Blogging Tips for Teachers
This page shares ideas for educators to use in creating websites with teaching resources. Learn how to set up and design your blog, create strong content, build a following online, and more! These tips are based on my own personal experience with running a website for teachers since July 2003–an entire decade! Lots of things have changed over the years, but the need for valuable teacher resources on the web is as strong as ever.
Setting Up Your Blog
Choose your blogging platform carefully. I would highly recommend that you use a self-hosted WordPress site (also known as WordPress.org.) Blogger is easy to use but far less customizable, plus Blogger users don’t own their blogs–Google does. To have complete creative control over your blog, you’ll want to have your own domain name (URL) and server. I’ve used Bravenet since 2003 for both domain purchasing and web hosting, and found them to be reliable and reasonably priced. The cost of hosting and owning a domain is minimal (around $8 a year for the domain and $8 a month for hosting.)
Pick a great template. I use WordPress Thesis, which is a paid theme but totally worth it because it’s so customizable. There’s really no reason to ever need another blog theme. Plus, there is lifetime implementation support via the excellent forums: I’ve posed questions there many times and gotten quick responses. Many elementary teachers like to buy cute teacher-looking templates from graphic designers, and if that’s the way you decide to go, keep in mind that you’ll need exclusive rights to your template (so that someone else doesn’t have your exact blog layout) and a readable font (not something that’s so fancy or child-like that it gives people a headache.)
Choose a niche or focus for your blog. It should be something you are passionate about. Make it broad enough to apply to a range of educators, but narrow enough so that you’re not just “a teacher blog about teaching.” You’re probably not going to ever rank number one in Google for something like teacher resources: the big companies with huge budgets and an editorial staff usually get those slots. You could, however, become a top ranker for a more narrow niche and be considered an expert in that area. Your niche could be substitute teaching, secondary school resources (there are fewer middle/high school teacher bloggers and not a lot of competition), co-teaching, multi-grade/multi-age classrooms, etc. You don’t have to limit all your posts to that niche, but the majority should relate in some way to your focus. For example, my niche is classroom management, but I still have section of pages (which you’re currently in) called Edupreneurs. This works because my “voice” is the same in these pages, and also because I’m still approaching the topic from a management perspective.
Be cautious of using your grade level as your niche. If you ever decide (or are forced to) change grade levels, the whole audience for whom you’ve built your blog might crumble. What good is amassing 500 subscribers to your kindergarten blog when your principal moves you to fifth grade the following year? Your kindergarten teacher subscribers aren’t going to care about the stuff you do with your fifth graders, and you risk isolating them and having to start from scratch each time you change grades. Now you’ve probably noticed a lot of people do this, anyway, and blog exclusively about one grade level. In my opinion, best practices for teaching apply to multiple grade levels, and if you want to be a professional blogger and/or make money from your blog, you should be careful about limiting your audience!
Google your blog title and niche before going live with it. Make sure you’re not using a name someone else has already claimed–that will cause brand confusion and will NOT be appreciated by that blogger and his/her fans! Try to pick something very unique. If the name is even slightly similar to a popular edublogger, make sure your template and blog appearance are completely, totally different. You want to set yourself apart. Googling your niche will tell you who else is blogging about your topic: these are people you want to subscribe to and follow, and hopefully partner up with at some point. If there are too many people in your niche, you may struggle to make a name for yourself. If there aren’t enough, that could be a sign that your niche is too narrow and you’ll have trouble attracting readers.
Creating Strong Blog Content
The phrase I live by is content is king. Another way to think of it: If you write it (and it’s good), they will come. There are bloggers who barely use social media and have extremely plain websites, yet their names are all over the blogosphere because the stuff they create is so awesome. You don’t have to obsess over sharing and promoting your own stuff: if it’s really good, people will find you and spread the word themselves. I started this website in 2003 before social media even existed, and I didn’t start using search engine optimization (SEO) until 2008, yet prior to that my site still had hundreds of thousands of page views per year and countless backlinks from all over the web.
Many bloggers spend too much time focusing on promoting their blogs and not enough time writing stuff people want to read. Create blog posts and website articles that give real value to your readers. Write from a unique perspective and let your voice shine through. Compose the type of article that you like to read. Relevant, insightful content is absolutely the key to success for any blogger.
