Monday, March 21, 2005

Why I Blog

Last week I spent a couple of hours talking with Chris Sepher, a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Chris was writing an article about blogging, and I was flattered that he asked me to talk about my blog and what motivated me to start writing.

I began blogging for two reasons:

First, was the reason I give in my profile. (See column on the right) I truly felt that CMSD teachers are, for the most part, misunderstood. We are perceived as either insane or saintly, money-grubbers or martyrs. The general public imagines the city schools to be disfunctional hell-holes of miseducation. I felt it was important to open up a window, and share an insider's experience of day-to-day life inside an urban classroom.

My second reason was self-discipline. I wanted to train myself to write better by writing often. For a number of years I have wanted to write a book. My audience would be young people, new teachers, rookies or interns, who where considering teaching in an inner-city school.
You see, many teacher education programs, and the professors who teach them, have no clue as to the realities of teaching in an urban school. Fact is, many of those folks have spent little or no time teaching in the inner-city. My own experience found way too many educators who left teaching, to become administrators or college professors, because they couldn't cut it in the classroom.
My book would tell the story of my own education; what I've learned about teaching from my students.

I started my blog nearly a year ago, and I think I have accomplished some of my goals.

I am certainly getting a lot of writing practice, and although I have taken a few pauses in my journaling, I have not ever considered abandoning it.
I know by readers comments that the message is being heard. What I never expected was how many people have been following my blog. I am often amazed by the letters I get. They come from all over the country, and even some from readers as far away as India and Australia. Many ask questions or share information, while others offer words of encouragement.
Here are some excerpts from a few of letters that have kept me motivated:

This is just brilliant, enlightening stuff. Your blog gives me the best possible window into what teaching in an urban school is really like. If Hollywood had any brains, they'd simply turn your life into a movie.
But thank god for teachers like you. They keep civilization going, and give me reason to hope for the best despite all the problems and challenges. Keep fighting and touching those kids...
Keep doing what you're doing, it sounds like you're doing it right.
Brought tears of frustration and sadness to my eyes to read this. As a parent of grade school children, I'm amazed at the changes in the public school system since I was a kid -- or even since my stepson was in grade school a dozen years ago. We're spending $50+ a year per student on supplies that are fundamental to the education process; I know the teachers are having to make up the shortfalls when some students cannot bring supplies. I don't know how teachers do it.
If I can make a suggestion, please consider putting a PayPal button on your site for donations -- or even an Amazon button for donations of books.
More rules => less critical thinking
Less critical thinking => increased "go with the flow" mentality
"go with the flow" mentality + impoverished surroundings => more of the same

It's almost as if that's what they want...
Your postings are inspirational. I was especially moved when you wrote that you and your students and fellow teachers felt abandoned by the greater community after the failure of the levy. The problem is so very big and many of us feel so small when trying to help. Thank you, thank you, thank you for having the fortitude to stay and work with your students when so many have left the city for other opportunities. I worry and pray so often about the kids just 3 - 4 miles from my own home who are living as if in another country from my children and me. I will also pray for you as you continue your work. Please keep writing - your words prod us to keep trying to make things better for these kids.
--MB, as I read about the public art being constructed for the Soapbox Derby group, I was wondering if your next project could be the Cleveland Rowing Foundation? We'll teach the kids how to row, you included. As a non-profit I think we could help with funding...
Thank God for teachers like you.


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