I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the separation between our personal and professional lives. The line for me is getting increasingly fuzzy each year, with my professional work spilling over and mixing into my “free time” more and more….and I like that.

Teaching, blogging, speaking, consulting, and writing are not just my job. They’re my passion. They are an integral part of who I am. I can’t turn my brain off at 4 pm, and it doesn’t help my practice if I try to force myself to do that. After all, if I don’t think about my work when I’m not doing it, when will I get inspired? My best ideas come when I’m driving or hiking or taking a shower and I allow my mind to wander to possibilities. I enjoy spending some of my free time reading and listening to and discussing other educator’s ideas. It makes me feel less isolated, and it gives me the drive to give 100% when I am at work.

And conversely, who I am as a person is not something I can shut off, either. I don’t stop thinking about that incredible movie I watched last night just because I’m working. I don’t stop liking my favorite songs, using my silly inside jokes and catch phrases, or thinking about stories I want to tell my husband later on. My personal life, hobbies and interests, and my true and authentic self are all a part of my work.

I think that’s the way it should be. As I shared recently in an interview, my #1 piece of advice to new and veteran teachers is to use at least part of your free time each day to seek out people, ideas, and activities that energize you.

your work is part of your life's work

I’ve also been thinking about this in relation to what I share on social media. It makes me sad sometimes that I feel like I can only blog about teaching stuff, and that my Facebook followers are probably just interested in my professional ideas. I feel pressure to stay on topic and on message, but I also feel like I’m keeping some of the best parts of me from my readers.

Then in July, I read Amanda Dyke’s excellent blog post, Are you a connected educator or a connected person?.  She wrote,

My challenge to you, chose one social media platform this month and use it for YOU. Either for entertainment or to connect with others on a personal level. Choose one, instagram, Pinterest, Facebook (that one is hard for me because so many of my friends are my PLN), a chat app whether Voxer, WhatsApp, Messenger, heck Snap Chat if you want, something you have wanted to try for FUN. Don’t feel bad about it. Don’t get sucked into work on it. When I joined Pinterest (over 3 years ago) I promised myself it would be for ME. I promised I would never use it for education. Now I do follow a few educators on it, but if I click on the links, I save them to bookmarks not to my boards. I always giggle when I see an educator follows me there because unless they like cupcakes, pretty fonts, and shoes they are going to be very disappointed. So find your place for you to be you. You are everything that makes up you, not just your profession.

I decide to take Amanda up on this challenge, not just for the month, but permanently. Instagram is my new place to just be ME. I created my account years ago but barely posted there because it was private and hardly anyone was going to see it, anyway. I decided to make my Instagram public so I can share more of my life with the people who thus far know mostly about my professional life.

where passion and work:teaching intersect

I have no long-term Instagram strategy.

I’m not considering how I can monetize Instagram or get more followers.

In fact, I don’t really want a lot of followers—the only people I want in that space are my friends and family and the blog readers who think of me as a friend and family. That’s it.

I’m still going to stay (mostly) focused on professional stuff everywhere else, but Instagram is the place where I share bits from my entire life: my work, yes, but also other things that bring me joy each day. I’m not a selfie girl and I don’t want to plaster my loved one’s images all over a public social media account, so there aren’t many photos of people. But I realized how blessed I am to be surrounded by incredible beauty almost every day–some of it from my travels, but mostly just from being home in NYC or at our house in the mountains (two incredibly photogenic places.) Those sights make me happy, and I think they’ll make other people happy, too. So I’m using Instagram to share those little moments of beauty–or humor or reflection or celebration, whatever touches me that day.

angela watson instagram

A few of my favorite moments shared on Instagram.

Long-time blog readers know that my husband and I go on a “bucket list” type of trip every year for our anniversary. We’ve done Kauai, St. Lucia, Costa Rica, Alaska, Iceland, and now this week, we’re headed out west. We’re spending the last part of August touring the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion National Park, and then ending up in Vegas for a few days.

A real-life vacation for me always means a blogging and social media vacation. I probably won’t be blogging or updating much on Twitter or Facebook because that’s where I share my work stuff, and I won’t be working. But I will be posting on Instagram, because that’s where I share my lifeYou’re welcome to join me there, or I’ll see you back here when I return on August 27th. 


I would never have written an article like this a year ago when a friend first told me about Voxer.

