Day 12 – Slice of Life Challenge – A Good idea (?) and the need for feedback

red notebook.JPGSix years ago, I sat down with a little red notebook, with the words create all over the cover, and started writing question. It was a time in my life when things were changing around me and I was trying to find my way. Work was not doing it for me. I was not in the classroom and the administration of large education/arts grants was full of pressure and frustration. I am more of a “hands” on practical gal so sitting at a deck pushing papers around to raise money was hard. I was missing children, teachers and the action side of teaching. We need those desk people for sure. It was just clear that I was not one of them.

This is where the red notebook came in. I spent the first pages just writing notes, phrases, questions all around the idea of blogging. Blogging was new to me – I had started my Words from JL blog a few weeks before joining the Two Writing teachers March Challenge as a way to get back into writing, and a way to think about education. This time I was thinking about students, nature and how to bring those together. I was thinking about things I like to do and how they might be used together to help students, teachers and myself.

I like to write, to walk around in nature and play with photography. I had and was connected to students who did not know much about the outdoors, and teachers who didn’t have time to plan lessons or make authentic connections to the natural world.

It seemed a perfect idea – use the local Eloise Butler Wildflower garden to write DSC01276.jpgabout nature, give quick simple lessons for elementary teachers to use in their classrooms before heading outside for a walk or an activity in the schoolyard. Teachers could use the blog with their students to show pictures or introduce them to the garden if they were local and planning a field trip.

I included writing and drawing ideas, I tried to keep the writing simple and easy for elementary students to be able to use or home school students to use as well. I had a great time making it. Lots of wonderful walks in the wood, lots of photos and learning on my half. The teacher/ student side just never developed.

Over time I have let the site sit. I have shown up once in awhile to add a post, shift the focus to adults more that kids (I learned quickly kids are not going to a site that is quiet with nice pictures and writing. They want color, flash and action. I can’t blame them). I show up to check if anyone is looking at it. Lots of people have showed up at the site – it has a catchy title but I was never sure it was ever used by anyone. No comments, no one answered questions I might have asked – it was quiet but people continue to view it.

And so I now sit with the thought – was this a good idea?

  • can you really connect people to nature through blogging?
  • is it important to have an audience or do I just write it because I like the idea? (I discovered motivation is hard when you are not sure someone else cares)
  • it can’t be a how to garden site – there are already lots of those and they are done very well
  • what makes this different and worth doing?
  • is it about writing a nature journal?
  • is it about just sharing nature?
  • what ignites creative work?  is this creative for me? does it help others become creative?
  • is it time to retire/archive this site and just continue to write only on my Words from JL blog?
  • what do you do with an old blog you like but feel it is not developing?
  • what happens to ideas that you think are good but are not sure? (The importance of feedback)

As I write these questions it occurs to me that maybe the issue is I didn’t get feedback – nothing to push against to change and develop the idea. I am working in a vacuum and so have a hard time finding direction.

All the writing this morning does lead me to understanding the value of the Two Writing Teachers site and the March Challenge. Writing and working in a vacuum is hard and can leave you without direction. Feedback is important. Feedback for our own writing and feedback to our students. A kind word, and a question helps focus the writer and gives them something to think about as they move forward with their writing.

I am still not clear about what will happen with my Garden Learning site. I know that reviewing my little red notebook and listing questions this morning has me interested again in sorting out what to do with that site. Maybe this growing season I will try one more time and see where it takes me and if I can help it grow into something worth keeping.

Thanks for being a listening ear as I process my thoughts on my nature blog!

Have you ever retired a blog? Found you were working on an idea that seems good but just isn’t going anywhere? What have your learned from it?  I would love to know how others have handled this process.


