Reflections on thoughtful blogging & selling out

I’ve been wanting to check in with you all about some things for awhile now, and haven’t been able to find the right words to do it. But this is the time of year when we’re all thinking about what we’ve accomplished in the last twelve months and what we hope to accomplish next, so I suppose the words I have right now will have to be good enough.

Here’s the thing. When you write stuff on the internet, you open yourself up for criticism. That’s just part of the deal, and I realize that. I feel extremely blessed in that the nasty anonymous comments and haters in general have been extremely few and far between. But there are always some nagging fears that hang on my shoulders when I post. It only takes one poorly thought-out statement for a post to go viral and have countless numbers of strangers descend upon the comments to tell you how stupid you are and how you should never blog again. That doesn’t happen often with education blogs, but it’s not unheard of, and I’ve learned enough from other’s experiences that mistakes made on the web are not easily lived down. And when your success in the field–as well as income–are based in large part on your online reputation, you don’t want to take it lightly.

So, some real honesty. Here are the things I’m afraid of being perceived as, and the questions I constantly ask myself to make sure I’m not:

Arrogant

I value humility so much in people, both as part of my faith and as a general characteristic. I think humility is especially important in blogging, as it’s very easy to seem like a know-it-all and that’s a huge turn off to readers. I worry that I might sometimes come across as condescending or that my way is the “right” way. When I go out of my way to avoid that, I feel like I am apologizing for myself and my views. It’s a big catch-22 for me. Does my tone communicate that I am a learner just like everyone else?

Unfocused

My greatest passion is classroom management, and that’s the focus of my site. But my blog has always been way more than that: it’s a place where I can write about current issues in education, review educational books that have impacted me, share technology tips and tricks (since that’s what I do as an instructional technology coach), and so on. Sometimes I wonder if I am all over the place: deep posts, how-to posts, give-aways, tech stuff… is this confusing to people? Or does it keep the content fresh and interesting? 

Wordy

A lot of people hate long blog posts. Probably not any readers of this blog, because I don’t know how to write short ones. 😉 It’s just not my style. I wonder sometimes if people wish I would just shut up and get to the point. But if I say less, I worry that I’ll be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Would my posts be better if they were shorter?

Out of touch

I’m not in the classroom anymore. I can’t write things like this or this or this, (or THIS, sigh) and that makes me sad. One of the worst things I can imagine having said about me is “Angela’s some ‘big’ consultant in New York now. She has no idea what it’s like to be a teacher.”  Are my thoughts still relevant even though I am no longer in the teaching trenches?

Outdated

I left the classroom in 2009, and honestly, I cannot believe how much has changed in the education world since then. I never had an interactive whiteboard. The Common Core State Standards weren’t yet on any teacher’s lips. And I’ve grown so much professionally: there are so many things I wish I could do-over as a teacher, and things I know now that I wish I knew then.  I’m not sure it’s really possible for anyone to stay current with everything that’s happening in education. But do I know enough to allow myself to offer advice to others?

A sellout to corporations

I started accepting sponsored posts in 2012, usually once every 4-6 weeks. It’s a tough balance, because a) I want to share useful products and services with you all, b) it’s great to get paid for some of the time I spend working on the site and blog, and c) I feel bad turning down companies that are genuinely wonderful. I get approached all. the. time. about publicizing people’s stuff, and I turn down around 75% of the companies who want to be mentioned on the site. If I didn’t, you’d see products mentioned in every post, and that’s annoying. Are there too many sponsored posts? Are the sponsored posts I’m allowing actually useful and relevant?

A shameless self-promoter

I enjoy writing books. I don’t enjoy promoting them. It make me feel like the sleazy used car salesman stereotype. In real life conversations, I am hopelessly embarrassed when it comes to talking about what I do and my successes. I’m now at the point where I’m comfortable mentioning my stuff more frequently online, but I have to do it often. The web has changed–I used to assume that site visitors would check out other pages here. Now the majority of people who view my articles are strangers from Google or Pinterest who know nothing about me and might not ever look around my site. If I don’t mention or link to a related resource in the exact post I’m mentioned it, they’ll never see it.

Now that I’ve started selling teaching materials on Teachers Pay Teachers, I worry about my level of self-promotion even more. I know that some people blog almost exclusively about their TPT stuff and their readers are fine with it, but that’s not what this blog was created to be and that’s not the direction I want to go in. And so I wonder: Am I striking the right balance between letting you all know about the stuff I create, or am I too self-promotional?

