Why I Write for Professional Publication
Knowledge Quest Web, May/June 2001
Well of course I write for the big bucks, huge prestige, and pure adulation of millions of fans. While the limos, champagne on first class flights and attractive strangers constantly opening their bank accounts and boudoirs to me gets tiresome, having my own line of fashion apparel saves me from having to shop for clothes. Oh wait, that’s some other kind of writer. I write for professional publications. Sorry, lost in fantasy for a moment…
Let’s see, why do I write? There are a number of pretty good reasons why I write (and why you, dear reader, should consider doing so as well):
I have to write anyway. Much of what I write about comes from dealing with challenges on my day job as media and technology director for Mankato Public Schools. As a part of making an effective media program work, tools need to be developed, policies written, programs planned, and philosophies clarified. Things seem to run better in my district when they are down in black and white. Problems, new projects and good questions from students, staff and the public all require that I write about them, even if it is only to help me clarify my own thinking. And I figure that if I am struggling with an issue, others may be as well.
Writing keeps me current. There is no incentive like knowing others will be reading what one has written to force one to stay current on technologies and trends in education. I like reading futurists and it’s a real challenge to try to figure out the implications of their predictions for my school and profession. While never much for doing “research” in high school or college, using information to find solutions to problems is actually interesting. I still detest having to write footnotes, however.
Writing helps me keep my day job (I think). I mess up on my job a lot. Anyone who really tries out new methods of teaching and working should be expected to fail on a regular basis. (If you don’t, you are probably not reaching far enough.) So every now and then it is nice to be able to slip an article or column to the superintendent, board member, or even my own staff. I hope their thinking goes, “Gee, others think this guy has some credibility. Maybe he isn’t as crazy as I think he is.”
Publishing returns the favor to others from whom I have borrowed. I have learned so much from the people I consider to be the real experts in media and technology. A partial list includes Loertscher, Eisenberg, Simpson, Berger, Valenza, Barron, Haycock, Donham, Jukes, McKenzie, and a whole raft more. And it isn’t just the big dogs who help me: I steal my best ideas from practicing media specialists and technologists who speak at conferences, write for journals, and contribute to LM_Net . I am a great believer in the “stone soup” mentality. When everyone contributes to the pot, the soup is richer for it.
Knowing I’ve helped someone. It’s the rare conference or week of emails when I don’t get a thank-you from a media specialist or technologist who tells me they have been able to some how use what I’ve written. Whether it is a tool that they’ve found effective, the description of a plan that they’ve gotten to work in their district, or a column that persuaded a local decision-maker, wonderful people come forward to say thank you. It makes all the sunny mornings I spend writing instead of playing worth it. Thanks back to you.
I’m on a mission from God. Heavens knows that nobody goes into education (or writes for it) to make money. As educators, our satisfaction comes from actually believing we are doing something that will make the world a more humane place in which to live. The ultimate goal of professional writing is to improve professional practice that in turn improves the lives of kids. Minnesota writer, Fredrick Manfred in his poem “What about you, boy?” says it far better than I ever could:
…Open up and let go.
Even if it’s only blowing. But blast.
And I say this loving my God.
Because we are all he has at last.
So what about it, boy?
Is your work going well?
Are you still lighting lamps
Against darkness and hell?
Finally, I just love making lists.
I not only encourage, but expect all members of our profession to write for publication. While it may never improve your bank account, you’ll get jewels in your crown for lighting those lamps against darkness and hell. And please, toss in a little humor and poetry when you do.
PS. For suggestions on places to get started publishing see http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/12/16/where-to-start-as-a-writer-for-professional-publications.html