Tag Archives: blogging

Three Years for this Blog: Thank You

Today is the three year anniversary of my first (ridiculous and irrelevant) post on this blog. Over 400 posts later, it’s been quite an evolution.

I just want to thank you for all your support. Through this blog I have come to better define my role in the world of education.

That role is so much more than teaching 12 students with disabilities. It’s about standing up for what’s best for children, speaking out against institutional injustices, and sharing ideas and inspirations that may make some small or even significant impact on you.

Thanks for allowing me those opportunities. I wish you and your family the best in the new year.


My 10 Favorite Posts from 2012

What’s Cooking? Differentiation, That’s What! (January)

The Continuing Story of a Boy and His Paper Clips (February)

A Test Can’t Measure This (February)

You (March)

How the Grinch Stole Education (And Lost it Back!) (March)

The Kid I Never Sent Out (April)

Takeaways From This School Year (June)

Tips for Avoiding a Nightmare First Day (July)

The Report Card Wow Factor (October)

We Are Not the Villains (December)




My Eyes Are Opened

This weekend, a colleague texted me to say she just discovered a bunch of my old posts and was reading and enjoying them. She figured those were the only ones she ever missed. Then I told her there were close to 500 posts on this site and she’s probably missed many more than she realized. I chuckled at her reply: “Great, now I’m going to be up all night.”

I am always touched when a real-world colleague makes it a point to talk to me about my blog. Considering that this space was once underground and only one person in school knew I was writing it, it’s still something of a surprise when the blog is referenced at school or by a colleague. Most every time, people have something nice and supportive to say, and I appreciate it.

At my most sentimental and honest, I write about my educational values in very clear terms. Or, I write about certain anecdotes about students that have made a mark on me.

I realized yesterday why this blog speaks to so many colleagues in the real world and in the virtual world.

It’s because so many feel the same way I do about certain ideals. This blog is a way for them to connect emotionally when they otherwise might not. I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who believes in ideals such as the importance of respecting our students and believing in their abilities. But I may be the only one articulating these ideals in writing in a way that inspires people.

I’m glad my colleagues feel a connection here. In the past, I wrote many of them off as passionless, disinterested, and out just for the paycheck. As I’ve gotten to know them better, and as they’ve talked to me about this blog, I’ve learned that quite the opposite is true. They’re more passionate and interested in their work than I ever gave them credit for.

People may be thanking me for my blog, but I’m thanking them for opening my eyes.

Related: I Inspire Others, and That Inspires Me

An Open Secret

For a long time, I maintained this blog secretly and anonymously. Sure, my family knew about it. So did the folks on Twitter. Only one colleague knew about it; another one was able to connect a bunch of random dots that led her to realize it was me behind a pseudonym.

I brought myself above ground over the summer and connected this blog to Facebook. Now, any colleague with whom I’m friends can read it. To my excitement, many do.

I was originally wary of them knowing about this blog for fear that what I write might fall into the wrong hands and be used against me. By and large, though, my colleagues have been very supportive, often telling me they find it to be very inspirational.

In a way, having them in on my open secret has helped me understand, again, that we all started in the same place  – wanting to make a difference in our students’ lives – and we are all trying to get back to that place, where little else about the job matters or adversely affects us. I hope that by sharing this space with my colleagues, I am helping them maintain perspective of what matters most.

Blogging Is Worth Our Time!

Is blogging worth our time?

That’s the question Pernille Ripp posed this weekend on her blog. I think it is. Here is a list of times when I feel blogging is worth our time.

Blogging is worth our time when…

  • we pose questions that generate debate and pushback – we all need to be shaken up a little from our thinking from time to time so that we remember we don’t know everything and that our ways are not the only ways of doing things.
  • we post ideas that others can use – teaching becomes a very lonely profession for many, and there are plenty of people who do not feel comfortable using their own schools for growth (for whatever the reasons are). So when we share tips from our own experience, we give others the confidence to try.
  • people are inspired by what we write – the most gratifying comments are when people write that I’ve reminded them of something they’ve forgotten about being a teacher, like what really matters (ie. the kids!)

As multiple comments on Pernille’s post pointed out, it is not for anyone but the individual blogger to decide if blogging is worth the time. I know that blogging is worth my time because people get something out of reading what I write and putting my thoughts down allows me to more deeply and honestly reflect. The latter makes me a better practitioner in a variety of ways.

Be a Better Blogger: 5 Ways to Find Inspiration

In the summer of 2011, I was in a major blogging slump. I was writing very little and not writing very well. In the first six months of 2011, I published 32 posts. Then, in the final six months, I published 161. 

