Hard to believe that I began this blog in 2009. I have enjoyed writing about school reform and classroom practice because both have consequences both anticipated and unanticipated for children, teachers, parents, citizens, and society. I also look forward to writing posts during my tenth year because I know that there are a lot of fiercely smart practitioners, policymakers, parents, academics and graduate students out there who read them. They think about what I write, agree or disagree with the points I make, and on occasion, take the time to comment. For those readers, I thank you.
As with all things, there is a history to writing this blog. My daughter Janice who is a writer in marketing communication urged me to begin a blog in August 2009. She guided me through the fits-and-starts of working on this platform. A few weeks ago, she interviewed me about writing on this twice-weekly blog for the past nine years. Here are her questions and my answers.
Tell me a bit about your blog.
It’s called Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice. I aim for 800 words for each post, two times a week. I have at least one point I want to make. I use lots of examples to back up the point, and then I take a position on it.
What specific topics do you cover?
Because it’s education and includes both policy and practice, it gives me a lot of latitude to write about what I want — from state and federal policy to school reform to classroom lessons. Education is so connected to other institutions in our society so it’s easy to also analyze business, the practice of medicine and teaching, and other similar topics. I try to make connections between things, it makes writing more challenging and interesting.
How do you find blog post ideas? Do you have an editorial calendar?
I am always reading a lot of books, newspapers, magazines, other peoples’ blogs, and a lot about corporate, medical, and governmental practices. Ideas just kind of get married to one another, and that to me is exciting. I don’t have an editorial calendar but I do have some regular sections on the blog. There is a monthly feature on education cartoons with different topics, for instance, how teachers and kids use digital tools, and an intermittent post I call “Whatever happened to..” about past innovations and popular school reforms over the ages, like teaching machines and phonics. I also do an anniversary blog post every year thanking readers and featuring annual blog stats.
Do you ever run out of topics?
Ideas don’t always come to me. Sometimes I’ll ask others to do a guest post. Other times I’ll recycle posts and update them with a new opening and closing. Then there was that “Poems about Education”… not such a big hit. Readership dropped. Not doing that again.
I still marvel at the fact that you write twice a week. How the heck do you do it?
That’s a complicated answer: One, I like to write. Sometimes you hear blogging is passé but I find it very invigorating intellectually. I like to take ideas that I have and convert them into prose that gives me a chance to express myself. Secondly, the blog is a vehicle to teach others. I’m highly motivated to share because I think my ideas matter and give me a form of teaching. Teaching has been a major part of my life.
What advice would you give to would-be bloggers, or those in need of a writing adrenaline shot?
Ask: Who is your audience? Once you have an audience, read other blogs you admire and try to figure out an angle that gets at what you want to communicate. It’s important to always have a hook. Also, have the self-confidence that what you’re saying matters to the audience. Last but not least, make a commitment to try to do it for at least a year. Writing, revising, and editing is hard work but very satisfying when you push that button “publish” and hear from readers.