This is such a good question, Kate, because I think about this. My posts tend not to be about specific lesson details but rather about overarching themes that resonate with me for a period of days or weeks (unless I am reporting on a specific event like the Greer Conference at Exeter or Twitter Math Camp). I read a wide range of blogs with different foci – some are very specific in lesson and resource sharing (mathequalslove, for example), others are broader and curriculum-based (emergentmath.com), still others are emotionally open and [sometimes] provocative (@sophgermain) and others document trends, pose questions and push the conversation about math education ever forward (dy/dan). The Math-Twitt-o-Blog-o-Sphere is so rich in talent, smarts and generosity that I am, at times, humbled by my participation in it. But I try to give back to the community what I can from my own experience, while engaging in this rewarding reflective practice myself. So, to answer your questions:
1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
The first blog I ever read was Math Teacher Mambo. I came across this font of enthusiasm searching for geometry resources (aka Desperation), and, as a new teacher, was blown away by the quality of her work and her willingness to just PUT IT OUT THERE. I didn’t yet realize, however, what a rich resource was waiting for me. I don’t know when I first came across Dan Meyer’s blog, but I am certain that it was not only the blog, but also the discourse that ensued from each of Dan’s posts that fascinated me and gave me an idea of the nature of the online teaching community. It is ironic that you mention ‘a colleague in my building’ – because I am fairly certain that I am the only teacher in my department reading these blogs (another reason for my participation in #MTBoS).
2. What keeps you coming back? What’s the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
I keep coming back for two reasons: growth and community. Or to put it another way, enrichment and validation. Even though the wealth of ideas is overwhelming at times, pushing me to continually seek out new organizational tools (Old Reader? Evernote? Index Cards? Yet another Moleskine?), every week I fortuitously find some type of resource – a classroom strategy, a game, an activity, a professional practice – seemingly tailor-made to my current pedagogical needs. And each time I participate in the online community, whether by blogging myself, commenting on another blog, or reading through posts and comments, I feel more supported by a network of people spanning not just the country, but the globe. For this NYC girl who, like most New Yorkers, tends to be a little geo-centric, that’s a great feeling.
3. If you write, why do you write? What’s the biggest thing you get out of it?
I write to have a voice in this rich community whose participants I admire . I write to reflect on my experience, to process and synthesize my thoughts on math education in general, and my own practice in specific. I write because I know that some people read, and I love the comments that people post. And here’s something most people reading this blog don’t know about me. In a former lifetime – my first adult lifetime – I was not only an English major, but an aspiring academic who got an M.A. in English and American Lit before realizing that literary criticism was not the same as loving literature (maybe even the opposite?). During those years, I spent a LOT of time writing, was quite good at it, and enjoyed it. So one motivation for writing is that this side of me doesn’t get regular exercise as a math teacher, and it is a side that I value and, to be honest, cherish. I like flexing my verbal muscles – and if, in doing so, I make a contribution to the #MTBoS or help even one person in the way that others who share have helped me – well, that’s plenty of reason.
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to’s? Stories?
I think what I would like to hear most is how to use one’s blog to effect change and/or increase the efficacy of one’s teaching – next steps as a blogger. I think what people who don’t blog, or who are just starting out, need to hear are the successes and power of the online community – how networks have developed and what they can accomplish. There are so many blogs to read, with so many different purposes – sharing those stories would be interesting, informative, and entertaining. I love hearing about the interconnectedness of it all – even being aware of that quality, and would like to know even more about how to nurture this grassiest of grassroots movements.