As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I always start off my day by reading Doug Peterson‘s blog posts. He publishes daily at 5:01 am, which happens to coincide perfectly with my wake-up routine. This morning, Doug did some reflecting on blogging, and as I shared in a short online discussion with Doug, Vicky (an educator in Switzerland), and Jen (a fellow Ontario educator), he inspired me to do the same.
1. Having a plan is essential for making your blog a success. I think that my plan is an ever-changing one. When I started blogging back in 2009, my blog was largely about technology use in the classroom. Then I slowly started to change to classroom practices. After that, my blogging evolved to reflections on big ideas in education. Now my blog is more of a personal/professional reflection tool. The main topics of my posts have varied over the years from more technology-focused ones to self-regulation, supporting students with various needs, classroom environment, school experiences, and inquiry and play-based learning. While I may not stick with a consistent overall “blog plan,” I do plan for each of my posts. Post topics usually come to me based on experiences that happen during the day. I let the ideas peculate throughout the day, and I often discuss these topics with friends and trusted colleagues. I may jot down some key ideas — always on a device, as I never have a pen 🙂 — and then I start to write. Most of the time, I publish soon after I write the post. Sometimes I let the post sit in Draft for the night and publish the next day, and occasionally, I delete the post after writing it. Sometimes just getting the ideas down is enough for me. But all of this is part of my plan … when I have an idea, I think, I write, and then I decide what comes next.
2. Your blog is more likely to succeed if it is social. I definitely promote my blog on social media. I tweet out the links to posts, and more recently, I’ve started promoting my posts on Instagram. Different people seem to take interest in the posts on the different platforms, and I do like the discussions that develop on both. I also email out links to my posts to the parents in my class as well as to my principal. I have for years. I love getting different perspectives on the ideas shared, and I feel very fortunate that both parents and administrators have commented and/or had discussions with me based on these blog posts. It’s these conversations that push my thinking forward.
3. Content is king! Just like Doug, I think that my focus was too narrow in the beginning. I’ve been blogging at least once a week for the past seven years. This will be my 831st blog post, and that’s a lot of writing. While I have some favourite topics — from parking to self-regulation — I am not committed to a single topic. This blog is all about reflection, and sometimes that means opening up a few cans of worms. I’m okay with that! A wider scope means always having something to write about.
4. You may have to learn some basic Search Engine Optimization. I probably could learn more in this regard. I keep thinking about this post of Doug’s on Analysing Titles. Since reading it and analysing some of my own blog post titles, I’ve started to write longer titles and include more questions. I don’t know if this matters to the search engines. Either way though, just like Doug, I’m grateful for the many people who regularly share my blog posts through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (even though I’m not on Facebook). I know that more people read my posts because of them. I’m also thankful for Doug and his This Week In Ontario Edublogs posts and his Ontario Edubloggers Livebinder. I know that he’s helped bring many people to my blog, and for that, I’m grateful.
5. Relationships matter. I definitely appreciate comments on posts and/or the discussions that happen online based on what I’ve written. It’s often these conversations that help me think differently, solve problems, or view future experiences in a new way. I’m always amazed by the number of people I’ve connected with thanks to my blog, and it’s because of these strong online connections that often initial face-to-face interactions seem like meeting up with an old friend. Blogging connects people.
6. Commit to post regularly. This was a commitment that I made when I started blogging back in December 2009. At the time, I said that I was going to post once-a-week. I’m still committed to posting at least that often, but I usually post three or four times a week, and sometimes I blog every day. I’ll admit that I like to be “inspired to blog,” so I struggle with doing what Doug does and posting at 5:01 each day, but if (or when) I want to blog, I will often stay up to do so. And in seven years, I’ve stayed committed to my blogging goal. Blogging is now often the way that I self-regulate, and I can’t imagine not blogging.
7. It doesn’t have to be in print. For me, blogging is about writing ideas down. I talk through my fingers. While I’ll admit that my mouth is usually moving as I write my blog posts — I think that I speak every word that I type — it’s after I write everything down that I can really go back and edit it. Yes, I like to catch my spelling mistakes, typos, and grammatical errors, but more than that, I want to ensure that my message is conveyed in the way that I want it to be. How might others interpret what I wrote? How could I modify things to have them interpret my words differently? I often spend as long editing a post as I spend writing it, and I don’t think that I would edit as carefully with a vlog. While I admire people like Susan Hopkins that communicate so passionately through video blogs, I think that I’ll likely forever stick with the written version.
8. Take risks. In many ways, I think that I take risks more easily through blogging. I’m willing to share what scares me and I’m willing to do something about it. Maybe it’s because I can take the risk while still sitting behind a computer screen. I will admit that I went through a period of time in the past couple of years when I struggled more with this “risk taking.” This was when I found out just how many of my colleagues read my blogs. I know that my blog posts are public, I know that many people in the Board read them, and I know that I always consider my audience when blogging. But somehow I convinced myself that I didn’t spend so much face-to-face time with my blog readers, and when I knew that I did, I started to second guess myself. Now my reader had a face, and each risk that I wanted to take, became a lot scarier. I still blogged during this time, but I noticed something interesting: I received a lot less feedback on what I wrote. Why? Because I think that I was less passionate, less real, and less willing to take risks. I think that’s when my “old blogger” returned, and I’m happy to say that it’s stayed.
9. Reciprocate. I definitely believe in the value of this. I read a lot of blogs and try to comment on many as well. I always visit the blogs of the people who read my posts, and I support them as they support me. All bloggers appreciate support!
10. Look for a niche not already done. I’m not so sure that I’ve found this niche, and maybe that’s because I don’t just stick to a single topic. Probably the only topic that I write about that other bloggers don’t is “parking,” but I’m not so sure that counts as a niche. 🙂 Maybe my niche though is giving that “teacher/classroom perspective” on some topics that are dealt with more theoretically (e.g., self-regulation) or maybe I just haven’t found my niche yet.
What about you? How would you respond to these 10 criteria? I would love to hear your reflections. Thanks again to Doug for inspiring me to write my own.