoy doing it then I’ll want to do more. If other people enjoy reading it that’s a bonus but writing for myself is a perfectly valid activity. Actually I think it’s more than that, I think it’s an important part of the learning experience.
When I worked in Blackburn with Darwen I had the privilege of leading a fantastic team to set up a brand new education authority. We had a couple of what I have always thought were rather good mission statements (to put a grand title on it) or (more prosaically) mottos/slogans – a phrase that summed up what we were about. (Sometimes these phrases seem trite and meaningless but I can only say I am confident it worked for us as a simple way of letting people know what we stood for and often bringing them on board with the venture). One was ‘aiming high, including all’ which encapsulated the need to have the highest expectations of all our learners, our schools and ourselves and to strive to make sure no one was left out, particularly those with the greatest disadvantages and challenges. The other one, developed by David and his team in our lifelong learning area, was simply ‘life is all about learning’ and encouraged all those we worked with and for us to see learning as a continuous, rewarding and enjoyable experience. So if that’s true then maybe one of the tools for continuing to do that is through blogging. We all – and I do mean all – have a fantastic accumulation of learning experiences from our lives – things that worked well, things that didn’t , serendipitous episodes , light-bulb moments… Surely we should try to capture these and then share them as best we can. Whenever possible of course this should be face to face but I do think we can also do this by blogging (and other forms of social media). And maybe the art of blogging brings a different dimension – reflecting and capturing on our own, then sharing, commenting and developing our thinking across a virtual community.
So this is the beginning of my attempt to do this – to capture for myself some of the key learning experiences from my life to date, focusing mainly on my work as an educationalist but if the fancy takes me branching out into other areas. And this is primarily for me, a chance to reflect and to capture some of this learning. However, it may be that these blogs are of interest to others – friends, those I have worked with and complete strangers. And if that creates a dialogue around any of these experiences or links in with others’ reflections, then so much the better as it will build on that learning and perhaps create a new learning community, or link with an existing one. Creating a learning community sounds rather grand and writing for myself sounds rather self-indulgent, but somewhere between the two I think there is enough of a purpose, at least for now for me.
I asked Janice why she blogged and what she got out of it. She said it is the closest she’ll ever get to writing a book and what she loves is the network of people that she has become part of who are simply interested in and care about each other. Now that will do for me as well. It would be interesting to hear about other reasons that people blog.
So, this is my first go and I’ll need another one soon because I can’t simply blog about blogging – or can I?