I never meant to be a blogger. The vision for Schoolwell was for it to be a directory of school wellbeing. Once it began however, it was obvious that to get traffic you have to get new content. All the time. So, I began blogging myself and as well as begging and borrowing blog posts from all over the place.
A few things hit me early on.
Most teacher bloggers are incredibly generous and kind. No one minds if you ask them for a favour. Most people will say yes. Even those who say no (and why shouldn’t they?) are still supportive. The Edu blogspace is mostly a great place to be.
Blogging has opened some doors that I didn’t even know were closed to me before. I’ve had some amazing opportunities in real life, and some truly unexpected invitations. Living in the South West, I haven’t been able to take them all up, but I’ve had a jolly good go.
Blogging on a topic really clarifies your own thinking on it. This makes it worthwhile even if your audience is small (or even if it’s just you).
Blogging is now an established route to publication, either online, in magazines or even an honest to goodness book.
Some potential pitfalls
You need to have an eye on what you are saying and how it might be viewed by your employer. I know of bloggers who have been warned off, for one reason or another, by their schools. Naturally safeguarding needs to be at the top of your priority list, especially if you are blogging your classroom practice. Make sure you are not on the wrong side of any social media or internet usage policies.
Putting any kind of writing into a public space is daunting, and the truth is some people won’t agree with you. Most of the time people are polite and considerate, so this is not a problem. It’d be a dull old world if we all agreed on everything. However, some people will take to social media in particular and exhibit behaviour that falls far short of the professional standards. You need to be prepared for this, especially if your area of interest is one which attracts controversy. (It can be difficult to predict what can cause controversy on Social Media. Anyone remember #Windowgate?)
If you are thinking that blogging might be a route to a second income, think again. I add some affiliate links to my posts, mainly for books that are featured in them, in the hopes of offsetting my hosting costs. Such is my business acumen that in the two years Schoolwell has been live I have received one payment of £26.69. That said, the blog has served as a shop window and helped me to get freelance work, and you certainly may find that your blog puts you in touch with more opportunities than you might expect compared to traditional job seeking.
If you’ve decided to go ahead with blogging, what do you need to do?
1 – Get yourself an online space. This needn’t be costly, you can get a free WordPress account to get going. (Other free blogging platforms are available). If you are concerned about blogging under your real name, there is an anonymous blogging platform Tales from the Chalkface, which you can submit blogs to.
2-Get your social media game on. You can skip this if you are only interested in blogging for your own development, or perhaps for your team, but if you are interested in building a larger audience, it’s the way forward. I mostly use Twitter, but I do have a presence on other platforms.
- Build your network by following and retweeting people, and getting involved in discussions.
- Keep your distance from the trolls. Don’t get drawn into twitter storms.
- Twitter chats are a great way to find like-minded people and keep up with recent developments. We keep a list here.
- When you’ve published a blog, if you are looking for a wider readership, you need to promote it. Tag people in a tweet about it. If this goes against your inherent modesty, don’t worry, because this is what social media is for. I imagine plenty of people just ignore my tweets, but not one (at the time of writing) has objected to them.
3-Blog when you’ve got something to say. Blog posts come in all shapes and sizes. Some take weeks to craft and next to no one reads them. Others are dashed off in half an hour and get a good readership. Many are started and abandoned. All of this is normal.
4 – Be generous. Guest blog for other people, and return the favour on your own blog. Likewise, share interesting blogs, resources and news on social media. View it as a collaboration, not a competition.
5 – Be bold. I’ve been truly astounded by the generosity of others. All of the interviews on Schoolwell, for example, have been the result of a simple request.
Some of my teacher blogger friends have shared their thoughts on this topic on Twitter – please have a read and give them a follow, they’re all aces.