Don’t stress over posting on a regular schedule. Many experts say you must blog on a regular schedule: at least 3 times a week, for example, and many people blog much more often than that. I think regular blogging is a great goal, but personally, I’d rather read infrequent or irregular posts that are valuable than daily posts that are hit-or-miss. My advice: write when you have something important to say. Don’t just toss out a post because you haven’t written anything in a few days. And even worse, don’t write a post apologizing for not posting! BORING. If you don’t post for awhile, your readers will think you’ve been busy doing important stuff, and they understand. In my opinion, you don’t need to call attention to your irregular blogging, make excuses, or explain yourself.
Stay true to your voice. This is a common expression in the writing world, and it basically means to let your own personal writing style shine through. Let different aspects of your personality show, but try to keep the tone of your posts pretty consistent so people know it’s you. Whatever your writing style, whatever your preferred blogging topic…I guarantee there are people who want to read it, so don’t worry about fitting in with other bloggers in your niche or being what others want you to be. Copying other bloggers’ style is a recipe for failure, because the best you can hope for is to be a second-rate imitation. Be a first-rate version of YOU! Stay true to your voice, and it WILL speak to someone…probably a lot of someones.
How to Come Up with Blog Post Ideas
The best inspiration for blogging is your own experiences. Here are some things I write about:
- I share how my thinking has changed over the years
- I ask questions that I’m wondering about
- I answer other people’s questions
- I review books and host give-aways
- I talk about education conferences I attend and present at
- I share classroom management ideas (mine and other people’s)
- I rant about hot topics and reflect on ed news and trends
Always err on the side of caution when deciding what to post about your job. I chronicle my experiences as an instructional coach and did the same when I was a classroom teacher, but you’ll notice I never say anything bad about any students, anyone who employs me, or even my co-workers. A good motto is “Complain globally, praise locally.” That means talk about problems in the broadest sense possible (“Our education system is failing”) and talk about good stuff that’s happening specifically (“So-and-so is doing a great job tackling this problem.”) Everything you post about your students should be something that would make you look good if it were ever pulled out of context. Write as if your principal, students, and students’ parents are reading. They might be.
Read other people’s blogs for inspiration. I subscribe to hundreds of education blogs so I can stay current with what others are thinking and talking about. Often I’ll comment on their posts and then expand my comment into a post on my own blog, especially if my viewpoint is different from the original author’s. Other times bloggers will pose a question which I’ll answer on my own blog. Still other times, their blog or Facebook posts will remind me of something I’ve been wanting to write about. Non-education blogs often remind me of education-related topics and I’ll write about the connection. The great part about using other people’s blogs for inspiration is that you can build online relationships. I leave a comment for the person letting them know that I enjoyed their post and it inspired me to write my own, then share the link.
Need Advice on Getting Started?
I have so many teachers contact me about blogging and website advice that I decided to start offering one-on-one consulting services. If you have specific questions about getting started as a teacher blogger and becoming an “edupreneur,” we can do a phone consultation or iChat/Skype video chat. The great thing about video chats is screen sharing: whatever I pull up on my computer can be seen on yours, so we can analyze your site step by step. I can help you get started with social networking, building a website, blogging best practices, monetizing your blog, and more.
The rate for phone/video chat consultations with individual teachers is $49 for thirty minutes. Send me an email and let me know what your needs are, and we’ll set up a time to chat!
Here’s what teachers are saying about these individual consultations:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Angela, for sharing your time and expertise! I feel like I have a much better sense of the direction I need to go in next. I also know the steps I can start taking right now to get me where I want to go.” –Amber, New York City, NY
“I was so blessed by our phone conversation today. You have made me feel encouraged and inspired. I wasn’t sure if consulting was something I would be able to do, but you really helped me see what my strengths are and how I can utilize them in my business. I really appreciate the way you focused on helping me narrow down what I’m most passionate about. I’m in this field to make a difference for children, and I feel like our conversations were always centered on that.” –Gary, Marietta, GA
“I definitely feel better prepared now to move forward with building my website and marketing my skills. I needed someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who knows what kinds of expertise is needed right now in the field of education and could help me see how I could fit into that.” –Beth, Amarillo, TX
“I just wanted to let you know that since we spoke on the phone two weeks ago, our business has really taken off! We are selling more teaching products than ever before! Thank you SO much for showing us how to spread the word about our resources. You made it sound like a really simple and mangeable process and it actually has been! I can’t tell you what a big difference this has made in our website traffic, too. Thank you again!” –Kristy, Philadelphia, PA
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