Last summer, I focused on writing 750 words every single day, after stumbling on a website called 750words.com.
If my Twitter activity (see @joetabhistory) doesn't already give you a clue, when I am interested in something, I can really become obsessed. And quite quickly, I became obsessed with keeping alive my daily streak of writing 750 words.
For the most part, I established this habit and continued with it until about February of 2013, ending with a 200+ day streak. Juggling a brand new course, Economics, and writing each night started to consume too much time.
While the bulk of my writing was never shared with anyone, I did consciously work on honing my writing and critical thinking skills by submitting as many as ten letters to the editor to my local newspaper, where I discussed various topics in the news. At least five were published.
This experience was powerful. Writing regularly was stimulating, addictive, and, at times, difficult. Thinking deeply about a topic without putting pen to paper or turning on a computer to type is rare for me. It always has been. But this experience pushed me to a new level. Daily writing reconnected me with the process of writing and editing (which has helped me work on writing with my students!) and reminded me how important daily reflection is.
This summer, rather than repeating what I did last summer, my goal has been different. This year I am more focused. I am committed to growing as a history teacher. What has led me to this point? Many things, but for now I will mention two books.
When it comes to books, and I sense this is true for most people, simply reading a book rarely leads to change. Nevertheless, there are some books that really speak to you. Books like these are special. They are invitations to grow. While the author is inviting you to grow, it's still just an invitation, not growth in and of itself. In the past six months I have read two books that have really impacted me: Brush Lesh's "Why won't you just tell us the answer" and Sam Wineburg's "Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts". Reading, and re-reading, these books plus writing about the ideas in them is part of my process of growing as a history teacher.
Another part of the process I have found has been Twitter. Over the past few months, I have discovered how powerful Twitter can be as way to connect with other teachers. I have started participating in various chats, including #sschat, #edchat, and #wrldchat. Though on Twitter you are limited to 140 characters, as opposed to 750 words, that really is not a limit!
Genuine discussions and connections occur here. The dynamics of Twitter are definitely different than a traditional meeting or workshop. I think this is actually one of the reasons, at least in my experience, Twitter interactions seem to surpass traditional professional development.
I will definitely continue writing, and I look forward to one more outlet to grow and learn.