Friend: “Angela, you HAVE to get on Voxer.”
Me, skeptical: “Why? I already have enough social media accounts.”
Friend: “No, no, this is different. It’s like text messaging, only instead of typing, you just talk.”
Me: “So…I have to play your messages to know what you said? That’s like voicemail. I don’t do voicemail. Who wants to listen to a bunch of voicemail messages?”

Vover has been lifechanging for me as a teacher

Needless to say, this friend was not successful in bringing me onboard the Voxer bandwagon. However, I kept hearing about it from other friends on Twitter, and reading blog posts about how people were using Voxer in schools. I couldn’t imagine how.

So I attend a Voxer session at the HackEducation unconference this past June when I was in Atlanta for ISTE. Educators sat around informally and shared how they use Voxer, and answered all the questions of the newbies like me who, honestly, still didn’t get it. I had a hard time understanding why it’s useful, and how to manage listening to all those voice messages.

But, I was intrigued, so I decided to give it a try. Within a week, I was HOOKED. I have become a Voxer evangelist. Here are my reasons.

Why Voxer is better than texting, PMing, emailing, or calling

  • You don’t have to disturb the person by calling them for something minor
  • You don’t have to let the phone ring and then wait through their voicemail recording
  • You don’t have to type anything out: perfect for leaving messages on the go
  • You can hear each other’s tone (so tough with other social media!)
  • You can share more than if you were typing—it takes 10 seconds to say it but 60 to type it
  • You can get your whole thought out without being interrupted
  • You can listen whenever it’s convenient: while driving, cleaning, exercising, etc.
  • You can communicate so much more easily with a group: no more “reply all” email threads!
  • You talk only with people you know (and possibly their friends): it’s more intimate than FB or Twitter
  • You can be in constant connection without burying your face in your phone screen

How I’m using Voxer right now

With my husband: He hates typing text messages, so it’s perfect for him! We leave each other Voxes throughout the day, and it’s great to hear each other’s voices without having to coordinate our work breaks. I particularly like using Voxer to share little details of my life that I would otherwise forget to tell him or that are too silly to interrupt his work for. I also like using Voxer to give directions that I want him to be able to reference anytime but am too lazy to type out: “When you go to the store, can you pick up some spinach and also those little things that I forget what they’re called but we had them at the barbecue? Thanks, honey!” HUGE time-saver.

Non-professional individual chats with friends: We Vox each other when we have a story to tell, mostly. It’s faster than typing, we love to hear each other’s tones and expressions, and it makes us feel more connected than reading a message.

Non-professional group chats with friends: A have a small core of friends that live in different places: we post photos for each other in Voxer and ramble on about our day.

Semi-professional group chats: These have 2-4 people in them. We live in difference places and wouldn’t otherwise be able to keep up with each other’s lives so intimately. They’re all education entrepreneurs in some capacity, so we talk about how we’re using our time, new strategies we’re trying, and so on. This is my FAVORITE use of Voxer. Because the groups are small, they’re easy to keep up with and feel intimate. Chatting with these ladies inspires me–they’re the people I would get together for coffee with or a girl’s night if I could, and Voxer is the next best thing. Possibly better, since I get small doses of their awesomeness on a daily basis.

Topic-focused chats with groups of people who push my thinking: Now that lots of educators are on Voxer, there are all kinds of chats cropping up among people who work in separate schools but have connected via Twitter or conferences. The ones I’m in have between 8 and 20 people, and talk about specific aspects of learning and teaching. I am not a huge fan of this use of Voxer yet, probably because I don’t know all the people in my groups personally and the larger chats can be a little overwhelming because there are so many messages. But it’s interesting to connect with like-minded people and hear their ideas. If I have a question about something teaching related or just want to discuss something that’s on my heart, I can toss it out the group and hear a wide variety of perspectives from people who work I admire.

Book clubs: This will be a new use of Voxer for me this fall. I am so, so excited because I think Voxer is the perfect tool for it! We’re going to read a chapter of a book a week, and whenever we read something that speaks to us, we can just get on Voxer and start reflecting aloud! Then, we we have free time, we can play each other’s messages and respond. I think the discussion will be much better than an online book club where we have to type everything out, check our spelling, re-read to see if it makes sense, and so on. I know for sure I will share more because it’s going to be easier and quicker.

How I make time for Voxer and manage all my messages

I listen to Voxer whenever it’s convenient for me—unlike other forms of social media, there is no obligation to check it or respond at right away, and I don’t have to be tied to a screen in order to connect with people.

