Blogging is one suggestion I would give to myself as a new teacher. It has transformed my teaching career, and it can transform yours. (Flickr / Jacob Botter)
For years, I’ve been the only world languages teacher in my school district.
In some ways, it’s a blessing. For example, department meetings are very easy when there’s only one in attendance!
But mostly, it’s a pretty lonely road — especially as a new teacher. My first year of teaching was done on an emergency teaching permit before I had a teaching license.
My situation was unique. Most pre-service teachers learned from a veteran teacher in their student teaching experience. I already had a teaching job, so my student teaching experience was done in my own classroom in a school with no other world languages teachers.
I so wish I could have introduced “new teacher Matt” to blogging.
Blogging, along with connecting to other educators on Twitter, has transformed my life as a teacher.
It’s an exercise that I wish EVERY teacher would try — and would try to stick to regularly. It can cultivate great ideas, provide a sense of community and energize a teacher stuck in the doldrums of everyday teaching.
I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that ANY teacher would benefit from blogging, regardless of grade level, content area, experience or location.
Here are reasons that I started blogging and keep blogging —
Blogging catalogs your ideas. When I write about something I’m learning or doing in my class, I’m putting it in my digital filing cabinet. To find anything I’ve written about Skyping or using Google Apps or teaching like a PIRATE, I just do a simple search on my site to find it.
Blogging lets you share those ideas easily. People ask questions on Twitter, in my school or just in conversation about teaching. If I’ve written about the topic, I can simply copy a link to the article and send it via e-mail, a tweet or a text message. It’s easier than writing it from scratch or digging it out of notes.
Blogging shows how you’ve changed as an educator. In almost two years of blogging, I’ve already undergone a teaching metamorphosis. I’m using technology in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. I have new classroom ideas, techniques and philosophies. Looking back to my first blog posts, I shake my head and think, “What was I thinking back then?” Then I remember, “I wasn’t the teacher then that I am now. I’ve grown a lot.”
Blogging tells your story. There’s a great contemporary Christian song by artist Matthew West. It asks, “If not us, then who?”, referring each Christian’s individual job to spread the gospel. I like to use that same concept — if not us, then who? — with blogging. There’s so much negativity in society and in the media about the teaching profession. Those close to education know the top-notch learning that happens every day. We can — and should! — share that story with our own communities and the world. Because if not us, then who?
Blogging encourages others. I found Vicki Davis’s blog, “The Cool Cat Teacher,” several years ago. It was one of the first teacher blogs I read. She made me realize that my doubts and feelings were normal. She gave me encouragement and equipped me with techniques and tools to improve my class. She and other teachers who blogged really lifted me up in a tough part of my career, and I owe them a lot. Chances are you’ve been encouraged by someone who’s shared their experiences or ideas. Come full circle. Put yourself out there and give that encouragement to others. If no one published their ideas, there would be nothing to be found online. Contribute!
Good thoughts Matt. I recently heard Kevin Honeycutt talk in Indiana. He spoke about how we need to promote what we are doing in the classroom. Get the information out there so others can get ideas and we can connect as educators. A blog is a great place to do that. All my k-4 teachers are using Blogger for their teacher website. They love it!
While blogging is a good way to share ideas and get feedback, it does require time, which is in short supply for new teachers.
As a first year teacher (maternity leave placement) I journal every day about how things went that day, what I want to revisit, what I want to change etc. I end each entry with a list of 3 things that went well and 3 things to improve upon. This takes me about an hour usually. Then I have to prep for the next day, make sure I understand what I’m teaching, grade work, check emails, and more. This is all before I go home.
The journal I use is similar to a blog, but it is not published for the world to see. I am conservative when it comes to publishing things related to my students or classroom because it could come back to bite me. I would not feel comfortable blogging what I put in my journal for that reason.
How do you think new teachers should use blogging without revealing too much, but still getting relevant advice?
Katherine — Thanks so much for your honest comment! It sounds like you’re already a very reflective teacher, and I believe that will serve you very well. I have a couple of thoughts:
I am very conservative about publishing about my students. I usually do when it’s something positive, and anything I’m struggling with, I’ll keep names out of it. (I wrote two posts using one student, “Jeremy,” as an example: https://ditchthattextbook.com/staging/2013/03/11/how-can-we-reach-the-jeremys-a-follow-up/)
I’m not sure what could come back to bite you, though … and if you think a particular topic or occurrence will bite you, then don’t write about it or maybe write about it in generalities. A blog doesn’t have to be a written record of what happened in class every day. It can be what you want it to be. For example, sometimes I write about what I do in my class. Other times, I write about tech-related things I’m interested in, educational philosophies I’ve heard about, etc. and my reactions to them. It’s a place online where I can reflect and gather my ideas.
Time is in short supply for new teachers, but it sounds like you’re doing a good job at carving out time to review what you’re doing. If you journal every day for an hour, that sounds like five hours of reflection per week. Maybe, instead of journaling on one day (a Friday or a Tuesday, for instance), you could write a blog post about what’s on your mind. Share it with others — at your school, through a hashtag on Twitter (see bit.ly/officialchatlist … one for your state or content area could be useful), etc. Then, your ideas will have a life outside the cover of your journal AND others will be able to interact with you and share ideas. Everyone benefits!
I hope that helps (and wasn’t too long!). Feel free to reply if you have other thoughts or doubts. And thanks for being honest!
