To be honest, I don’t know if this post should find a home here at Slam Teaching, or if it belongs more on my personal blog. I am posting it here, I think, because of late I’ve developed a sort of burgeoning community of teachers concerned with the state of teaching and learning – all of whom communicate with me primarily through this blog, through Twitter, and through e-mail. This “community” looks in reality like a cluster of web pages, lines of text, and the occasional synchronous conversation (also most usually text). I suppose one of the reasons I’m posting this, in fact, is because this “community” right now seems both incredibly involved and engaged, and utterly distant.
I have to admit some disappointment. I am disappointed by my latest post (“of Rules and Relevancy“), by my approach, and by the frankly self-important tone of the post. I admit that there are times when I get frustrated because someone does not see things the way I see things, and I use my command of the language to… well, to squash the opposition. But blogging that frustration seems to me unhelpful – to anyone, but especially to anyone who reads the blog. I don’t know that writing from the desire to make a point is really in the spirit of the Slam Teaching idea; it does not welcome other thought, nor does it engage openly with a new idea. It is, if you’ll pardon me, flatly masturbatory.
Which I suppose leads me to why I’m worriedly writing this post. I am concerned about my “place” in a community of teachers online. What do I mean by that? What do I mean… I mean that, at least as far as I am able to participate in that community, my participation seems a performance. When I write a blog, I am not necessarily responding to anyone in the community, I am not engaging in the dialectic of that community with any directness. I write, and then I expect or hope for an audience for my writing. I hope for feedback to come up against my ideas. I suppose I hope somewhere to find a place where my ideas and the ideas of others meet, entangle, and start talking.
I still don’t think I’m being clear.
When I blog, it’s a practice of writing, first and foremost. I want to practice my language; I want to build some kind of argumentative position. It’s an exercise, a lot of the time, of form. I feel like I’m creating drafts of pieces, rather than writing communiques to any who might read them. Essays toward something I may one day take and own for myself, not messages in bottles.
I see posts on Twitter going from one teacher to another teacher – excitement about collaboration, agreement on issues, etc. – and these seem as evidence for some kind of community forming. I myself enjoyed a long talk with Clay Burell via Skype a few nights back, and in that moment felt like maybe I could understand how this online community could take shape.
But at the same time, I cannot shake that when I sit down to write a blog post, I’ve no idea if it’s relevant. I’ve thought some about the title of my recent posting and sort of chuckled (chuckled sardonically) to myself because I wonder if I’m anyone to talk about relevancy at all. A recent Twitter-and-blog-comment discussion with Penelope of Where’s the Teacher led me to conclude that I may not be able to be of any help or relevance to middle and high school teachers, that my ideas are only applicable at the college level where teachers are freer to explore pedagogical approaches.
I suppose what I worry about is that I am here babbling away into the ether, assuming that what I have to say actually says something… when in fact it may seem the naive chatter of a self-important idealist. One who, frighteningly, chairs a department.
But even beyond that worry, there is my pondering whether the Web 2.0 auto-authorship revolution truly leads to the formation of community. Blogging, tweeting, and the like… If we write simply because we’re allowed to, and no one can stop us, does that necessarily mean that what we have to say is relevant to anyone besides ourselves? At the moment, I feel like the worst kind of teacher: lecturing blindly out at a mass of students who wait and wait for what I’m saying to snag on the meaningful.