Anyone can write, but few people write exceptionally well.
Myself included. I’ve been blogging for nearly eight years now, but I’ve always defined myself as a teacher who writes rather than a writer who teaches. I make no apologies for this, and in fact, if I had waited until I felt confident in my writing skills to share my stuff with others, I never would have grown as a writer. I wouldn’t have learned half as much as I have or met some of the incredible people I know either. That’s the thing about writing: it enriches my entire life.
I’ve spent the last week catching up on posts crafted by teachers who spent the year testing new ideas and strategies in their classrooms. Some of them experienced great success. Others experienced great failure. All of them learned important things along the way, and they were inspired to share these discoveries with readers who might benefit from them. They make no apologies for failing to include photos in their posts, they know nothing of search engine optimization, and they don’t plan to install Google Analytics anytime soon.
They’re simply blogging to connect and share and learn from one another. Their paragraphs go long, they have more questions than conclusions, and no one is on Twitter.
And that’s okay.
When teachers begin to write, their fingers often freeze over their keyboards.
They craft a few lines, delete them, and stare into the screen helplessly. They tell me this. They tell me that they can’t write and that they are wary to do so publicly because they know that they may be criticized for the mistakes they will make.
Writing is courageous work.
I believe that teachers from all walks of life should be encouraged to write abundantly and share early and often. One idea shared inspires many, many others, and the world is desperate for them. Personally, I could care less if you used passive voice or failed to employ perfect parallel structure. What are you playing with professionally? What’s motivating you? What are you learning along the way? How might that help me or someone else I care about?
This is what matters most, particularly when it comes to reflective blogging. Posts are often crafted fast and loose, between a thousand other events in any given day. They aren’t written to impress anyone. They’re written to engage readers in what’s often a very imperfect and messy process. Posts like these are a gift–errors and all. They demonstrate a willingness to share our mistakes and our works in progress. Maybe we all need to model our muddling and be willing to be real. If we do this, others might be more likely to follow in our footsteps.
Beginning with vision and purpose matters too.
In my experience, helping teachers define a clear vision and a very specific purpose for blogging rather than imposing expert advice and a set of best practices seems to make all of the difference. When I support teachers who are new to blogging, I never begin by sharing expert tips or speaking to how bloggers grow page views. Instead, I begin by sharing a variety of very different blogs, written by educators who clearly have very different purposes. Then, I invite teachers to define their own vision and purpose for blogging. Their answers influence everything from template choice to post creation to how and where they begin sharing their blog with others. Some of their purposes fly in the face of anything professional bloggers would endorse, too.
- Some teachers want to write for reflective purposes, so their posts tend to go long.
- Others want to blog to communicate the events of the day to parents.
- Many teachers share resources online. Their goal is to get the products they create out into a wider world.
- Others blog for advocacy purposes.
- I know teachers who blog with their students about the books they’re reading.
- Some blog with the intention to use their posts as mentor texts for writers.
Purposes vary, and so do definitions of success.
What’s more, as bloggers gain experience, their vision and purposes change. This is something I model often, using my own posts and blogs as examples. If you dig around here, you’ll notice that some of my early posts are very different than what you see now.
I love being able to study my own growth and transformation as a writer this way. What are your thoughts here? Is it okay to ignore the experts and the rules in order to get more teachers blogging? Although this has been my approach, I’m unsure if this is the best way. For instance, I wonder about readership. Following the rules usually results in higher traffic, and this is very motivating. If teachers aren’t motivated to write, they’re likely to quit. What do you think?
What’s the best way to get teachers blogging?