Monday, May 6, 2013

Blogging Famine

I know that I have neglected my blog recently, to the point at which I feel as if I owe it letter of apology. Indeed, I thought of structuring this post that way...but it felt entirely too cutesy. Still, I am surprised that my last new post appeared almost a month ago. It's not been lack of desire or even a shortage of ideas or even laziness. In fact, I have been thinking about blogging a great deal, and this unintentional hiatus has reaffirmed--aye, strengthened--my belief in the value of the medium.

First, I should explain the absence. For a while there I was working on some major projects, none of which were particularly conducive to blogging. They were massive presentations, with numerous moving parts. One was our iPadPalooza, which involved dozens of teachers and students along with key remarks. It was spectacular, and the preparation just about consumed me for a while. That and the normalcy of school life. Plus some things were happening about which I simply never would blog. While social media expert Dana Boyd points out that young people live public lives by default, for a head of school to do that with some of what I experience would be simply wrong. Then, a week ago I had some extensive nose and throat surgery done. The recovery has been awful, and I am just starting to feel myself again.

So no blogging recently, which makes me think about blogging, and now I wish I could have been blogging about some of what I was trying to figure out. It really has felt like a blogging famine. Sure, I could have still written through my ideas, and I have really intricate mind maps full of notes and designs and rainbows. (The one for my thesis back in the 80s completely covered the walls of my apartment bedroom, but I digress.) Yet it simply isn't the same, and I think I have figured out why. It's the vulnerability in revealing the struggle, in showing that sometimes the room looks wonderful but, please, don't open that closet! Plus I believe that holds a certain attraction for many readers. Yes, we marvel at the shiny gadget or scrumptious-looking meal, but we also ponder the creative process. Selfishly, while I know I can put together an elegant essay or killer presentation, I also want people to sense what goes into it, the mental and, yes, physical sweat. So I'm honored and grateful when someone like Peter Gow, one of the most important voices in independent school educations, includes my work in his Education Week column on bloggers to follow ( Not only that, but comments:

"Deeply reflective and often refreshingly personal, this is a school head's blog about life, learning, and just keeping things, well, whole. Mark isn't afraid to tell us how he is learning; a recent post on experiencing his first Twitter chat (the #isedchat) was refreshingly honest and very relatable."

It's not just the validation, though I admit my ego continues to do a grand jig when I read that. It's that Peter gets what I am trying to explain throughout my work and in this piece about blogging. It's about never forgetting that learning ultimately is about process.

So while I reflect on my own blogging, the question becomes quite obvious, borderline rhetorical. Why wouldn't any teacher have students blog? It's one of the best chances we have to gain any sense of how learning proceeds for them, to raft those intellectual rapids through their ever-changing synapses. If all we assess if how well someone has learned to meet the oft-dictatorial guidelines of a rubric to produce the sort of paper no one ever writes once out of school, we haven't served kids as well as we might. In some ways we've done them a disservice. We would have denied them some key nutrients.

Then we certainly won't have kept things whole. And while I trust Peter--and most of you kind enough to read--know what that means, soon I'll explain the blog's title and thus pull back the curtain a tiny bit more.


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