Reflect. Share. Grow.
Blogging has become one of my passions over the last couple of years, and although I am certainly far from being an expert (who’s an expert anyway?), I definitely have some experience from both writing posts and reading a bunch of them. This post will be my 118th published blog post, but I’ve read far more than I’ve written, and seeing as some people have reached out recently asking for advice, I thought I would share some here.
First though, I want to explain why I write. I created my blog in September 2016 when I signed up for the first round of #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course) run by George Couros. Here, George nudged us to start a blog so that we’d have a space to share our learning and reflections allowing us all learn and grow together. I was skeptical and, as I wrote in my very first blog post, I didn’t know if I’d be keeping it up.
“I am very excited to start actually writing down my reflections regarding all of this ‘innovation in education’ talk, instead of just spending countless hours at night trying to sleep while my brain processes all of these cool new things that I am learning and implementing in my class! I’m not sure what this blog will end up looking like, nor do I know how often I’ll be posting… But I am here now, and that’s already a great thing!”
Apart from the fact that it is incredible to look back on previous posts to see where I was in my learning journey at any point in time, I love that I said “But I am here now, and that’s already a great thing!” Even 2 and a half years later, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and wherever your “here” may be (blog posts, podcasts, Instagram, Vlogs, YouTube, etc.) it is a great thing! Since that first post, my blog has given me the perfect space to process, reflect more deeply, and formulate my thoughts. So, with that being said, if your reflection outlet (or one of them) is blogging, or you’d like to give it a go, consider these tips that I learned along the way.
Take the pressure off
You may be writing publicly (meaning anyone can access it), which makes you reflect more deeply about what you are sharing, but remember that this is not about the readers, it is about you! I write for me, and when I remember this, it takes a lot of pressure off. I don’t have to worry about what might be appealing to certain readers, or what they might be looking for, what they want or need. Instead, I can simply focus on my reflection, what I want to remember and share, what is important to me, and that is enough. If something I share happens to resonate with someone else, or helps another in some way, that is a bonus, but not the goal.
I personally love reading posts that I can relate to, and my friend and colleague Thaddeus Bourassa hit the nail on the head when he said “It’s through sharing vulnerabilities that I feel strong.” When there is a real element being shared though stories or experiences, whether it be struggles, moments of pure joy, or hilarious things that students said, being vulnerable and brave in sharing helps me to see myself in your situation, and that is how I learn best. It is also how I reflect best, and I find it super validating when others can relate to my realities – I’m not alone! Our job is hard, and reading posts that only showcase the picture perfect classroom, makes me feel like I am failing. When I read the ups AND downs, the successes and failures, it reminds me that I am human, and that we all have good days and bad days. Then, when I see a post that showcases amazing learning and high successes, it pushes me to want to be better. If your blog is only showing the wins, we are missing out on learning from and with you. Share, share all of it, and I promise you, it’ll be okay!
Ain’t no college essay
See what I did there? No, this isn’t a college essay, so don’t stress about following a certain format, or having an introduction, 3 paragraphs, and a conclusion. Blogs are an informal way to share, so just do you. Find inspiration everywhere, and just write. Draw connections from anywhere, tie them into education (or don’t!), and just write! Maybe avoid using profanities, but go nuts with the format, the slang, and the double negatives! I’ve read some seriously awesome poems, watched some genius carpool karaoke, read some “shorter than 300 words” posts, and so many other different forms of writing… and my best friend Nycol Didcote and I may or may not have done a parody about our awesome PLN! Whatever you can dream up, just give it a go!
Visuals are where it’s at
Add visuals to your posts… pictures, and videos, and GIFs, oh my! Seriously though, even just finding a powerful quote that goes with your message gets my attention. And as a writer, adding pictures and embedding videos is a great way for me to keep memories of certain moments in class or at PD over the years!
It’s getting serious, now
If you’ve gotten a taste of blogging and think this is something that you will keep up, or you just want to hit the ground running when you start, I highly recommend creating categories and using tags in your blog posts. This is something I did after I got serious about blogging, thanks to George! What do categories and tags do, you might be wondering? Well, it helps you keep your posts organized. If I, for instance, am writing a new post of social emotional learning, and would like to reference not just one specific previous blog post, but instead ALL of my blog posts that touch on social emotional learning, I simply google “Annick Rauch tag social emotional learning” and BAM, there they are, all my posts that touch on social emotional learning all in one link! Or, if I want to refer back to a post I wrote but can’t remember the title of the blog, I can google my name along with a tag I would’ve used to easily narrow my search. A quick tip that I also learned from George: add your name as a tag to every single one of your blog posts. This will help your blog to come up when people (read employers, parents, etc.), google your name… positive digital footprint, anyone?
You can also create your blog on many platforms, but I’m not super knowledgeable when it comes to that! I’ve always used WordPress and have loved it from the beginning. You can create a blog for free there and it will simply have the .wordpress extension after your blog name. If you’re looking to look a bit more professional, and don’t mind spending a few bucks, go ahead and purchase your domain name (use your name, trust me on this one). One last piece of advice if you’re getting serious… choose who will be hosting your website wisely. I started off with one company, and although they were decent, I felt like every time I ran into problems, I didn’t have much support. This became super frustrating when I crashed my site by accidentally hitting the wrong button. Earlier this school year, I switched over to Reclaim Hosting (@ReclaimHosting on twitter) and seriously CANNOT say enough good things about them! When I crashed my site last time, I contacted them thanks to Tamara Letter‘s recommendation, and without any hesitation, Tim Owens fixed my site, free of charge, even though they weren’t even hosting! Finally, real people on the other side of the computer ready to help me without any stress! From that moment on, I was sold, and jumped ship.
Don’t over think it, hit publish
Finally, don’t over think it, just hit publish! You could spend hours editing, reading over and over, questioning your message… don’t! Perfection paralyzes! The beauty of blog posts is that you can edit them after they’ve been published. Trust me, my friends are great at finding my mistakes for me, and it’s an easy fix when they spot a typo that I missed! And those posts that I was most vulnerable with and was most hesitate to publish? They’re some of my best ones! Also, all those other tips you just read above, don’t worry about doing them all, all the time, or at all. Reflect, write, share, grow, repeat. Just do it.
I will leave you with this quote from Dave Bugress, in hopes that you will be inspired to share… because I want to learn from you!
What did I miss? What tips would you add? I would love to hear them! Please share them below in the comments!