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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

The Power of Guest Blogs

By Peter DeWitt — April 05, 2016 4 min read
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It’s no secret that the political primaries have been a hot mess. Every day they seem to be the only thing the media reports on, and none of it looks very positive. What has happened to understanding positions and listening to each other? We are constantly exposed to name calling, catch phrases that don’t mean much, few examples of how to resolve our issues, threats of wall building, finger pointing, and constant fighting.

...And that’s just Donald Trump.

We, both politicians and us, seem to do a lot of talking at each other, and not much listening. One sentence after another is about getting your ideas across, without listening to the other person. Perhaps it’s because of the influence of social media where we hope for more “likes” on our photos and uploads to Instagram or Facebook, but our communication seems to be very one-sided these days.

Where’s the dialogue? Where’s the collaboration?

In Better Conversations: Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to be More Credible, Caring, and Connected (Corwin Press), Jim Knight writes about top-down communication, which is very often what happens in political conversations and debates. Knight, who I work with as an instructional coaching trainer, writes,

In traditional top-down conversations, the goal is usually to make sure messages are clearly communicated and received-people try to clearly explain their ideas and they try to persuade others to buy-in to what they explain. This is the opposite of dialogue."

Better conversations through dialogue and not monologue (Hattie), is what creates more authentic collaboration among stakeholders, which will bring about a better learning community for everyone. I’m not just referring to students, but to adults as well.

In Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (Corwin Press) I write that collaboration,

Brings together diverse thinkers who engage in authentic conversation, can help shift our thinking which inspires us to grow as learners. It's why Twitter is so popular with educators because they find professional and personal learning networks which help them think outside the box."

This isn’t only important in our school communities, but through our collaborative conversations we have with our professional/personal networks (PLN) as well. One of the ways that we can bring about more dialogue, and learn from one another, is through the use of guest blogs.

3 Reasons to Have Guest Bloggers
If you consistently read this blog (thank you!), you have probably noticed an increase in the number of guest bloggers. I have accepted more guest blogs because I learn from each person who writes one, even if they are people who disagree with me. And yes, I purposely invite people who disagree with me to write a guest blog because I want to learn from them. Some take me up on it and others ignore my requests.

There are three reasons why I believe guest blogs are vitally important to our ongoing dialogue in education. Those three reasons are:

Added dialogue - Whether the guest blogger agrees with one of my past blogs or not, their input adds to the dialogue around the topic. Added dialogue helps support an issue. For example, Shirley Clarke recently wrote an outstanding guest blog on the topic of ability grouping, which did very well, and commenters started showing their support through posting comments and providing links to blogs they wrote on the topic. It’s important to have educators and researchers add to the dialogue around the topic so we can learn from one another.

Different perspective - Guest bloggers can bring a fresh or different perspective to a topic. Using the example of ability grouping, I find that there are often people who love the idea of ability grouping and others who do not. It’s important to see the multiple sides of an issue in order for us to make more effective opinions. Just read the comments on Clarke’s guest blog to see the other side of the debate.

Better insight - There are numerous times when I am not the expert on a topic. I hardly believe I’m an expert on any topic, so a guest blogger who does have an expertise that I don’t offers an important perspective that we all can learn from. Going back to Clarke’s ability grouping blog, one of the issues that came up was that we often look at it through the lens of struggling learners and leave out gifted and talented. I am not an expert on gifted and talented, so someone who is an expert is presently writing a guest blog on the topic. We can all learn from that.

In the End
One of the downsides where guest blogs are concerned is that readers will not read it because it is not from me. Apparently, they like the familiarity of my voice through writing. However, I believe that they are making a mistake when they move on without diving deeper into the blog.

There are so many educators out there who have important things to say, and personally, I love when they seek me out to write a guest blog. Their important perspective adds to the dialogue around education, and many times creates an opportunity to collaborate on something in the future.

We have so many one-sided conversations happening in politics and education, so we should model what true dialogue and collaboration looks like. The next time you notice that a blog is written by a guest author, I hope you give it a chance and read it, because it might offer you a perspective or level of expertise that you didn’t have before.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.