Find (and share) your voice.

Before I became a world-renowned blogger with a boatload of Klout*, my ramblings were published, in ink, in our college newspaper.

I was…. wait for it…. a humor columnist.

Those of you that have witnessed my hilarity firsthand would consider that to be an appropriate assignment, while others may furrow their brows in confusion and/or will likely leave this page for a more interesting read.

Sometimes I forget that I wrote for our school paper. I don’t remember how that happened. I don’t recall much about the creative process where I developed ideas for my posts (such topics included, but were not limited to, 1984 diesel VW Rabbits (The Diesel Train, as we called her, looked a little something like this), the childhood game of MASH, and the Tom Green show), but I know I enjoyed writing Playful Banter and contributing in that manner to our college community was a very meaningful experience.

I had a voice, and I shared it.

I saved the print copies of my columns, and curiosity about the current state of The Etownian led me to discover its online version, as well as a series of accompanying blogs. An awesome transformation, in my opinion.

How do today’s Etownian writers benefit? For one, they probably have a much smoother time of drafting, editing, revising, and publishing their work. I know I had several hoops to jump through to get my column published, which included having to visit the newspaper’s Mac lab instead of write from the “office” of our dilapidated-rowhome-turned-offcampus-housing-for-me-and-ten-of-my-closest-friends.

The writers and editors surely have an excellent idea about which posts/features are popular and well-read. Using analytics, they likely can provide columnists with in-depth statistics about their readership. While I like to believe my column had its fans, after re-reading my posts today… I can’t be certain. #notasfunnyasitwasbackthen

There’s real-time posting: sportswriters can post images and news snippets from games; current events and news from campus is reported in a timely manner. Posts connect with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to reach a broader audience (if I wanted my parents to read my column I had to clip and mail it to them! Although upon review it appears I used some mild profanity in my posts. So I probably didn’t clip and send those columns anywhere.) You can now subscribe to The Etownian through RSS.

Readers can comment. There are now conversations where there once were one-sided accounts. I love this message on the blog:

Recently, we’ve grown our community as we extend our commitment to reaching readers outside of the campus grounds. Our plan is to be able to not only provide our content across different platforms, but to also use these mediums to engage.

Yes!

And, in the spirit of all things glorious about college newspapers, there is a print edition available, hosted on Issuu.

A multitude of voices, available and powerful, in so many different ways.

Sometimes, I lose my way creatively, especially with writing. I feel like I have nothing to say, which is when the weeks between posts on this blog reach two, three, or even four. Does that mean that my voice is lost? How else can I contribute and make my voice heard?

I chime in on Twitter occasionally. I comment on others’ blogs. I share resources with my staff and with my online colleagues. I contribute to conversations in the PLP Hub. So even if my thoughts aren’t enough to constitute a full post or column, I can add my thoughts to conversations about teaching and learning. I read. I reflect. I share photos, and post to my Posterous page or share something on Facebook. I share posts on our school blog. I browse my Google Reader feeds and check out what’s new on Zite.

How well do we prepare kids to share their voices in this digital age? Are we providing them with their own spaces? Empowering them to facilitate conversations, moderate comments, and share their voice with others? Or are we owning the spaces, dictating how, when, and what they can share? Are we limiting this to writing, or are we allowing them to post videos? Photos? Audio/podcasts? Artwork? Are we making sure there’s time in the day for creation, not overwhelming consumption? Are we teaching them to be responsible for every…single…thing they post online? How are we doing that? Are we using stand-alone lessons delivered in the media center, or is every single adult in the building modeling how he builds his own reputable digital footprint, and how he contributes to the collective?

How are your students’ voices being heard by parents and school community members? Is evidence of their learning just a click away? Or do they have to wait for conferences… or folders sent home… or article clippings?

Make 2012 the year your voices are heard- yours, and your students’!

*Insert please-recognize-sarcasm-when-you-read-it-giggles here.

10 Replies to “Find (and share) your voice.”

  1. Thanks for sharing the story of sharing your voice…it made me reflect on my entry into the public world of writing. For me, I was a sophomore in high school writing sports articles for the local newspaper in a town of 1100 people. I am sure the readership was quite low. The funny thing was I had to write under a fake name because some of the sports I covered where ones I played in…my basketball coach once wondered out loud how this “reporter” knew what was being said in the huddles and at the half time speeches. To this day, only my family knew that I was the writer all those years.

    I agree that we do need to help students and fellow teachers to find their voice and share it. There is so many great stories out there and so many perspectives that we can learn from. On top of that, there is something to be said about sharing your writing and in turn your voice to a potentially unlimited audience via a blog or twitter.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Josh! Your story about your sportswriting gig was so interesting! Funny how we speak now of transparency and yet it was key for you to write anonymously at that time. I am sure your accounts were unbiased 🙂 Happy new year!