I have a rule: no Voxing time-sensitive messages. For example, if my husband needs me to get something done and it’s easier to explain over Voxer, he’ll text me and say “Just Voxed you about fixing the sink.” That way I know I need to listen right away. If I don’t get a text like that, I know I can listen to my messages whenever I want.

I play my Voxer messages when I am sitting in traffic, going for a walk, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning the bathroom, putting on my makeup…pretty much anytime that I might have been either listening to music/podcasts or having the TV on in the background. Listening to messages from the most inspiring people in my life makes mundane tasks go by more quickly and energizes me.

How you can get started on Voxer

  1. Create your free account on your phone. There is a pro version if you want to choose your own username and do very large group chats. I have not needed to upgrade at this point.
  2. Upload a photo of yourself. Since you can’t pick a username, it will be easier for your friends to recognize you with a picture.
  3. Voxer automatically shows you a list of all your contacts that have Voxer accounts already. You can start Voxing with them, create a group chat for multiple friends, or invite people that aren’t yet on Voxer to join.
  4. Explore the app! The interface is pretty straightforward. Check out the various settings and practice leaving messages for a friend. You’ll have the hang of it very quickly if you’re willing to experiment.

I recommend changing the settings so you don’t have to hold the talk button down if you want to leave longer messages: choose the setting where you can just tap the button once, and it will keep recording until you tap it again. You may also want to turn off the setting that shows your location, if you want to keep that info private.

One word of warning: Right now, there is no way to delete a Voxer message–you have to delete the entire chat to get it off your phone, and it won’t erase the messages for everyone else in the chat. And Voxer messages could theoretically be shared with other people. So, treat Voxer like you do with all other forms of social media: think carefully about what you put out into the world.

That’s how Voxer has changed my life: I feel more connected to the people I care about and am able to get daily inspiration from my educator friends. Have you tried Voxer? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

April bright ideas link upFor more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic that interests you. What makes this link-up unique is that none of these posts have products or printables of any kind, just practical classroom solutions. The grade levels for each are listed in the post titles. Enjoy!



15 terrific resources for close reading

August 12, 2014
close reading posters, anchor charts, mini-lessons, videos, and more

Snap Learning is a longtime partner and supporter of The Cornerstone, and they have sponsored this post. Though their products are not included in the roundup below as these resources are free, I encourage you to check out their Close Reading Portfolio or request a demo of the product here. They’re a fantastic company and I believe their interactive close reading exercises […]

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5 ridiculously unhelpful things I’ve said to students

August 8, 2014
5 things I regret saying to students

I was recently chatting online with a teacher who was sharing how embarrassed she was at a recent interaction with a student. He was frustrated with something in class and she told him, “Stop crying and get back to work.” As we reflected on that together, she wrote: Imagine how I would feel if I were crying […]

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Join us for the #teacherfriends practice Twitter chat!

August 5, 2014
Joing this newbie-friendly Twitter chat every Tuesday evening! GREAT people

Twitter chats are a great way to connect with inspiring people and talk with them about topics you care about. If you are new to Twitter or have never tried a Twitter chat, the #teacherfriends weekly chat is the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself in a safe, newbie-friendly, encouraging environment. My friend Debbie Clement started the […]

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Edu All-Stars Podcast: Talking teaching and blogging

August 3, 2014
Free education podcast (and YouTube videos) interviewing inspiring educators. Love listening to this while exercising, driving, cooking, etc! So motivating.

I was honored to be a guest on the latest episode of the Edu All-Stars podcast, and I thought I’d share the conversation here with you all! I’ve had some great face to face conversations recently with Chris Kesler and Todd Nesloney (better known as Tech Ninja Todd) and it was so much fun to follow up and chat […]

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What’s it like to teach in Bangladesh?

July 31, 2014
Teaching Around the World

It’s been awhile since I’ve published a guest post in the Teaching Around the World blog series, and what better time than summer to daydream about seeing the world? In today’s post, we’ll hear from Karli Lomax, who has been a classroom teacher for 17 years. She’s originally from Massachusetts and earned her B.S. in […]

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Smooth sailing into a new school year: tips and tricks

July 27, 2014

School doesn’t start back until after Labor Day for us here in New York (sorry to make you jealous!), but of course I’ve already started planning ahead. I’ve teamed up with a fantastic group of teacher bloggers to share ideas for making the start of the school year easier. One major challenge during the first […]

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What do you mean by “it works for me”?

