Finished the WNFIN challenge!

A short reflection on finishing the WNFIN challenge. (You can check it out here: http://writenonfictionnow.com/ )

My participation this month in WNFIN has been transforming and motivating. I have benefited so much from the posts I received everyday and really appreciate the writers who generously shared from their experience and expertise.

Although I do want to write a book (my goal for December is to get a good start on it), my goal for November was to get my blog [teachandreflect.com] up and running by writing and posting everyday on different topics related to reflective practice for teachers. I’m so happy to have accomplished my goal! Today I had 19 page views on my blog and on the best day there were 40 page views. This might not seem like a very high number, but it’s amazing to me that so many people read what I had written.

I followed the advice of writing short posts – most of my posts were 400 – 500 words. It was the perfect length to say something useful and beneficial without dragging things out too long. Especially since I was writing daily and regularly posted links to my blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, I didn’t want to discourage my readers with long, drawn-out posts. It’s possible to say quite a lot in 500 words.

Some tips from this experience.

  1. The best tip that I can give is “just start writing.” When I look over my list of posts I’m amazed at how much of what I wrote wasn’t planned. Rather it grew organically out of what I was working on and thinking through each day. Actually writing, and not just planning, helped me discover what I wanted to say.
  2. Short and finished is better than longer and not done yet. Now that I’m planning to post two or three times a week, I still think that I’ll try to keep to the 500-word guideline.
  3. Content is more important than bells and whistles. I chose a self-hosted website (rather than a free blog) and hope to jazz it up as time goes by, but readers come for the content not the spiffy images and graphics. Simple, honest content is best.

learning by experience – the only way to learn?

 We are usually convinced more easily by reasons we have found ourselves

than by those which have occurred to others.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) [Pensees]

When I read an inspiring or insightful quote, I often wonder what circumstances in the writer’s life led to that insight. You see, it’s my notion that compelling, succinct insights that exude truth have got to be rooted in experience. (Which is often the experience of not having done that which the quote cautions us to do.)

That’s why they are compelling and true. Because the one who learned it, learned it “the hard way.” Or as I think is often truer than we like to admit, “the only way.”

Here are just a few of the lessons that I learned not from a teacher resource book or a workshop but from and with my own students in my classes:

  • An activity that works with one class might fail miserably with another class.
  • It’s best to confirm instructions in more than one way – even if you think everyone has heard what the homework is, it’s a good idea to write it on the board too.
  • Meeting your students where they are at means accepting that some of them aren’t interested in studying English.
  • It’s all right if students aren’t interested in learning English.
  • “English only” policies in the classroom don’t always serve the needs of the students.

What insights based on experience have you had recently?