We seek not rest but transformation.
We are dancing through each other as doorways.
– Marge Piercy
I logged in to the dying social network today and found a message from a former student with the subject line “Blogging Advice”:
Hi Mr.Chase hope you are having a great summer. I am going to be blogging from california in a couple of days and was wondering if you could give me any advice. Thanks in advance!
I responded that I’d be happy to help and asked where would be best to have the conversation. I offered Facebook, IM, phone call, and texting.
I expected a quick IM conversation or phone call.
The student opted for texting, explaining she had no computer access at the moment.
I told her that would be great. A few moments later, I received the first text via my Google Voice number in my e-mail inbox.
I responded and archived the message. This continued back and forth, as you can see below, for a total of 25 messages.
All the while, I was working on other projects at my desk.
A question would pop up on my computer and I would reply to her phone.
It looked like this:
Me: What’s up, kid? Ok. Probably, the best place to start is you to come up with specific questions you have about blogging.
Student: Well, I guess my first question would be about the difference between a more journalist approach to blogging versus a more a free write style of blogging.
Me: Great question. Journalism is going to make sure you’ve got the who, what, when where, why and how in there. The goal is to communicate the story or event to people who weren’t there.
Me: For the journaling piece, it functions more as a personal record that is public. Something for you and your memories that is available to others.
Student: Ok, that makes sense. So what is the best way to establish the so what factor for both of blogging? I get that the journaling type of blogging is more personal, but if you are posting don’t you want people to get something out of it?
Me: The something they get out of it are the stories and thoughts you put into words. Sometimes, I’ll write from the perspective of, “I want readers to do X because of this post.” Often, I just want to tell a good story and make people think.
Student: Makes sense. Does that apply to journalist writing style too?
Me: When you’re writing to inform, the goal is to make sure you’re offering information people would want to have.
Student: Wait, that confuses me.
Student: What if it’s something they could care less about until you informed them?
Me: Your job as a writer is to make them care.I would imagine it’s the same as your job as a poet.
Student: You’re right. I would think it’s like writing a persuasive essay but i’m pretty sure it’s different. What the difference between essay and the structure of a blog?
Me: Think of a blog as fitting the information of an essay into a more informal storytelling structure.
Student: So there are no set rules?
Just tell the story of the piece.
Me: My best writing comes from reading blogs. See if you can check out some poetry blogs and get a feel for what others are doing. This will help you develop your taste.
Student: You make sound easy Chase. lol
Me: It’s quite difficult at times. I find the easiest recipe is to find something you want to say and commit to saying it. Again, not always easy, but always good.
Student: Well, I think i’m out of questions. Thanks for taking the time to help me. Hope you have a great summer. Love, Chella
Student: P.S- I know you are going to be amazing at Harvard!
Me: It’s been my pleasure, kid. If any other questions pop up, don’t hesitate to hit me up.
Me: I’m going to try my best to make you proud.
Student: You already have!
The conversation did two things for me.
First, it made me realize I’m still a teacher. I know that sounds odd, but it’s been a huge fear since leaving the classroom. As confident and dedicated as I am to helping people learn, I was still mentally tied to the idea that the classroom or the official title was somehow tied to my powers of pedagogy. This lesson was just in time and just in need for my student and it showed me I am still a teacher.
Second, it made me think about what was necessary for the conversation to take place. Yes, the technology made it happen. I mean, it was a conversation about using technology as a forum for creation. It also could have happened without anything electronic. My understanding is there used to be these things called letters or missives. If my understanding is correct, my student could have sent me a letter with her questions and then I could have replied with my answers and questions. This process could have continued, similar to the one we used, interminably.
So, it wasn’t the technology that led to this learning.
I needed to know her. She needed to know me. Most importantly, she needed to know I cared and would be there if she had a question. I don’t remember making any statements as I was leaving SLA that I’d be willing to help kids with anything they needed. I’d like to think I didn’t have to. I’d like to think they knew.
Today’s conversation helped reinforce that belief.
As I continue to build systems and structures of care in my life, I will focus on and highlight the tools at my disposal for connecting and maintaining connections to people. Always and forever, I will highlight and nurture the caring necessary for community. Even if they’re multi-medium communities of two.