In my English and Composition classes at George Mason University, I ask students to maintain a blog throughout the semester. They usually write one or two posts a week, with a new set of directions coaching them through each new entry.
Often students have reservations about the the prospect of writing blogs so frequently, especially in addition to the drafts (and drafts and drafts) they do for major writing projects. I’ve assigned this enough semesters now that the schpiel I give to reassure skeptical students always hits the same beats. I explain that these blogs are meant to be brief writing exercises, and that they are low stakes opportunities to “think out loud.” I remind them that since their classmates will sometimes engage with their writing, and especially with the ideas developing there, these are low pressure opportunities for their ideas to grow. I encourage them to use the page to relax a bit, flex their mental muscles, and experiment with whatever interests them, whether an idea, writing strategy, even a new voice. I tell them that their blogs are not a place where they need to present their buttoned-up, final draft selves, carefully edited with every sentence precise and every idea compelling. And then, as the semester unfolds, I show them that this really is a space to take risks, make mistakes, and notice what you learn in the process.
As I enter my fourth year teaching college students, it’s finally occurred to me that I would benefit from just such a space for the same reasons I hope my students do. I already spend my commute between the campus in Fairfax and my home in DC ruminating over whatever triumph or misstep I’ve encountered in the classroom, trying to make sense of what is serving my students well and what I can do better. Here I’m going to release some of those thoughts onto the page, knowing that we learn as we write and we write to learn. My hope is that I can use the blog as a space of my own to think out loud, learn as I write, and develop as a teacher and writer along the way. And perhaps others won’t mind listening in every now and then.