That I’m ridiculous for thinking you care about any of this

Maybe you find the entire concept of this post utterly self-indulgent. Maybe you’re busy teaching and having a life and you really don’t think about me or my blog at all. I tend to over-analyze things, and this could be one of those times. But these are thoughts I have been grappling with for a very, very long time, and in the interest of transparency, I feel like I should put them out there. Some of you have been following me for nearly ten years (since the first mspowell.com days in 2003), and you’ve seen the changes. Ultimately, I wonder: has the evolution of this site been for the better?

I hope this post doesn’t sound like I feel sorry for myself or that blogging is a burden for me, nor am I fishing for compliments. I absolutely love what I do and I feel good about what I write. Really good, most of the time. These are mostly questions I have to answer for myself, and I do so on a continual basis. I just wanted to put these thoughts out there, so if you see a post sometimes that comes across as any of the characteristics above, I hope you will know that I wondered and worried and considered it deeply before posting. In the end, I use my best judgment, and it’s not always right.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. You can tell me what you’d like to see more of, or less of. What’s working, what’s not, or what you’d like to see me add to the site in 2013. Thanks for reading.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica Meacham January 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Loved this post, Angela. I’ve been with you since your Ms. Powell’s days and have never thought you’ve changed your style. You are a well-balanced, sharing, caring individual. Thank you for all you do!

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2 Kate Peila January 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I agree. I have read all of your stuff since I started in the profession as a pre-service teacher. I graduated from college in 2008. I feel like your posts have always been genuine and helpful. Your resources are fantastic, so I don’t mind seeing them promoted. You strike a great balance of presenting yourself as someone that truly is an expert, without sounding arrogant.

Keep it up!

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3 Persida & Bill Himmele January 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Angela, we’ve recommended your posts to so many people. Your posts are honest, but never arrogant. You believe in the power that one teacher can make, and you can sense that from your writings. Even this post is encouraging– just knowing that we’re not the only ones who second guess. Honestly, don’t change a thing;) –P & B

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4 Karen January 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Hi Angela,
I’m a teacher in Perth Australia who has been following your website and blog for a long time. You strike a wonderful balance with your posts. Let’s face it; teaching is multi-faceted, so naturally your posts will cover a range of topics. You write with clarity and honesty and inspire others. You blog because you are passionate about learning and generous enough to share it with others. Thank you so much!

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5 Linda January 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I just got connected to your stuff last fall, so I’m relatively new around here. I didn’t (don’t really) know you, but my first thought was “I bet this lady is a believer!” just by the way you wrote/spoke. I just joined your Bible study group. I’ve pointed out your blog to a few colleagues, and they’ve found it helpful, too.

No, I don’t perceive you coming across as arrogant.

No, I don’t think you’re unfocused. Teaching is a profession where you have a gazillion pans in the fire, and I need the variety I’ve been reading.

No, the length of the posts don’t bother me. A writer myself, I know how tough it can be to minimize words, especially when you want to be clear about the foundation of the thought/idea. If I’m running short of time, I skim read a bit here and there and scroll a bit faster. No harm done.

It doesn’t appear to me that you’re out of touch. On the other hand, the more time that passes, the more you might feel like putting your hand in a bit here and there – to keep things fresh. (I find that administrators can have the same trouble if they’re not involved in a classroom. How quickly we can forget the day-to-day struggles.) I’m in Ontario, so sometimes the references to specific curriculum or latest buzz words don’t quite match, but that’s not a problem. For example, your post about the latest math and please, let’s be age appropriate for what we’re asking kids to do, that resonates here, too – loudly!

I feel outdated!! Especially as fast as technology is moving. Your pointing-in-the-right-direction I find helpful.

Thank you for not always connecting with corporations and promotions of their products. You choose a few you like and let me know, that’s fine. I don’t have to buy in to it. I appreciate that you’re up front about the fact someone has paid you to be positive about their product.

I’m fine with the balance in promotion you’re using.

Often teaching is like an island. It’s good to have conversations with a variety of people in the same situation, and get fresh takes on things we’re dealing with. I say, keep it coming!

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6 Mary Ashley January 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I love your posts and have shared your website, blog, and books with other teachers and student teachers. I also love going to professional development workshops and having other teachers bring up your blog and books- then we can discuss how much we value your insights and tips! Your topics and tips have been so helpful to me as a special ed. teacher. You are still relevant to the classroom and I thank you for all that you do!