That’s an increase of over 500 percent.

What happened from June to July that enabled me to increase my output?

I learned I didn’t have to wait for inspiration to come from my classroom.

I realized I could find inspiration in many places.

With this understanding, I was liberated from the thought that ideas had to come to me and empowered by the realization that I could find ideas if I was looking.

So, if one of your ambitions this year is to be a better blogger – to write more, write better, increase your reach – here are some ideas that have worked for me that will also work for you:

1. Write about what you read. Being a better blogger means being a reader of blogs. At this point, I spend more time reading Google Reader, Flipboard, and Zite than I do reading books. There are so many wonderful blogs out there (see my blogroll to the right for some of my favorites) and so, if you’re reading them, there is rarely a shortage of  inspiration of thought. Sometimes I explicitly acknowledge the post that led me to write my own (like Vicki Davis’ here, Josh Stumpenhorst’s here, and Nick Provenzano’s here).

Much more frequently, though, a kernel of thought is planted in my head and it sprouts into my own post days or weeks later (like here).

The more ideas in your head, the more incentive you will have to write (lest you allow your head to explode).

2. Find inspiration where there appears to be none. Being a better blogger means engaging in an active process that shifts the burden of inspiration to you. You need to make inspiration happen.

Rather than let it come to you, go out and find it.

I became a better photographer when I started looking at the world asking, “How would this look in a photograph?” I became a better blogger when I started looking at the world asking, “How can this relate to education?”

I have found inspiration in unusual and unexpected places that I have been able to apply to education: my grandmother’s death, my cousin’s birth, Whitney Houston’s music, and natural disasters.

3. Blog (and micro-blog) on the run. Being a better blogger means always being aware of ideas that you could eventually turn into posts. Writers keep notebooks with inspiration so that they can draw upon those ideas when they need to write something. My system is a bit less, well, systematic, but it works for me.

I scribble ideas on post-its and throw them in my pockets. I e-mail myself ideas from my phone. Sometimes I start a one-sentence draft on my WordPress app and save it for elaboration at another time. Ideas often hit me when I’m driving to or from school in the quiet company of my thoughts, but they don’t do me much good if I forget them (and this has happened too many times to count).

4. Dig in your heels and take a stand. Being a better blogger means not worrying about offending people with an unpopular position. It means standing up to opposition, rocking the boat, and challenging people. It is all at once exciting, intimidating, and fun.

I have vigorously defended my beliefs about college and career as the expectation for all and have strongly disagreed with friends over the merit of awards. Most recently, I took on the oft-revered Khan Academydrawing a lot of criticism – for its brazen one size fits all mentality. You can’t worry too much about upsetting people. After all, your blog must reflect you and your beliefs – not what you think people want to hear.

5. Dig up some stories from your past. Being a better blogger means reaching back for ideas. We spend time thinking about times from our past, so it only makes sense that we can and should spend time writing about times from our past, too. I have written about painful experiences in my childhood, fun times in college, and social missteps that changed my thinking. Our past experiences shaped who we are today. The past is a treasure trove of rich material for writing. Do not ignore it.

These are ideas to help you broaden your blogging. There is nothing wrong with writing about your class or school! I still write plenty about the goings-on in my classroom and with colleagues, but now I do so in the much greater context of life itself.

I hope these ideas help you become a better blogger!

In 2012, Being a Better Member of Others’ PLNs

If 2011 was the year I made a dent on the social networking scene, 2012 might very well be the year in which I make that dent meaningful. I hope I can do this all without losing a sense of my significance (or insignificance) relative to the bigger picture. What do I mean? I have to make a better effort to connect and not just misinterpret following/follower counts as indicative of said connection.

Here is how I view Twitter. Let’s say 50 people are at a party I’m throwing. They all know who I am, after all, I am the host. Perhaps I’ve said hello to half of them once or twice in the past. I see some faces I know and the faces of some I didn’t even know were invited. At the party I chill with the two or three people I know really well while everyone else talks to each other. I might bump into some of them over by the hors d’ouevres or the crudites and say, “Hello, thanks for coming,” but invariably I return just to my closest pals. In turn, I miss out on the stories and jokes others are sharing because I’m in the comfort of my cocoon.

I have many people following me with whom I’ve never exchanged even one tweet. The sad thing is that many of these people have reached out to me, either through a remark about something I sent out, a retweet, a reference to something I write, or a “Follow Friday’ recommendation. I might acknowledge them with a, “Thanks for the ___,” or a reply, but then we’re left standing there with nothing to say.

