Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reasons Why I Blog: An Examination

It's been a year since I've started blogging. It seems like as good a time as any to look back over the year and reflect on how blogging has changed me. 

Yes, you read that right, it has changed me. I am more engaged, more reflective, and, perhaps, more militant, in my own small way. I don't just read about issues on higher education, I think about them in order to write about them here. When I teach (or, more accurately, after I teach), I am forced to reflect a little more carefully about what I am doing and why, because I need something to write about.

I am more connected to the larger community of academics. I write, people read, share, and respond. I know I have not only an audience, but a community of people who read and who I read. We have conversations, and maybe one day will meet face-to-face. Until then, I know more people than I ever did as a traditional academic.

And I know I am having an impact. I figured that between the four institutions I have taught at, I have reached approximately 1100 students (keep in mind, while I was doing my PhD, I only had one class; my other experiences were closer to full-time, but with writing intensive classes with lower caps). At least that many people have read my top post, How Higher Ed Makes Most Things Meaningless, especially considering that it was featured on both Inside Higher Education and Ed Leader News. Imagine my delight to find out that no less a figure than Henry Adams of The Academic Bait and Switch  fame on the Chronicle and that he linked to my post in the comments of another Chronicle piece (which I can't find right now). More people than I have ever taught have read that one post. More people than who have seen me speak at a conference. More people than who have read any of my academic essays.

But it is all of the people I have met outside of academia, those who are passionate about topics, rejecting the status quo of education at all levels, caring deeply about meaningful change. For me, blogging has opened my eyes to the world outside of academia. Does that sound like a sheltered academic statement? Indeed, it is. There is a degree of willful ignorance that an academic needs to have in order to survive the demands of living the academic life in higher education. The best thing that has ever happened to me is that I was unemployed for a time; I was forced to see thing differently and to do things differently. I saw others letting go and being successful, and it has empowered me let go.

Blogging has also, admittedly, fueled the more negative aspects of my personality, manifesting itself specifically as an obsessions with my blog's stats. Lurking deep beneath my desire to be an academic is a need for validation, and the stats are one way that I can feel that sense of validation now that I am off the tenure-track. I see sites that do better than I do; College Misery gets the same amount of traffic a week as I do a month, if I'm lucky. Then again, misery loves company, and I'm not sure what thoughtful writing on the current state of higher education as well as teaching attracts. Less hits, apparently. Which is also depressing.

Wait, I'm celebrating here. I'm not perfect, and I still have some things I need to work on.

I'd really like to thank a few people: Mary Churchill who has been so supportive and inspiring me with her great work at University of Venus and Old School/New School; @ToughLoveForX who I have no idea how I "met", but I am amazed at how connected this retired printer is, especially in the world of education; @comPOSTIONblog for founding #FYCchat with me; Worst Prof Ever for just generally kicking ass and doing and saying all the things I'm still not quite ready to; and all of the people who have come here, read my posts, commented, followed me on Twitter, shared my writing, and encouraged me to keep writing.

My goal for the next year? Get big enough to attract trolls. :-) I'm only half-joking.


  1. Blogging, for me, started off as a suggestion from a fellow FYW faculty member/semester-long class project. I agree with you here 100%; it's really enhanced my teaching and the way I think about teaching. I also see it as a record. I can now look back and see those ideas that I want to work on for my dissertation or in future articles and conference presentations. My flaws are also on display, ones that I've fixed and ones that I still need to work on.

    My biggest problem with blogging... I do it to procrastinate other writing! haha Like now, for instance, I should be grading, working on an IRB application, or putting together my conference presentation for next weekend, but instead I am reading this post and commenting.


    I've really enjoyed your posts, though, and I'm glad you're so passionate about blogging. As someone who is following in your footsteps, it really helps to know that I'm not going through things alone and to have someone to tell me what to look out for in the future.

  2. I'm with NP on this. I blog so I can avoid my other writing/work. But I also blog to think, to be engaged, to explore my expectations and the implications of those.

    I've enjoyed being a reader and appreciate your writing immensely.

  3. Thank you, ladies! I'm not sure my writing is "procrastinating" in that sense; my mind races, and I need lots of different balls in the air, or else I get easily distracted. The blog actually keeps me disciplined and on task for my other work most of the time because I have to stay really organized.

    Did that make any sense? I need to start taking the comments as seriously (and thoughtfully) as the posts themselves!

    I have to say that I appreciate both your blogs immensely as well. Let's keep it up!

  4. I'm finishing up my dissertation, and I started to blog about a month ago. I wondered whether I'd be able to stick with it for the long run (newness makes everything more fun, right?), so it's nice to see your blog going strong after a whole year. Congrats.

    I think my motivations for blogging are similar to those that you and NP listed: I like being reflective--about the world around me, my academic interests, my teaching. Blogging allows me to participate in those activities and perhaps reach another (or a wider) audience in the process.

    Also, given the state of the academic job market (which I'm about to enter!), I realize that I will need to reconceptualize what a "career" in higher ed involves if that tenure-track job (or even temporary position) doesn't materialize. So far, I really like the "edupreneur" concept you've developed! Fantastic!


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