It can be a little hard for me to identify when I began working in the field of education. I grew up in a home with a preschool in our basement. We had honest to goodness learning centers in our basement all through my elementary years. My first job was coaching preschool gymnastics and the only interview question was, "Are you willing to crawl around on the floor and bark like a dog?"
From preschool coaching, I moved up the ages/levels. I started working for the YMCA, first in gymnastics and then in other programming, eventually landing in school age child care. Then I added preschool assistant at a daycare center, all before I graduated from high school.
Ironically, initially I resisted education as a career path, despite working my way through college with more coaching and more daycare jobs. It wasn't until my junior year that I fully embraced my calling to the field of education.
Before I even graduated college, I had my first directorate in a Birth-School Age program and went on to other teaching and administrative positions for the next five years. Throughout those early years after college (when I had a decent handful of experience and the education "chops" to back them up), I often noticed that parents would come to me with questions that seemed way outside my expertise. Sure I knew the "technically correct" answer to questions about infant health and sleep, or the textbook list of "early warning signs" for various developmental delays, but I lacked any practical experience in this area to frame my responses around.
There are of course great teachers who have never had children of their own, but I noticed particularly younger teachers like myself struggling to find that place of empathy and support that parents so desperately needed. Yet despite this fact, they continued to seek my input as an expert. I had the position, the degree...so I must have the knowledge about this aspect of young children too (even if it was outside the context of education).
I remember how much I felt my teaching abilities grew in those first few years as a parent. I began to understand that anxious feeling of parents and the urgent need to an "expert" to assure me I was doing the right things. I began to realize that parents who had come to me were often not in need of a solution, but of a good listener. (Which in hindsight I probably did ok with because I'm not one to say much if I don't know what to say!) They needed an encouraging word that they would get through this phase, not (in most cases) another solution to try. I realized that some of our textbook answers ranged from really unuseful to outright harmful.
The desire to seek out experts, I think, is a little bit human nature.
We look to align ourselves with people who can help us on our journey by being a role model in certain areas and helping us grow. We look to friends with older children to encourage us that ours too shall grow and mature. We look for experienced homeschoolers who can share their curriculum wisdom. And in turn, as our children grow we share our experiences with others. Over time, our roles change and grow as we do. We discover our successes and our own areas of expertise.
In many ways the blogosphere has made so many more *friends* available to share their wisdom with us. We have this gift of those with different life experiences to help us on our parenting journey.
But in this gift, comes a danger. The danger of making experts of each other and of ourselves in ways that we have not walked. We look to large bloggers who are an expert in one area and form them into experts in other areas with advertising money, inappropriately directed questions, and the promises of buzzwords and trafficking. Instead of encouraging them to be the experts that are, we force other areas of expertise on them. And often they accept. Instead of learning about natural body care or a new educational philosophy they jump on the bandwagon and write a post about it based on limited or no experience or education in the area.
And people listen. And laud their expertise in the comment boxes.
And people listen. And laud their expertise in the comment boxes.
We have, as a whole, forgotten about each other, the small-time bloggers. We have forgotten about the small time bloggers who have areas of expertise that have often helped build the big bloggers into what they are by participating and sharing their content when it was new. We look to big bloggers to answer our questions, assuming that their high circulation indicates a level of expertise that they may or may not have gained. (Of course there are also big time bloggers who know their strengths and stick to what they know quite well- often the "expert phenomenon" comes as much from reader responses and questions as it does from the bloggers themselves.)
I have realized that all throughout cyber space are these hidden gems of bloggers (of all size audiences really) who know who and what they are as bloggers and do one or two things REALLY well. And yes, it limits their audience, but it grows their authenticity in an unmeasurable and invaluable way. I have set a goal for myself this year to read and promote more of these blogs as I find them. I realized I have one or two smaller blogs that I tend to look for on specific topics just like I look to certain friends for certain situations, knowing their individual strengths and my own weaknesses.
We all know people who think they are an expert in everything. No matter what our expertise is, they somehow know better. When we are being honest, those people frustrate us in real life and we probably don't spend as much time with them as our friends who are authentic regarding their strengths and weaknesses. Lets hold bloggers to the same standard. High circulation does not make an infallible expert on any and all topics.
It may be easy for big bloggers to forget about the little guys, to forget our role in cyber space. We don't, however, have to forget each other. My challenge to all my small blog friends is to remember the little guy with me. Read and share each other's content. Leave comments to the small blogger who might need that tangible encouragement to keep going when they don't have advertising dollars and sponsorships to motivate them during tough times.
Leave a comment with a link to your favorite small blog or niche blogger and share why you think this person exemplifies a blogger who knows who they are and how they in-turn encourage you! I promise to visit every blog posted and leave a comment letting them know they have loyal readers.
Blogger, be what you are.... and help others do the same.
I'm an education blogger who loves her family. I love to garden, but I can't grow a houseplant to save my soul and I love all things natural and organic but sometimes I buy pop tarts just because they are on sale at Costco. I am frugal and "prepared", but I actually loathe canning and consider it more of a necessary evil to enjoy my garden for more than a few months than anything else. I'm Catholic but even I don't know what that means so I don't blog about it very often, I read other people's blogs for that. We have five kids and one on the way, but I don't think of us as a large family so take anything I say on that topic with a grain of salt. I wear skirts and sweatpants in equal proportions. I'm a crazy kicking fool and sometimes to get through a conversation with someone I don't like I think about how I could kick that person in the head if I wanted (but of course I wouldn't...most likely). I'm blunt and sarcastic at the same time and sometimes people who don't know me aren't sure what to do with me....actually I'm pretty sure my friends and family aren't either.
Who are you?