Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

While attending my district’s WCPSSITLMS Convergence Learning Symposium three years ago, I was listening to George Couros present reasons why educators should build their own digital portfolio. Online features would include a professional profile as an about.me page, sharing resources through social media, and reflecting on our experiences through blogging.

George framed the blogging process (on WordPress) using these four steps:

1) Write a Reflection (Blog)

2) Categorize by Standards

3) Tag with Keywords (No More Than 12)

4) Publish to Share

Later, George stressed the importance of reading, commenting, and sharing fellow educator’s blogs as well, often citing WCPSS‘s very own Bill Ferriter as an excellent exemplar of the interactive blogger with a great digital portfolio.

Supercharged and inspired, I took George’s advice and began my journey–from scratch. Believe it or not, it was a huge risk for me at the time. I was battling perfectionism, telling myself a story about how I wasn’t good enough to blog or try some of those famous-people, professional things. Those were only for the “Edu-Rock Stars.” With a little encouragement, help, and support from my PLN… I finally pressed publish.

Three years later, I’m reviewing my blogging journey thus far:

  • I’ve self-taught (and am still self-teaching) how to use WordPress.
  • I’ve composed over 140 blogs, although aiming for quality over quantity, and I’ve definitely not posted as much quality or quantity as the educator superstars.
  • I blog as a learning portfolio, to measure growth over time. Some perspectives have changed over the years. You may read a blog from one year ago that does not represent my current views. #HamstraHighlights is not a showcase space just to feature my best stuff, although some of it is included.
  • Blogging helps me process my experiences on a much deeper level than in the moment–and that’s exactly where my most meaningful, relevant, and memorable learning has occurred.
  • When I submit a conference, article, chapter, or book proposal–it’s on a topic on which I’ve already blogged. That’s because my deepest processing, researching, and reflecting has already come from the heart in the blogging process.
  • Blogging forces me to do my research and cite my sources.
  • Blogging helps me find my style, arrange parts of speech, and check my grammar.
  • Always a work-in-progess, building my own website and portfolio has created an amazing sense of ownership. I didn’t know it would be rewarding in this way. This is my space where I tell the world who I am and what I’m about. It’s where I share my life and career experiences, including my imperfections. It’s where I open myself up to feedback–for better or worse–to grow and become better as a person and professional. It’s where I welcome your comments and seek to comment on the thoughts and journeys of others as well.

But here’s one advantage about “Why I Blog” that I didn’t foresee:

Look back at this step: 2) Categorize by Standards.

When I get to categorize my experiences by my North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards, it has helped me reflect upon my practices as a fifth grade teacher and STEM Specialist. While striving to meet the needs of the whole child, I’m able to think through my purpose as a facilitator of student learning.

Now halfway through my Masters in School Administration (MSA) journey, I’ve been assigned to compose weekly reflections and categorize them by the North Carolina Standards for School Executives, including the corresponding practices and competencies.

I was very familiar with this process of reflecting–and matching standards to my practices.

But I wasn’t familiar with actually applying the standards of another position I haven’t done. This awareness has changed my perspective.

When I first started blogging–what if I had chosen to also categorize my reflections by my administrator’s standards, too? I mean, there would have been a ton of value in my knowing what’s required of my principals from my classroom teacher perspective.

It doesn’t stop there.

I believe that’s a ton of value in reflecting on your practice.

I believe there’s a ton of value in educators creating and maintaining their own digital portfolio before requiring students to do the same.

I believe that’s a ton of value in knowing the standards of your fellow colleagues.

How well do we really know the expectations for our…

  • Administrators?
  • Other Grade Levels?
  • Technology Services (Which are Many)?
  • Media Center Coordinators (Librarian Teachers)?
  • Specialists?
  • Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers?
  • Central Services Personnel?

With empathy, perspective, and compassion literally rounding out the bank of educational buzzwords to address the needs of the whole child, I think there’s a ton of value in realizing interdepartmental, vertical alignment. Together.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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