I am Afraid of Blogging
Or how to fake it til you make it….
I am afraid of blogging. It’s true. I get a little sick thinking about it. I know, I know…you’re thinking, “But…this is a blog post, and you posted it, so how afraid can you be?”
But what you don’t see are the dozens of documents with random sentences, the post it notes with miscellaneous words, the notebook with hurried thoughts I didn’t want to forget, all of these set aside as worthless, waiting to be worked into something.
What you don’t see is the angst I feel at the thought of you now reading these words, the sweat on my palms as I imagine my blog post editors assessing what I’ve written, shaking their heads and sending it back for improvements.
And so here I am, almost breathless at the thought of sending these words out into the ether…
I just read The Meta Blog by Holly Reckin. It was suggested to us by our leaders at the meeting of the Greater Madison Writing Project (GMWP) Teacher Inquiry and Writing Institute (TIWI), and as I have been struggling to blog even one time, I pulled it right up and read it.
Well, all that reading did was make me feel even more inadequate about writing my first blog post. Is this how my students feel when I give them mentor texts? Do they look at writing that is supposed to inspire them and shrink in horror knowing they cannot possibly recreate what they have read?
I know, I know…I’m not expecting them to recreate what they have read. I am hoping they read something that makes them want to write something. Clearly the blog post I just read on blogging has made me want to write something. (Even if it is writing about how it made me even more afraid of my own writing…)
But my students don’t understand that. They hear me say that I know they cannot write and that I want them to try so I can help them improve and grow, and then they look at that blank piece of paper and shrink in horror.
And I am shrinking in horror right now knowing that teachers who read this are not reading anything new. I haven’t written anything here that other writing teachers haven’t experienced. I am not even shedding light on the problem. Am I preaching to the choir?
But speaking of choirs, I did recently have a personal epiphany. Perhaps this will also be nothing new for you, dear reader (I’ve just always wanted to use that!), but it was earth shatteringly new for me.
On a whim, I joined a bell choir. Call it a bucket list decision. I have always loved the bell choir and when the opportunity to become a ringer (they call us ding-a-lings, and I am feeling at the moment that it fits) arose, I jumped right in.
The Beauty of The Bells
I don’t have any kind of musical background. I cannot read music. And I am pretty sure, after four rehearsals, that I have no rhythm. But what I lack in ability I try to make up for in determination, and so I agreed to go to a morning workshop in Madison hosted by a much larger and more accomplished bell choir, The Madison Area Concert Handbells.
I found myself standing with about 20 or 30 other ringers at tables full of beautiful brass bells. I stood at a table of bass bells, because that is what I have been assigned and I thought I could just stick to it. We all love the familiar, right? As we progressed through the first workshop, which was listed as a beginners group, I realized that I was really the only TRUE beginner in the group. I was the only one who could not read music. I looked around at the other ringers, the tables set up in a horseshoe around the director, and thought how confident they all looked and how they understood everything she was saying…and I felt SCARED. I felt that at any moment they would realize I was there and ask me to leave.
Then I realized that standing next to me (I had positioned myself at the very end of the group) was one of the MACH ringers. She very softly said, “You’re coming in too soon.” I took a breath (I was actually holding my breath) and told her that I had no idea what I was doing or how to read music. She looked surprised, but in a friendly sort of way and she showed me what I was doing wrong. She guided me in a way that did not call attention to the fact that I needed her help. She mimed the ringing for me and then stopped to let me ring on my own.
After telling me that I was ringing too early, and no longer miming the rings with me, I began to wonder every single time I picked up a bell if I was coming in too soon. And then I began to wonder if I was coming in too late because I was thinking about coming in too soon. And then I started to wonder if I was too loud or too soft or was I ringing too long or too short or…and I looked over at her after every ring dying to ask, “Was that right? Was that ok?” Every. Single. Ring.
And here comes my epiphany, that moment when I forgot about my ringing inabilities and started thinking about teaching writing. I thought about one of my students, Dario, who asks me to check every sentence he writes before he will write another. He drives me insane with this, “Miss? Will you read this? Is this right? Is this ok?” Every. Single. Sentence.
As I stood there, scared to death to mis-ring, I felt sheepishly bad about all the times I had sighed and told Dario to finish the writing before asking me if it was right. I thought about how I felt, facing this room of capable ringers and thought of him facing me, a capable writer. I thought of his pen frozen in his hand on the page as the bells in my hands were frozen on the table.
Where it left me…
Reader, perhaps you have already had an experience that suddenly put you right where your students are. For me, it was new. Music is so far out of my comfort zone, I was right there with Dario, scared to fail, looking for reassurance. Constant reassurance.
And honestly, I’m wanting reassurance right now that you understand what an epiphany this was for me. What I came to experience and recognize that I intellectually knew but had not emotionally felt…the FEAR. My students are afraid. And I am afraid. I am just as afraid to assess their work as they are to have me assess it. I am not at all certain that I should be judging it.
You see, when I was ringing, I was scared of being judged not worthy of the ringing. I was afraid they’d tell me to quit, walk away, go back to your day job. And I WANTED to ring. I WANTED to get better. Of course, as an adult with experience behind me, I know I have to swallow that fear and move forward. I know they aren’t going to oust me or tease me or any of the other imagined horrors I had racing through my brain. I kept going.
I know, I know…nothing new here. Except for me. And hopefully for my students. In recognizing, no…in experiencing their fear and accepting my own, perhaps I can find a way for all of us to overcome it. They can write and I can ring.
And looking back over this post, I once again am a little afraid to submit it. Is it too long? Is it not interesting? Is the ending ok? But you know what, reader, it seems only fair that if my students have to submit their work, I should have to submit mine.