  2. “Sometimes, I lose my way creatively, especially with writing.”

    Brilliant!

    That’s why I’m pulling back a little (no longer blogging with TeachPaperless or Cooperative Catalyst). There was too much buzz. There were too many discussions to involve myself in. Meanwhile, my posts were getting stale. I was repeating myself in a sort-of education-induced dementia.

    I’m slowing down and writing with a sense of purpose (1-2 posts a week) and focussing on writing fiction. I want to find my voice. I want to tell stories.

    1. When I stumbled upon stacks of saved college newspapers I also found folders filled with writing from my youth – from intermediate elementary through high school- tons of fiction, some of which I found to be quite good considering my age. I’m now hoping to dedicate time to reviving those pieces. My imagination was never the problem… I can’t even fathom what I would have done with a blog when I was 13… and how easy it is to self-publish today? Actual books? I would have been in heaven.
      Please keep writing, in any space…. I’ll keep reading. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hey, another college newspaper humor columnist turned educator! Sweet! My binder full of four years of clippings from the Loyola College in Maryland Greyhound doesn’t feel as lonely :).

    I love the idea of developing my voice kind of out in the open, whether I’m writing about teaching or popular culture or whatever, mainly because of the instant interaction with readers/commenters that blogging provides (although sometimes the comments are spam). Like John, though, I have those moments where I feel my voice getting stale and need to change things around a bit here and there.

    My favorite part of this post is the part about helping students find and share their voice. I think it’s not done enough, because of a number of things from the way that testing has bled writing dry to the way that their actual published work is often crammed through filters of “what is appropriate.” But I definitely can say I try my hardest.

    This is the first post I read here and I really liked it. It really made me think.

    1. Hi, Tom,
      Thanks for visiting! I have now subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading. I would love to devote time to more varied modes of writing. I really need to take a look at how I’m spending my time with different ventures and make commitments to the things that mean the most to me. I think becoming a stronger writer has become more of a priority recently. From what I understand, dedicating 1-2 hours per day, at least, will help a writer grow. I’m not there yet… but I could be if I managed time more wisely.

      I think the questions I raised re: student voices are not pondered enough at the administrative level. Many teachers are considering how to do so, but when teachers and students are limited in which tools and platforms they’re “allowed” to use, it’s defeating. We all know kids’ creations outside of school can be impressive. Imagine if we allowed them to grow and create with our guidance and support?

      P.S. When you reread your columns, do you cringe a little? Just checking. 🙂

  4. Hi Lyn

    I so enjoyed reading your post! For me becoming a blogger was the beginning of discovering I could write (I think!). When I started, I thought too much about what and how to write. As soon as I relaxed and began to write what was in my head, in my own voice, things got a whole lot easier. If i start writing a post and find it too much of a struggle, then I abandon it. Sometimes I come back to it later, and sometimes I scrap it as ‘not meant to be’. When I started writing at Co-op Catalyst, I was at first a bit intimidated and later overwhelmed by having to keep up and respond. Like John, I have given that one up. I love writing for and responding at Inquire Within though, because it just comes naturally. And therein lies the key, I think, to helping students (and other teachers) find their voice. They have to feel comfortable enough to make a start. It shouldn’t feel like a burden or be completely dictated by someone else. It needs to feel natural and rewarding. Most classes at my school started blogging in the past year. The least successful (in my opinion!) class blog seems active and interesting, but is entirely teacher controlled. She posts and expects students to comment for homework. They hate it. The most successful is a messy and real 6th grade blog. Teachers post. Kids comment. Kids post. Teachers comment. They post their art and their booktrailers, their research and their experiments. They embed their videos and glogsters and prezis. The tags and categories are chaotic, but it belongs to the kids. In Australia, we are about to start a new school year and that teacher wants to start giving her class more ownership of their blog right at the start, as well as the opportunity to have their own blogs.
    Our 5th graders are starting the year with a unit of inquiry into media literacy. Hopefully a big part of that will be encouraging them to find their voice, express their learning and post their work online. Their teachers are very new to this, so lots of support will be required, but that’ll be my challenge!

    1. Edna,
      Thank you for your comments! We share a similar process to share our thoughts. I have begun many draft posts that have never been published- the thoughts just never came together. Like you, I sometimes find blogging for other platforms to be more of a chore than a creative release… I need to remember that when I sign on to contribute to other projects here and there. It’s important we stay true to ourselves, and yes, that may get a bit “messy.” Would love for some of our classes to connect this year!

  5. My students publish all of their work on wordpress blogs.

    It is extremely gratifying to me to see comments from friends or family members on their blog posts. Once I even had a student post a mini-tutorial for a friend who asked her how to use a certain technique in Photoshop.

    Student work turns up in Google searches and in one memorable incident a student photograph that was posted to Wikipedia was used to illustrate a newspaper article in the UK.

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