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7 Kristi January 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Angela – I think you are doing a great job. I’ve taught for 19 years at the same grade level. In the last few years I have noticed a few things. People are not as polite as they used to be because we are in the electronic age. Text it, type it, send it … don’t think about it. AND you can just put any old name on your posts, so people can be downright nasty … anonymously! As I tell my students … rock on with your bad self …. you’re doing a great job.

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8 Melinda January 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I think your posts are WONDERFUL don’t change anything. I have only been following you for a few months, and happened upon your site because I have a challenging class this year. I really needed some help with my class management, and you have so many ideas. I have been teaching for 24 years and find every year is different and I , myself, need and want to learn to help these kids do the best they can and to achieve anything. So I say just do what you have been and don’t listen to the few, but the many of us who want you great blogs!!!!!

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9 Cori January 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I agree with the other replies. Your posts are not arrogant. You are brave for saying what you say and have freedom to do so! You are not all over the place because teaching covers many many aspects- from classroom management, classroom organization, nurturing students, parent interaction, test taking strategies and actual curricula. The one area I would keep an eye on is the ever changing educational landscape; however, I’ve heard if you stay in education long enough it all comes around! I wouldn’t worry about the “sell out” part- advertising helps you get your message out to a broader audience. As for the self-promotion and caring- I think teachers need to have a forum where they can share ideas and discuss the positives and negatives of education! Keep it up! :-)

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10 Heidi Butkus January 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I only just found your blog and started reading it maybe a couple of weeks ago, so I can’t comment on how it “used to be!” But I really liked what you shared today, and I have many of those same concerns about my own blog! Actually, I think that many of us do. Thank you for opening up and sharing with us! I think that starting the dialog was actually a very brave thing to do, so I applaud you for that!
Heidi Butkus
http://heidisongs.blogspot.com

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11 Marge January 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Relatively new to your blog but have enjoyed it so far. You have been clear about your teaching experience. I figure it this way…anyone who questions how they are coming across are fine. When you stop thinking about what you are doing/posting THAT’S when you might need to worry. Does that make any sense? I feel when I think I’ve got teaching and the whole education thing under control and don’t have anything else to learn THEN it’s time to retire!! Questioning yourself keeps you honest with yourself and others.

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12 Christina Soriano January 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm

I love this post and how unafraid you are to be yourself. It’s important to have all types of opinions out there on what or how teaching should be. What I value about your website & blog is the fact that you DO have classroom experience. I often wonder how people judge and comment on teaching and education yet have never walked a day in a teacher’s life.

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13 D. Young January 7, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I have read your work since Ms. Powell’s website in 2003, when I began teaching. You make excellent use of what technology is available and adapt with the changing times. Yet I still feel the same connection with you…like you’re a close teacher friend down the hall giving me awesome ideas and advice. Keep it up!!

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14 Patryce Harvey January 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

Wow! I appreciate your honesty in this post. So much of what you said is relevant to how I feel when I update my own blog, and is the reason I sometimes go so long without posting anything at all. I was in the classroom for 13 years in what many would probably describe as the “front line” – inner city, low poverty, or alternative school settings where you have to pull tricks out of the hat on a daily basis just to survive. I’m now a Technology and Data Coach, and sometimes feel I’m perceived as an Ivory Tower type who is dolling out useless, irrelevant info to the masses. But as a fellow person of faith, we can’t discount the value of wisdom being passed on to those following behind us in order to make their journey more comfortable and productive. Hang in there! Your latest posts arriving in my email are like little gifts that remind me as I’m going on my 16th year that I am still an educator regardless of my current role or title, and that I need to get off my duff and post!

Happy Teaching!

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15 Steph January 8, 2013 at 10:04 am

Thank you for your openess & honesty. It is refreshing and nice to know that other people have millions of thoughts rumbling through their brains trying to find the balance of offending & helping. Thank you! I don’t find you irrelevant and I appreciate all that you post. Keep up the great work!

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16 Kim Scanlon January 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I too love your FB page and your blog. I just signed up to do the Awakening group and my books came in yesterday- so very excited! Keep doing what you’re doing.

