“Ten years of practice without reflection, is just one year of practice repeated ten times.”
Today marks the second birthday of Drowning in the Shallow.
Drowning in the Shallow is essentially a metaphor for how I was feeling when I first started blogging. Drowning, because I was increasingly becoming aware that it was impossible to reconcile the disconnect between the predictable, linear, step by step world which I was carrying around in my head and the messy, ambiguous and unpredictable one which was the every day experience in my classroom. The illusion that if I told people what to do and check that they are doing it exactly then things would improve, was no longer holding up under scrutiny. Shallow, because I was looking for definitive answers from the poor, unrelated and decontextualised professional development that was provided to me by my school. Combined together, the seductive search for certainty that wasn’t there, with a lack of professional learning that wasn’t linked to my local context or to the wider community, made me feel unwell and unhappy. So I was told to write.
To begin with my first attempts at blogging were a way to get things off my chest. Those intial posts were nothing more than self endulgent rants to let off steam. I searched for catharsis and found it in the pressing of the publish button. However those thoughts were better suited to my morning journal, but I continued to blog, pretty much once a week for the past two years. The release made me happier, but the blogging has changed to something deeper and more fulfilling, both personally and professionally. That of sense making. To try, where possible to gain an insight into the journey I am on as a teacher and to stop drowning in the shallow. To find causes or consequences of what I experience within the classroom and the changes I was making. To better understand my purpose and to test the integrity of my practices, whether they are congruent to my purpose. With each blog I try to draw constructive lessons I can learn from.
With every post, a narrative builds. Although every one is a fragment of the whole story, no doubt containing many inaccuracies, biases and misinterpretations, the greater the amount of fragments the deeper and richer the narrative that builds. By blogging my thinking and observations, I can attempt to make sense of the evolving journey I am on. The fragments begin to build a clearer picture to examine. A doing history. A learning history. Stories of critical moments. These moments explore myself, my actions and the interactions I have with others. I can begin to observe, question and get a sense of what I am doing. Of testing my purpose, of finding imprecision between my words and my actions and getting a feeling for what has happened, what is happening and what might happen.
Writing, re-reading, reflecting and acting has become the focus of my professional development process. It has allowed me to revisit, not just my practice, but the reasons behind my practice. Blogging has become more than a helpful learning tool for me. It has become a mindset. One that allows me to take greater account of the context and the community I’m working in. To give me the freedom to seize opportunities, build on earlier breakthroughs and adapt to the needs of the children I’m responsible for. It provides me the chance to focus on my local context but at the same time links me to a global social community which can help me think through my actions and possible future scenarios.
Blogging has opened up a world of diversity in thinking that I did not have before. Although occasionally and always an echochamber, it has mitigated the group think that was part of the problem and which I was part of. Learning from and with expert outside sources has given me fresh information. It has allowed me to compile and update my metaphorical and literal library. What I have learned is that diversity of thinking is a necessary condition for adapting to change. That embracing and seeking out a difference of opinion has helped me become more resilient and flexible in my practice. Improving my judgement, giving me the confidence to experiment and hopefuly my teaching has become better for it. What is emerging from this process is far from perfect, but I’m learning from it and I hope the children I am responsible for benefit from it in the long run.
Have I stopped drowning? Far from it. However what blogging and interacting with those that read my blog has taught me is that we cannot ultimately control the effects or outcomes of our actions. We only get to decide what we do, not determine the results of what we do. I’m beginning to get comfortable with that ambiguity and trying to find sense and potential patterns in it. I’m no longer so scared of drowning. However I do feel I am slowly moving from the shallow to the depth. This may help me over come the problem of inadvertently throwing out information or hiding the issues that are critical to understanding the moment and potentially shaping the future for the better.
To those of you who read and interact with this blog and impact my thinking and my actions, thank you.
“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” Marcel Proust