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:
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?
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?
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?
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.