I’ve been at IATEFL Poland (In Szczecin) this weekend and it’s got me reflecting on my history in teaching and also writing/blogging about teaching. I’ve run this site (or something similar) for the last five year I think now. In that time a lot of things have changed (when I started, smartphones were still a rare luxury and now they are ubiquitous, I don’t think we had instagram, nor Google+…oh wait, is that still around?) So here’s what I think I’d do differently/again if I started writing online about ELT today.
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting the right idea for what to write about, but really it’s just better to start. Often the right idea comes after you’ve tried the wrong idea. I’ve been too self conscious so starting is the way to go.
Don’t worry about having a niche (but keep an eye out for one)
A classic piece of blogging advice is to “have a niche” so that you become the go to person for that idea. (Basically if you are the only person writing about X then of course people will come to you) but really, who cares. There are only so many niches you can make until it becomes a bit ridiculous and the best thing about blogging is what impact it has on you. It encourages you to reflect and work out what you did well/badly. So being a “successful” blogger isn’t really important.
Of course…if you are really interested in a particular topic or niche, then you can always focus on that niche.
Don’t worry about some clever name for a site
Just go with your name (maybe with ELT, teacher or something similar at the end if your name is taken). Having a good name for your site is cool, but trying to work a good one out is more hassle than it’s worth and later you’ll probably decide that that clever name is terrible… for examples of this, look above.
Come up with a few clear categories
Categories are a way of grouping blog posts together. You don’t need to use categories but they help people navigate your site AND they help you have ideas for blog posts. If you taught everything then maybe “Adults, General, Young Learners, Business, ESP, EAP” might be some good categories. Then again, you might want to break it down into more specific examples for each one (i.e. young learners could be VYLs, Lower Primary, Upper primary, Lower Secondary, and Upper Secondary).
OR you might want something like “Activities, Methodology, Students, teacher development etc”. This type of arrangement is the type I favour as it helps me to think of not just activities, but methodology ideas so I try to reflect on what I do as well as why I do it.
Write a journal, and use the best of that for the blog
I use an app called DayOne (it’s only on iOS and Mac but there is Journey on Android and chrome) to keep a journal. I have a section for Work where I write down work reflections (what worked, what didn’t, why, how I will do it differently in the future etc). This has been really good for me as it allows me to write quick reflections that I know no one else will see (in which I release my hatred at the horrible child in the class and their far worse parent) and then I can calm down, think seriously about it and realise it was probably my fault…(and the parent) and then I can write a more detailed post when I notice trends or work out a solution in the long run. Basically It allows me to remember my mistakes and then share them once I have found some answers so I look much better.
Only aim for one GREAT post a week
I think a once a week posting schedule is a good target to aim for. There’s plenty to write about so you never need to worry about running out of ideas but this won’t take too much of your time to do and won’t overload readers with obligations to check in. I also think it allows you time to really dig into a topic (both in research and writing).
OR go for one short post a day
However, there are some great blogs that write really short posts everyday. This can work too, it’s a very different style so it might not be right for you. However, make sure they are short, to the point and probably fun. It can feel overwhelming to have something new to read everyday and people don’t follow blogs AS closely as they used to (because google reader died).
Follow other blogs via feedly or something similar
Other blogs will help inspire you and encourage you. Get reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. You’ll often find that when someone else writes something, you’ll get an idea. There are loads of ways to follow blogs, twitter is really good (make a list of ELT bloggers), Facebook groups can be cool (but can come across as very self promoteey to only share your posts, I don’t know why it doesn’t feel that way to me on twitter, but there you go). Following on Feedly is like the old Google reader. The nice thing is, you can easily skip posts that don’t interest you and catch up on the bus/train.
Use more visual methods to communicate
The web is a lot more visual now so you should really try using some images, info graphics, videos and more to communicate with more than just your words.
Get involved in some cool groups
It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this advice and join a group, get inspired by other bloggers and learn from them. For example… #ELTChat
Probably use Medium
Medium is really easy (and beautiful) to use. It’s probably better than starting your own blog as you have no costs, you look good and you can just get going. It also shares your posts with the medium community. You don’t have to use medium, WordPress is a lot of fun and can do more than just blog posts, but Medium is just about the writing.
What about you?
If you were starting writing/blogging today, what would you do differently (or the same)?