It’s as much my fault as anyone else’s. If someone is making even a slight effort to connect, I should embrace their attempts and reciprocate them. Twitter can be a lonely, lonely world when complacency and silence merge to form elitism.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I’m no more likely to stick to something on January 1 than I am on July 1, so I won’t call this a resolution. All it is is a realization that I am not so important or special that I should ignore all the people at the party. We’re all at the party together, so we should all enjoy it together, too.

Happy new year! See you by the fondue station!

Two Years Ago, I Started a Blog

Two years ago today, I found myself one morning staring at a brand new shiny laptop. With visions of celebrity updates dancing in my head, I created a Twitter account. Then, recalling my old blog (dormant for over two years at that point), I decided to create a new one.

Has it yet been determined what the proper term is for the annual blog milestone? Is it a birthday? Anniversary? Blogiversary?

Two years ago today, I wrote this (with grammatical errors!):

Then, today, I finally relented on something I’ve only several years behind, and signed up forTwitter. No longer was I unencumbered by the innocuous blue bird that has basically hastened the downfall of society as we know it. Now I found myself firmly encumbered, a slave to its mish-mosh of links, twitpics, witticisms, and nuances. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Anyway, it brings me to this. I figure, I’m a moderately interesting writer, and I’ve cultivated three passions that seem to spark interest in others: my life as a teacher, my life as a photographer, and my life as a chef (“amateur cook”) is more like it. And here we are. A brand new, shiny blog, that I aim to maintain. Eeks, it sounds like a New Year’s resolution at this time of year, but I’m going to look to get 3-5 posts down each week. And they’re going to be substantive. (I don’t know if I believe that myself, but for now, why not?)

So, enjoy the ride with me. I’ve got interesting things to say about those three facets of my life. That’s how I feel, but you’ll probably close out this window as soon as you start reading.

And then tweet about it to all your friends.

It is embarrassing to reread that and only slightly less embarrassing to bring your attention to it. (And how about the fact that someone else is using my original Twitter handle, @MSR_7?)

At the time, I didn’t realize how Twitter and a blog could exist – even needed to exist – symbiotically. I would love to know what I was tweeting about back then. Nothing important, I’m sure.

The thing is, I never saw this blog becoming what it has become. I never wrote about cooking and I only briefly scratched the surface of writing about photography. Once my focus became education, my writing had a purpose outside of being a diversion for my pompous self-aggrandizing.

My first education-related post was on January 3, 2010. It was linked on one of my favorite blogs and received TWO comments! Man, I was on top of the world.

I floundered around for quite a while, writing about things I thought I knew about. I was writing for myself, quite sure no one was reading. This post was the first time I let myself be angry about the state of affairs in NYC education. Soon thereafter, several of my posts were picked up for newspaper publication. In one (it is maybe my favorite post I’ve ever written) I ate some serious crow for mishandling a situation in my class.

I don’t know when I realized Twitter could be a conduit for people to access my unseen blog, but I’m glad I did. Twitter brought me in contact with many wonderful people – friends who challenge my thinking and inspire me to do better. Many of these folks (like you, perhaps) started reading my blog, commenting, and sharing it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to pass along something I wrote.

Now, the expectations on my blog are much greater and I treat my small role as someone who influences thought much more seriously than ever. As one Twitter friend said, “You found your voice.”

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed that so many people find what I write worth reading… (And no, this is not false modesty. I know I write some good stuff, but I never saw myself as inspiring so many people).

I have been moved by some beautiful comments in the last two years and am so thankful that folks like you have allowed me to be part of your educational journey. I am glad you’ve joined me for mine.

I hope I can continue to provide you with ideas, inspiration, and whatever else you get from reading my blog.

So if you’ve ever read my blog, retweeted or e-mailed a post, made a comment, or tried something in your classroom that you found here, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you. I only hope that I can continue to provide meaningful and thought-provoking posts and do my small part to impact change.

A Touching Note

Here is a beautiful e-mail I received yesterday from an old friend with whom I haven’t spoken in a couple of years. It is notes and encouragement like this that help me keep going.

Hey Matt,

How are you?

It has been awhile since we talked. I keep meaning to e-mail you but I am so bad at doing these things in a timely fashion.