Garden Learning: Learning in a Wild Garden



About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in blogging, nature, Reflection, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Day 12 – Slice of Life Challenge – A Good idea (?) and the need for feedback

  1. arjeha says:

    I have never attempted anything like this. Feedback is important. It keeps us going, wanting to change and improve. Deciding to close something down is a difficult decision to make. Maybe there is someone out there reading your blog, finding ideas, and using them but not leaving comments. The fat that people view it means they find merit in the site.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. I always love reflections about writing! There are many blogs that just get abandoned at some point but stay online for people to find and view, so that’s an option if you decide not to add to the content. I do think the other blog is a great idea and potentially very useful, but whether it’s a great idea for you as a writer is another question. I think for me it’s all a question of energy. I’m sure I would get more writing finished and published if it weren’t all about energy, but I only want to work on writing that gives me energy, that feels a bit urgent as I’m thinking about it and doing it. Do you enjoy working on that blog when you’re there?

  3. vendija723 says:

    I do have a blog I haven’t written on in a couple of years. It too gets zero comments but a steady trickle of page views. I don’t know what the answer is.

  4. pokeygirl5 says:

    I agree that feedback is important. I know that I write for myself BUT it does feel great when I get feedback from other readers- it sort of gives me energy to keep going. Is the blog giving you energy or drawing your energy away from other things you enjoy?

  5. ureadiread says:

    You pose some good questions. I wonder if making a connection with a teacher, a class, or another gardener before you kick off this season’s blog posts will mean you’re starting with a meaningful connection, a known audience for whom to write? I can say that having comments on my blog these past two weeks has been a big motivator in keeping up with the Slice of Life Challenge.

  6. Pat Holloway says:

    After reading this post, I want to read your blog. I’ve been working at this task of connecting teachers and students with nature for several years. I’ve taught educator workshops designed to get teachers comfortable and knowledgeable in nature, but haven’t tried a blog. I include journaling, science investigations and making observations in or around the schoolyard. I think your idea has merit. Many recent studies show the value of spending time outside. But I’ve found it’s necessary to reach those who have an interest, to develop a following. Could you partner with other community members (garden club, agriculture focused business, state park employees, city parks & rec dept employees…) who share your passion?

    • Joanne Toft says:

      Thanks for your thought. I think you guys are right. This would work better if linked to a specific classroom or garden club. Will need to think about this more.

  7. Veronica says:

    I’m going to respond to the following comments – I hope I can be helpful!

    “And so I now sit with the thought – was this a good idea?

    – can you really connect people to nature through blogging?
    – is it important to have an audience or do I just write it because I like the idea? (I discovered motivation is hard when you are not sure someone else cares)

    it can’t be a how to garden site – there are already lots of those and they are done very well”

    I visited your site — it’s beautifully and carefully done. 🙂

    But when I first read your question, “can you really connect people to nature through blogging?” I thought about my experiences with our science teacher down at my children’s elementary school. The gentleman has a running weekly blog of doing naturey things with the kids because that’s what the school has invested in. Actually — it’s his grantwriting that has facilitated the outdoors to be a living laboratory of sorts. He has pictures of the kids and describes everything he does. I think its part of the grant — he has to demonstrate how the funds re being used, I’m sure.

    See, but his has 2 things, I think: 1.) people (kids) involved, so they’re invested in taking those pictures, etc. and 2.) a purpose directly connected to the people

    When I read your blog, it’s your beautiful, beautiful reflection on the study of nature. People may click because they like nature, but may be wanted a SHARED perspective.

    So .. possibilities:

    1. set up an outdoor adventure with the kids of those teachers who don’t have time to do an outdoor lesson. Lead them. Take pics, get quotes and blog. When you come back a second time, teach the kids to comment on your blog!

    2. look for environmental-education funds in your area. Write a grant with a teacher on campus so you can do more of what you love.

    .. and. dunno, I’m out of ideas!

    Beautiful blog, beautiful sentiments. Don’t give up! 🙂

  8. jarhartz says:

    Working in a vacuum is hard. I have no answers to your questions just a few realizations. I am a lot like Elisabeth. I write on what I’m on about now. That way the process supports me regardless of the feedback. I guess it’s my own feedback. Thank you for this reflection. It clarified a tiny piece of why I write.

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