Below is the text of the talk I gave at the panel discussion session I participated in at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference 2016. I shared the panel with Marcy Webb (@teachermrw) in person and Christopher Rogers (@justmaybechris), who was not able to join us on site. The full title of our session was “Blogging Beyond the Classroom: Online Engagement for Professional and Personal Growth.”
While planning this short talk, I started out with all kinds of “what” – What I do and where and for whom on which platforms.
It took me some time and a dry run to realize that that is not what I really want to talk about. Rather I want and need to consider the “whys” of my writing, of my online engagement, of being here.
So while I have prepared these remarks for you, they are also words I need to hear myself speak in order to test their truth.
Some truths – here goes.
There are days when I cannot wait to be able to sit down at my laptop and write, write, write.
The more I write, the greater my appreciation for those who write better than I, the larger my confidence that I can become a better, stronger writer.
I write to understand.
When I tweet I join in conversations. When I blog I join in conversation.
I find community in conversation.
What I write about is deeply connected to what I read.
The fact that I am here to talk about something that I choose and love to do blows my mind.
Having a blog means having a space for me to place thoughts and ideas. My blog is a sense-making tool.
Publishing blog posts lets me invite others into my thinking and writing space.
Just because I offer an invitation does not mean that people will come.
By publishing publicly I do not get to choose whom I invite and who shows up.
When I read the work of others and comment thoughtfully, I join a conversation and add value.
My greatest insight so far, “If we want to have audience, then we must first and foremost be audience.”
This is my motivation in my cycles of reading and writing. Reading deeply, widely, consistently leads me to write as a response, as a means of processing. And as my own writing elicits response from others, I listen and think alongside others and we start a new cycle of reading to write, and writing to read.
In other words, my writing – tweeting, blogging, curating, publishing – are forms of call and response, call and response.
I do believe that you can write your way out of ignorance.
When I started my blog, when I began tweeting, I was not aware of these things. I simply began and slowly found my way.
And I’ve had help and support. I have a “digital Godmother” who is Rafranz Davis, an outspoken tech integrationist out of Texas who welcomed me into edu-twitter like no other and made me feel at home. I found men and women in various education circles, both K-12 and higher education who gladly supported my work, and welcomed my commentary. This has made me want to stay and build and most recently, to learn how to resist the ravages of the current political climate.
I didn’t realize the strength or depth of my political views until I began writing publicly.
I did not understand that being in contact and in dialogue with authors whom I admired would matter in the way that it does, both for me and them.
It took some time to appreciate that my voice, my style, my sense of urgency mattered to more than a few people.
Now I can begin to understand that when I write, I am being politically active. I am being culturally active. I am being educationally active. And over time, I walk that arc from being active to becoming an activist.
As I stand before you today I believe that I am in the midst of that process without having landed: Active on the way to becoming an activist.
No piece of my writing is fully done when it is published and finds an audience. It is always imperfect – my best shot at that moment- and I own that.
Once upon a time in grad school, I developed some theories of action for my practice as an education leader. At the top of the list was this: Care must be at the core of everything we do. At the time, although I was thinking about schools and the education communities we build and inhabit, I see now that this particular theory of action underscores all of my public work as a writer, contributor and digital interloper. I show up and speak up because I care. I enter into dialogue and cultivate relationships of support and encouragement to both demonstrate and receive care.
I am proud to be here in this space with all of you and can honestly say that my presence at this conference, on this panel, in this community is about care – our collective and individual care.
I hope that it is helpful.