The reason I’ve been wanting to e-mail you is because I have been reading a lot of your posts on your blog and they are just so amazing and inspirational. You know, I hear so many teachers constantly complaining and whining about their jobs and have seen firsthand how so many of them slack off. Not having a job now, you know, it has made me quite bitter about everything to know that so many classrooms of children are not having the experiences they could be having due to these teachers. It makes me angry at fellow teachers and understand why some people outside of the field have such low views of teachers. But then you remind me. There are teachers out there that still care and still put forth 150% effort because the children and the profession is important to them. You are making a difference and it will not go unnoticed. I really wish I had a classroom to call my own, and could work amongst teachers who had such creativity and motivation like you. I miss teaching so much. I just really want you to know that I admire you and read your blog posts and get inspired and touched by your words and your work in general.

I am beginning to ramble, I don’t know where I was going with this, but I just wanted to say it because I think about this a lot and just never actually type it out.

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season and Happy New Year!

So touching, and these are the types of notes that are so much more meaningful than retweets or awards!! Thank you, you know who!

11 from ’11

As we wind down the year, I find myself reflecting on the way this blog has grown, feeling very grateful that so many people care to read and share what I write. I’d like to share 11 posts I wrote this year that I feel represent the niche I’ve carved for myself in the blogosphere: inspiration from inside the classroom.

In no particular order:

1. Dear Me (On the Eve of My First Year Teaching) A letter to my former self addressing the ups and downs of my career so far, and many of the lessons learned along the way. This post was Freshly Pressed and nominated for an Edublog Award. I am still amazed by both.

2. 10 Reasons Your Students Should Be Blogging Inspired by my students’ excitement about blogging, I wrote this, watched it take off, and was thrilled to discover how many people said they would bring this to administration, colleagues, and parents.

3. 10 Ways to Be a Terrific Teacher I originally intended for this to lean more toward pedagogical ideas, but it became more about ideas for being more human toward students. I try to hold myself to these standards in the classroom (and don’t always succeed). I feel they are important points for every educator to consider.

4. I Pass On Your Pity Incensed by the exchange I had with a neighbor about what I do, I got off the elevator and immediately wrote this tribute to my students and a rebuke to all the naysayers.

5. Mr. Rogers Was a Great Teacher One of my colleagues jokingly refers to me as “Mr. Rogers” because I talk a lot about building kids up and accepting them for who they are, not rejecting them based on who we want them to be. Much of that mentality comes from all those hours in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood when I was a kid. Today, watching clips of him on Youtube fills me with nostalgia for my childhood days, but also reaffirms the power of his message as it applies to my students today.

6. I Was a 6-Year Old Freak This one came about in response to Vicky Loras’  What’s Your Story challenge. I shared my own experiences having to use a wheelchair for just a day or two, and the discomfort I was caused by all those inquisitive eyes. My perspective was very much informed by that time in my life.

7. Passion for the Passionless I thought about colleagues who seemed to be so worn down by uncontrollable circumstances that it seemed they forgot their original purpose as a teacher: the students.

8. Reinventing the Teacher I share this because it represents a major turning point in my career. This post came about from a series of conversations with administrators as I transitioned from upper grade general ed to lower grade special ed. The conversations and my subsequent steps have definitely made me a better teacher now than I was a year ago. It just goes to show you that complacency can be dangerous.

9. A Little Perspective, Please I am a big believer that we need to be sensitive to our students’ realities outside of our classrooms. This means that sometimes, homework and test scores aren’t going to be their top priority. Maybe we should remember that.

10. How Will YOU Change Lives This Year? I posed a series of questions to readers challenging them to choose the way they would change their students’ lives – for the good or for the bad – in the new school year.

11. Know Them Before You Judge Them It is so important to know our students before we let preconceived notions and prejudices cloud or perspective of who they are or what they can be.

Fifty days ago, I didn’t think I’d ever get to 100 straight days of blogging. Thank you for joining me and keeping me going! Next stop: 150!

Just a Blog

I texted a fellow nominated colleague yesterday that I just might head into the Edublog Award ceremony. She texted back scoffing, not realizing there was a ceremony. She said, “I mean it’s great people take pride in what they do but it’s a blog. No offense to you. I just mean there are way bigger things going on in the world.”

True, there are. Hunger, war, genocide, poverty, global warming, oppressive dictatorships, jobs, nukes…They all put my dumpy little blog in perspective, don’t they?

Well, I don’t feel I am currently in a place right now that I can impact any kind of change in those realms. There is but one place for me that I am able to reach significant numbers of people and plant seeds of inspiration in their heads that just might move us toward a better world of education. That place is right here.

So, just a blog? Maybe so. Bigger issues? Surely. Insignificant? Not at all. A blog is a voice that might not otherwise be heard. If mine helps people change their perspective on something, well, that’s a start.

This is a vast world with many issues to ponder. My blog is my niche in confronting some of the educational ones.

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