A longtime friend, colleague, and collaborator of mine who works in new teacher education is starting a blog, and asked me for some help on getting started. Here’s my email response…
There’s some degree of “stage fright” that comes with blogging, so I’ve had to tell myself a few things to make it seem less scary.
The first post is the hardest because there’s so much pressure to “define your style” or “set a tone” or whatever. Don’t do it. Just write. Trust yourself that you have good things inside and you have the words to convey them. Take refuge in knowing that most people don’t know you’re out there and don’t expect anything yet. 🙂
I think it’s best to write letters to your former self, first-year teacher you, telling her the things you’ve learned about teaching that can help her. Think of lessons you’ve learned the hard way and speak directly to the person who’s facing that problem for the first time, frantically googling for an answer.
You can even remember back through the questions your students always ask you. Take each one and write a few paragraphs that answer that question to the best of your ability, giving them all the links and supporting materials they’ll need to get started right. I try to do this when people email me questions, and many of my blog posts begin life as emails where I effectively answered one question very well. (BTW you’re looking at one!)
Sometimes I’ll write posts that are like the term papers I had to write in college. After getting out of school I missed all the reflection and synthesis I had to do writing research articles, so I just started doing that on the blog. You can choose a topic like “what’s up with student motivation?” and dig deep through the research to return some best practices for a young teacher to follow.
On the other end of the spectrum is the much-maligned “listicle“, an article that simply lists useful fact like the “Top 10 Best OER Lesson Plan Sites” or “Five Strategies for Reading Intervention”. These kinds of posts have gotten a bad name from linkbait sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, but those sites are popular because readers can’t resist a good list. Making lists helps writers laser focus on a topic so they can churn out more posts, and readers like them because (at best) they promise to be a short, punchy, simplified guide to a complex topic. These kinds of posts can help you focus on a problem to be solved and collect a few great resources to help your readers solve them.
A lot of what I do is recommend single tools that teachers might not know about, or even share unusual ways to (ab)use the tools we’re all familiar with. Think of the little tricks and tools you keep in your back pocket that have helped you through some tough situations and introduce them to your audience.
OK, hopefully that should get you going. And I think I’ve just written a new blog post! So thank you, and happy writing.
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