On Reflection: Ten Years of Slicing into Life

Ten years is a long time to be doing anything.

I spent ten years, almost exactly, working as a newspaper journalist, covering politics, meetings, crime and education. Ten years seemed like forever when I finally left to become certified as a teacher (and take on role of caregiver with our boys at home in my stay-at-home dad chapter of life).

I am fifteen years into teaching now. That’s ten plus five. I remember the ten year mark as being important because it meant I had lasted and lasted longer than my previous profession as journalist. It was around then that I realized that, yes, I was a teacher.

My wife and I have been married nearly 2o years. Ten plus ten, with three kids. Those years have flown by. We still can’t believe it.

And it has been ten years in Slice of Life, too, as every March rolls around with the call from Stacey (and once, it was Ruth, too) and the team of too-many-to-count accomplices over at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a lot to ask of us, to write every single day about small moments that have larger implications. Yet so many did it — this March, the writers numbered in the hundreds at the start (more than 350 writers on the very first day) and still more than 240 at the end with the last posting on March 31.

Think on that. Hundreds of teachers who now see themselves as writers in digital spaces. And then there were the teachers who had their students writing Slices of Life, too. I hope they found an audience among other slicing students.

The mixed blessings to that kind of growth of anything online is obvious, too. There were so many people in the mix that I found commenting and connecting to be more like leaves blowing in the storm, at times. There was a less a sense of community. A bit disorienting. This is no fault of the organizers at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a natural part of online connections and a reminder of why many MOOCS (Massive Open Online Classes) falter over the long haul. The larger the crowd, the more the noise, and the less the signal. And when that happens, participants can feel as if their voice is lost in the wind. They drop out.

This chart shows some documentation of MOOCS, but it also translates well into how many online spaces flow:

The folks at Two Writing Teachers try to counter this by incorporating the “comment on other blogs” into their messaging on a regular basis. I continue to find that commenting as the first step into online conversation to be inadequate. I can’t easily trace my steps back to blogs where I have been, and then I feel guilty about not responding to every blogger who comments at my blog. And I wonder: how can I make a comment worth something and not just a few words on the bottom of a post? That would be a full-time job.

Meanwhile, you know, Life goes on. (And hopefully, it also provides more moments to write about later)

I did try to find new blogs to comment on this year, but I often found myself visiting the “early morning posting” crew, of which I am a member, and following bloggers I have come to know, either from the past or from the early days of this year.

I often felt a little lazy about doing that — of not reaching out more to. new folks as much as I could have. And I wondered if there were bloggers posting in the middle of the day who never got any comments on their posts because so many of us were either early morning-ers or late nighters. Those are the kinds of things that worry me, sometimes, and I am not even an organizer of Slice of Life. Sheesh. I guess when I participate in something, I feel a sense of responsibility.

March 2017 is now over, but the Slice of Life continues through the year on Tuesdays. The once-a-week gives a little breathing room, and you can write or not, read or not, comment or not. With no pressure, and only an invite to participate, the choice is yours.

I hope I see you there.

Peace (slicing it and sharing it),

  1. Ten years.. so many thoughts I can relate to, especially with the commenting. I hope someday I can say, I’ve done this challenge for 10 years or more.

  2. Thanks for making these observations 10 years in, Kevin. Looking at that graph of online participation makes me think: The Power Law strikes again!

  3. So incredible that you have blogged all ten years with the March challenge! This was my sixth year. I enjoyed your reflection!!

  4. I’m glad you shared these thoughts. I, too, struggled with a lack of community feel, but reminded myself of the joy of so many blogging! I also share your struggle and guilt with commenting. Thank you for reflecting and sharing it here. Your thoughts helped me a lot! Grateful that you continue to slice ten years later!

  5. Your posts always have me thinking (and often nodding in agreement too). Ten years- you are one of the original crew- congratulations! Ten years is a long time. I also struggled with commenting- I was again part of the welcome wagon, so that meant I had a group of people I “had to” comment on every day, which left me less time to search out new voices or read the posts of “old friends”. I tried to do more commenting when I could and also feel guilty for not responding to comments. I had my class slicing too and I was TERRIBLE at commenting there, even though I read their posts every day. I look forward to reading more (randomly) on Tuesdays.

  6. Your concern about how challenging the commenting part of slicing becomes when the number of slicers increases is familiar to all of us. I can imagine that the first few years the community felt stonger and closer. I guess the approach to comment to some slicers regularly and then reaching out to others occasinally is the only way to keep the community feeling and being welcoming to new people at the same time.

    • There is no easy solution, and I would not want to put it on the crew to create tribes. It’s just part of how online communities form, or don’t.

  7. It’s amazing how one 10 year slice of life leads to another and how quickly life flies past. I turned 70 last December, so have had seven 10-year journeys. In 2005-06 I was introduced to concept mapping, and cMap tools, and a few years later created this map to show my journey from 1975 to now. http://tinyurl.com/TMI-timeline-1965-90 I suspect if you created a similar map it would be interesting to view.

    Your concern for connecting with a growing group of people is one that I feel many face, but may not articulate as well as you do. I posted a comment on your blog a day or two ago, talking about building growing networks of people who share ideas and work to solve complex problems. For that to happen we will need to figure ways to help so many people stay involved and connected to each other, with less of the drop out rates that are present in MOOCs.

    I posted an article on my blog in 2015 (http://tutormentor.blogspot.com/2015/08/sharing-ideas-whos-listening.html) that sort of addresses this, then added an update about an hour ago, after reading an article about educators using digital platforms, which I found on the dmlcentral site.

    In my article I talk about building habits of returning over and over, for decades or a lifetime, to favorite hubs, where you meet people and find ideas that are important to you. I think I responded to another one of your articles showing student work, and suggested that alumni could be visiting your school web sites many years into the future if habits were developed that encouraged this, and if content were constantly updated, offering value to returning visitors.

    I think these habits might be more easily formed while kids are coming through school, than once they are in adult lives. However, it will take dedicated people to constantly update the web sites to make them worth visiting. Sounds like you and your network keep doing this with the writing groups you’re part of.

    Thanks again for how you share your thinking and experiences. I hope I have another 10 years to see how this evolves.

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