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17 Melissa Lawrence January 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Angela,
I have been following you since your Ms. Powell days and I absolutely appreciate your wisdom and humility. Encouragement is something that will NEVER get outdated and I appreciate you for that. Your posts are definitely still relevant and your classroom management ideas wonderful!!
Thank you for all that you do :) And like you have always told us…reflection is a good thing!

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18 SLegg January 9, 2013 at 10:52 pm

I have only been following you for approximately a year and have benefitted from your blogs. You keep me “up to date”, give fresh ideas, and great resources!! Not to mention, your ideas, etc. are free.
Always remember; there are many “uneducated educators” who walk amongst us; sadly but true.

Keep up the great work you’re doing!! :-)))

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19 Kathy January 10, 2013 at 6:03 am

Dear Angela:
I have been following your blog for about two years. I work as a school psychologist in a public school system and co-teach a course on classroom management at a small, local college. We use both of your books in the course and always refer our students to your excellent website and blog. I very often copy posts from your webpage to share with co-workers. PLEASE keep writing just as you are! Your wisdom and experience and the posts of your readers are all so deeply helpful. I find the references to commercially available products useful too. What really resonates for me is the respect your have for classroom teaching. It is the HARDEST job in the world – I know of no other profession that requires such continual multi-tasking, self-reflection and self-regulation – and your posts address ALL of those skills.

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20 Rebecca January 10, 2013 at 10:39 am

Oh you are being way too hard on yourself! But being hard on yourself is probably why your blog is so great. I love the variety of posts (it keeps me coming back. Too much focus narrows your audience). I don’t feel you are outdated because especially in regards to classroom management–a lot of those tools and practices endure for a long time. If for some reason you do feel you are getting out of touch, then you can always consider guest posts from teachers who are “in the trenches”. You are doing a fantastic job–keep it up!

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21 Doug Johnson January 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Angela, if you didn’t have these doubts, you WOULD be all the things you worry about. I share all your concerns and I would add that I am not courageous enough to advocate for real changes.

You better keep writing now that I’ve just “discovered” you!

Doug

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22 Gretchen January 14, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Angela,
Thank you for being transparent. I have enjoyed watching your blog evolve as you evolve. I am currently going through the same thought process- I don’t use my blog to sell educational items I create myself (although I might have a freebie when hitting a follower milestone!) because I want to focus on reflecting on my efforts as a teacher. Networking allows me to perfect my craft and posting what I’m doing allows that conversation to go 2-ways. I appreciate that you do this as well. Your experience allows you to be credible without having to be in the classroom currently. All of that hard work allowed your blog to be where it is today. Continue your path of sharing a great gift. We appreciate you!

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23 Amelia January 16, 2013 at 1:25 am

Angela, you, as Ms. Powell, were definitely one of the key helps that helped me find sanity and enabled me to stay in the classroom when I first started out as an even-more-ignorant-than-I-am-now intern in 2003. I love your site, I love your attitude and I love your transparency.

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24 Ginger January 16, 2013 at 7:13 am

Angela, I, too, love the fact that you are transparent….open & honest. You tell it like it is. Your words are so often spot-on. Keep being the encouraging, empowering force you are for us!

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25 Lindsey January 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I’ve been with you since the Ms. Powell days too! I’ve learned a lot about classroom management, time management, and teaching procedures from you (among other things). I feel like your balance of discussion, resources, articles, etc. is right on. I don’t mind being linked to teachers pay teachers or having sponsored give-aways. Because you offer so many free resources, I still get value from your website, even if I choose not to purchase anything (though I have purchased things). To be honest, the only thing that rubs me the wrong way sometimes is mentions of the religious part of your website (I’m not religious). However, I respect your beliefs, and don’t feel like I’m overly bombarded with them. :-)

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26 Angela Watson January 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I want to thank each one of you for the kind words, encouragement, and helpful feedback. It is MUCH appreciated! I feel really grateful to have such a dedicated and knowledgable group of teachers reading my stuff. :)

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27 Glenn Loayza June 15, 2014 at 1:25 am

I just stumbled on your blog via a tweeter posting. I am really glad that I did. The level of honesty and truth that I am hearing in your writing is truly refreshing. I think these are the thoughts that most people carry with them who care about what they do and who they impact. These are the words that are unsaid. It is beautiful to see you risk this and to let people see another side of you that you may have been reluctant to share. This gives the reader an opportunity to do the same – share all aspects of who they are. Beautiful validation!

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