Monday, August 27, 2018

On #WeirdEd 200

On April 15, 2014 the first #WeirdEd blog post went live. The first chat was the next day.

This Wednesday, August 29, 2018, we will have the 200th #WeirdEd chat. If you do the math that doesn't work out to 200 weeks, there have been gaps for holidays and breaks, but it's as close as matters. Every single week, with some exceptions, I've written something and then the best, brightest, and weirdest teachers on the Twitterz gather together to hash it out and mull it over. We've had a ton of guest bloggers and moderators, all adding to our collective awesome and growing our worlds.

Looking back on the first blog post, I see the mission statement I put forth.
We will be focusing on positive issues, taking action, and the kids. #WeirdEd will probably not be a place where we mull over data and gnash teeth about terrible, awful things that happen in our classrooms, our schools, our states. That doesn't mean we won't talk about problems, I will not shy away from problems, but I'm interested in getting as close to solutions as we can in 140 character bursts using the brains of the best, weirdest teachers on the twitters.
There will be silliness. And there will be silliness for silliness' sake. I like that. I like lightness and strangeness and not taking ourselves too seriously. That's the only way to last. If you don't come with a sense of humor you might not enjoy the chat. And that will be too bad for all of us.
I think we hewed pretty damn close to that over the last 200 chats. We have chatted about data, but about our relationships to it and how we can use it to our benefit, since it's there anyway. I've resisted gnashing of teeth in the chats, even during the weeks when certain twitter kerfluffles would have made that oh so easy. 

We have talked about terrible things that happen, I didn't even make it ten weeks before having to write about school shootings, and we've talked about terrible things that happened in the world, like when Jess Lifshitz gave words to our grief over the Orlando nightclub murders. Rusul Alrubail joined us to talk about pre-judgement, and the next week we had to talk about how some who came to that chat handled it. 

And there's been soon much silliness for silliness' sake that I can't even link to all of them. Hell, we had a chat about narwhals. I actually feel like I've gotten away from the foolishness in the second century of the chat, and I don't like that. Not that the chat hasn't been fun, but part of the idea of #WeirdEd is that it is thumbing its nose at the collective edchat community and the self-serious tone so many chats take. It was fun to take a nonsense topic and bang it into an educational shape for us to kick around for an hour. Part of the problem is that my writing has changed and, as I don't have a ton of time for writing, I want to spend the post I normally write each week hitting something close to home and important to me. I know the reader doesn't care how hard the writer works, the reader only cares if the final product is good. But I bust my ass to write something good every week. Which means less nonsense. I want that to change in the next hundred (more on that in a moment). Even if it means writing more than one post a week, because I have to write a post for the chat. I don't know what I want to talk about if I don't write it down.

I'm also unsatisfied with the current format of the chat. I've been trying to think of ways to mix it up and take fuller advantage of the format of twitter. Q1/A1 is great, especially when I am happy with the questions, because then it's less a quiz and more a wide ranging conversation that's occasionally aimed slightly. It helps me take responsibility for the chat. I can't hide behind the teachers participating and blame them for bad topic or poorly led conversations. I just don't yet know how to change it up. I don't know if there is a better way. Which makes me think there is. As always the thought is- how can I break this so it works

To be completely honest, as we approached 200 I questioned whether #WeirdEd needed to continue at all. So many other edchats seem to be going on momentum at this point. Topics are endlessly recycled, answers are rote and choral, what's the point? I should stress, there are still some exceptionally strong chats out there. #ClearTheAir and #EduColor leap to mind. Chats I want to steal from. Edchats aren't a competition, but seeing chats done that well does make me want to be better. But what if #WeirdEd had run its course? Bands end. Series end. Endings aren't bad.

Except...teaching is different, innit? Teaching changes every day. We will never run out of things to talk about because students are endlessly creative. Which makes me believe #WeirdEd should live on, but also loops back around to the change. How do I keep up and keep it fresh? This is four years, folks. So what's going to happen immediately after 200 will be a break. Probably a month. Which works out, because school will have just started and you know I'll be exhausted and it'll be nice to take that one thing off the plate. I'll still be writing, I need to write like I need to breath or listen to music painfully loud, but we won't chat. Unless something amazing happens like Trump gets arrested. You bet we'll have a chat if that happens.

To those of you who come every week- Thank you. I write the blog and the questions, but you write the chat. Without your thoughtful answers we wouldn't be the best chat on the twitterz. I never have to remind you all that it's a chat, not a quiz, and I never have to tell you to talk to each other and dig deep. You come to play every week and you get what I'm going for. There are weeks when I'm tired and don't want to moderate, and by the end I'm ready to kick ass and take names once again. 

Thanks for playing.

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird TeacherTHE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and the just released A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

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