July 23, 2014
questions to ask when reflecting on your teaching practices

Hey, it keeps the kids busy and quiet, so it works for me! I don’t care what the “research” says, it works in my classroom. So what if that’s a better way, this is working for me! Yeah, using technology would probably improve it, but what I’m doing is working, so I’ll pass. How can […]

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A bright idea for gently yet firmly saying NO

July 19, 2014
how to tell people no

On my way home from the TpT conference last Saturday, I overheard a random conversation between a JetBlue flight attendant and a passenger. It’s now the topic of a blog post here, so I suppose that’s a lesson to all of us that even our most off-handed words can have a tremendous impact and reach. We […]

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Big fish, little fish, and separate ponds of educators

July 16, 2014
separate ponds of educators

I have never had the option of having a single, tight-knit group of friends. When I was growing up, my dad was in the army. We moved every 3 years, and so did all my classmates. That sounds kind of traumatic, but it was the only life I knew and I enjoyed the adventure of it […]

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The power of social media to connect: #tptvegas14

July 14, 2014

Every time I go to a conference, I say that the best part was connecting with the people I admire, learn from, and care about. I think that was ten times as true for the first TeachersPayTeachers conference held last Friday in Las Vegas. These are the ladies (and a few gents) that I connect with […]

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5 ways to support kids who struggle with student-directed learning

July 10, 2014
strategies for helping kids be successful with project based learning and student direct learning

I mentioned in my ten takeaways from #ISTE2014 post that I wanted to write a bit more about some of the problems teachers are encountering with project-based and student-directed learning. Even though we believe deeply in helping kids uncover their passions, ask and pursue answering their own questions, and take ownership over their learning, the […]

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Follett Classroom Connections: a new set of eBook tools

July 7, 2014
Follett Classroom Connections eBooks

I’m proud to have Follett Learning as a sponsor and supporter of this blog (you might recall my posts on the annual Follett Challenge which awards $200K in tech resources to schools), and today I’m going to share with you their newest add-on service to the free Follett Shelf platform. It’s called Classroom Connections, and it’s a set of instructional tools […]

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My 10 big take-aways from #iste2014

July 2, 2014
#ISTE2014 Atlanta

I’ve always thought the term “re-entry” to our regular lives after an ISTE conference was a bit dramatic, but it really does feel that way this year. 16,000 educators in one building is…intense. Now that I’m back from Atlanta and scrolling through my notes, I’m going to try to condense everything down to 10 main take-aways. These are not necessarily the most […]

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Sortify: a free open-ended game for all grade levels

June 25, 2014
GameUp by BrainPOP

I don’t often talk about my work as the Educational Content Creator for BrainPOP because a lot of what I do is behind the scenes stuff that probably isn’t that blog-worthy. But I absolutely have to share with you this really cool game that I’ve been working on with the GameUp team for months because I think […]

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A bright idea for simplifying differentiation with smart student grouping

June 21, 2014
group work

Do your students hate group work? If so, they’re not alone. Personality conflicts and a wide range of abilities within the group often create results like this: Here’s a strategy to make it easier for you to form effective groups for a project or activity and differentiate the work that students do within their groups: 1) Pre-assess students […]

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“It must be nice to be paid not to work in the summer!”

June 16, 2014
why teachers don

If you had a dollar for every time you’ve heard that, right? It’s amazing how many people are unaware that most teachers spend their summers working a second job, teaching summer school, attending professional development, and/or doing curriculum mapping. And nearly all of us spend at least part of our summers working more unpaid hours preparing for the fall […]

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The Million Page Challenge: how one high school got kids reading for fun

June 12, 2014
John Lodle picture

Remember the Follett Challenge I featured here back in January? John Lodle is chair of the English department at the winning school, Belleville West High School in Illinois, where he has taught for the past 20 years. In today’s post, he’s kindly taken time to share the initiative that earned them the grand prize. The faculty at Belleville worked together […]

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Always a teacher: a reflection (& confession) on 5 years out of the classroom

June 9, 2014
always a teacher

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since I wrote this post about the (hilarious?) adventures of my very first job interview in Manhattan as an instructional coach. I also can’t believe that next June will hold my 20th high school reunion. Time flies and all that. I want to make a confession here. With each passing year, […]

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