Great stuff! I am attending a conference right now in Illinois (Illinois Educational Technology Conference #ietc2014) and went to a session yesterday on Blogfolios by Robert Schuetz @robert_schuetz. We started a collaborative blog this year and I have visitors reading posts, but not engaging and providing feedback/comments. I think we figured it out and you helped indirectly. If you blog and only provide the answers and your thoughts, but don’t question your readers, they won’t feel empowered to share their views. Keep up the great work! http://www.EdTechTchr.com
Exactly! I try my best to make my posts a conversation instead of a source of information (although they should be that, too!). I really like the idea of “the smartest person in the room is the room” … my readers regularly amaze me with great ideas and points I never thought of. Great point!
I agree with your smartest person in the room quote! I also forgot to mention that I like your rationale behind D. Blogging Tells Your Story and the choice to be a positive voice. (I also like that song!)
Thanks for your inspiring posts! I am a first-year teacher and many days I feel like the days are such a blur. I think maybe blogging would be helpful for me to sort things out sometimes. Do you have any suggestions as to a good site to use for a first-time blogger?
I started my first blog on WordPress.com. It’s free and easy to set up (kind of like a new email address or social media profile). I still use WordPress (although it’s the self-hosted variety … a distinction you might find out about later on in your blogging journey). My suggestion is to write your first post as soon as possible … maybe about what you want to accomplish in the blog or what you’re passionate about. Then, consider setting a writing schedule and sticking to it (maybe once a week to start???).
And once that first post is up, please please PLEASE post a link to it right here in the comments so we can write glowing comments on it!
Well, I know it’s been quite a while since you encouraged us to start a blog, but I finally did it! I just wrote my first post.
Here it is: https://inspirationfresca.wordpress.com/
Way to go, Courtney! This is a great introductory post. I can totally sympathize with your feelings. I had them as a beginning teacher AND I still have them today with more than a decade of experience! Good start. I can’t wait to read the next post!
When I was “retired”, I came up with this idea:
to tell the story of our teaching and learning so now that I have an opportunity to implement this branding strategy:
I am grateful to have a Head of School who is willing to try so stay tuned!
Hi! I love your blog! I’ve transitioned into a new role this year, Instructional Facilitator and I’m compelled to blog BUT I’m so afraid! What will I write about, who wants to hear what I have to say, how will I stay consistent? I’m going to check out your Edutopia article to gain additional ideas and possible resources. Please share your thoughts. Thank you for being an inspiration!
Ok Matt… I am trying this: http://talesofthetechcoach.blogspot.com/
Emily — This is a great start! Way to go!
Everyone else — Go check out Emily’s blog and give her some support! 🙂
Thank you Matt for all your support!
Thanks for the encouragement, I just started blogging this year. It has been rewarding so far. I really agree with the idea of telling your story to negate/ avoid the negativity that can surround our profession. I have been trying to archive some of the work we do in class Thanks for your great work
My name is Paul Walker, Computer Applications teacher at Triton Jr-Sr High School in Bourbon, IN. We are located between Plymouth and Warsaw just off of Highway 30 about an hour east of Valparaiso. I have tremendously enjoyed your book and the posts on your blog. Triton is its first year on the balanced calendar so we are beginning our fifth week of class. I had intended to start blogging at the beginning of our school year, but the inaugural edition of my class blog has just been posted today. I have read a number of sources concerning using a class blog and the role of Twitter in the classroom and attempting to use both this year. The site for my blog is thspwalk.blogspot.com.
Thanks for all the great ideas and encouragement from your text and blog posts.
Triton Jr-Sr HS
I empathize with your new teacher experience. I think no mater where new teachers are, if they do not have another new teacher in their building they can connect with or a good mentor, it is a challenge. Just think how blogging could allow them to network with other new teachers in similar situations or could be used to set up as part of a quality mentoring program with a mentor that is outside their school building.
I just started blogging in January. Thanks for the encouragement.
I ran across this article on Twitter the other day and agree with the reasons we should be blogging. I’ve always been hit or miss with blogging, but I’ve found since I’ve been sharing ideas with colleagues in my building and at conferences, my desire to write and share online has increased. I’ve been blogging over at shomakersclass.weebly.com for the last several weeks and am enjoying the connections I’m making.
Thanks for doing what you do,
I can sympathize with that! When I got on Twitter and started doing more conferences, I also wanted to share what I was learning and what I was doing in the classroom. It’s amazing how that growth mindset can propel us forward as professionals! Thanks for sharing your blog with us, Matt.
So, I did it. I realized I attempted to blog over 7 years ago. Lol It was scary hitting publish, but your post encouraged me.
Wow, the first and last time I blogged I was teaching 4 year olds! Between then and now, I have had adventures teaching kindergarden, 4-6 th grade …
This is the link to a blog I just started. Thanks for the encouragement!
I took the leap and went live today while studying your book along with encouragement from Dyane Smokorowski. @mrs_mmoke The new blog and my first post is at: http://www.saturdaymorningatthemusicstore.com/
I just started blogging about books I read that pertain to education. I found that I have more to say than can fit in a Tweet, and I just needed a place to work out my thoughts. It is incredibly fun-but I have only written two posts, so I am still a newb.
First blog posting going live 3/6/17 at 10 am. Thanks for the push Matt. When you tweeted this old blog post I finally got motivated to do it. http://www.contemporaryclassroom.wordpress.com