Falling from the Plank: Why Teacher and Student Blogs Fail

My hands were freezing this morning. The heater was off all night, I woke up a bit early after a bad dream and cranked on the computer. It was too cold to have both hands uncovered by my blanket so skimmed along the Twitter universe reading a #satchat feed at 5 a.m. Pacific Coast Time. I saw this Tweet by Dave Burgess (@BurgessDave)

Dave Blog Announce

of Teach Like A Pirate fame so I followed the link and read his latest blog post on embracing failure

Good stuff.

I responded to his blog post in the comments section and as I was writing I thought… this would make a useful blog post. Then I tweeted back.

Response to Dave

I know for a fact that people love to communicate with others. My students LOVE using Instagram, and people LOVE Skyping and talking on the phone or face to face. So why don’t more people blog or write long-form writing posts?

I’m really concerned with this topic because I just started a student blog project for the first time. I’m going to post about the project later this week. Before I started the project I asked my students the following questions:

“How many of you use Facebook?” ninety-nine percent raised their hands.

“How many of you use Instagram?” 100% raised their hands.

“How many of you blog?” in five classes two students raised their hands.

Now I’ve had students who have created successful blogs on their own or as a part of my class. One of my former students created the popular Stuff Asian People Like website/blog for my 150 point project (read more about that here) which is similar to the Google 20% project and the gaining steam Genius Hour project.

Going along with this concern I had a co-worker link recently try and start a district tech blog and his plea was met with the sound of dying crickets.

So why don’t more teachers and students blog and why do so many teacher blogs die before their time?

Three reasons:

number-one-painted

More so than anything-writing encourages critical responses. When you see a photo you don’t like it’s just “Meh.” and you feel like you wasted a second.

P1000548

Meh

But when you read something- you are invested- you might waste a whole minute or more so you start thinking: there’s a grammar mistake, there’s a spelling mistake, I don’t like the tone of this, wow that’s a horrible cliche or a horrible line of reasoning. Writing is extremely personal, good writing takes a stance against something otherwise why write. When you take a stance against something either people will disagree with your stance or the manner in which you framed or worded your stance. Worst of all your writing gets compared to all the professional writing that’s out there and there’s a TON of great writing on the internet.

two

 Unlike face-to-face conversations, there are no opportunities for positive feedback DURING the process of writing. There is nothing to encourage you to keep going. You are writing to the wind, to a pretend audience in your mind and it’s scary, challenging, and requires a ton of risk-taking moxie and hope. This is a way bigger issue than most teachers realize.

3year

 It takes time. Posting a picture to Instagram is easy. Posting a 500+ word blog post takes time, and a teacher who is driven to create engaging passion filled lessons has so little time. If students struggle to write in class, even just a sentence on the board, how are they going to find time to write a great blog post?

That’s right sports fans. FOUR passes before you shoot. 

So I thought of one more later today (I love that I go back and update my blog posts.)

My wife, who follows countless kindergarten blogs, was telling me that she really doesn’t like it when someone abandons their blog for weeks at a time and then shows back up and apologizes for being busy. She thinks that if you have regular followers that you have a semi-obligation to them to write regularly. I agree. And this makes it difficult to write- the pressure builds after a few days, you watch your page views dwindle to near flat line and you want to make up for the delay with a smashing good blog post. A little pressure is wonderful… but too much and it really starts to stress you out and that’s not why you started a blog. You started a blog because you felt compelled to respond, but now you just feel compelled.

So now what?

Well first of all, just thinking about the nature of writing and why it is so difficult is an important mind set when setting off on a blogging adventure. Ask your students and peers how they (and you) can best solve this three blockades to a successful blogging adventure. Here are just a few ideas.

Think of a super friendly audience, a best friend or family member and keep their smiling face in mind while you write.

IMAG0486

My dad and his older brother. Yes they are French Canadian- how did you know?

Great writing demands a specific audience but there’s no sense in thinking of a mean person (unless hate and anger fuels your dark side of the Force writing).

Make sure you use images and videos in your writing. Your audience appreciates it and it can help you write more. A great image or video can get you think of new ideas while you write, or it can sum up a whole paragraph of ideas like this.

suburbia_diver_web

Encourage shorter posts. I’m guilty of not taking advantage of this. Give yourself permission to write a 100 word post. Many famous writers wrote short form fiction and essays. Writing short form helps you sharpen vocabulary, syntax etc…

Remind yourself that people who publically scold spelling mistakes and grammar errors are like people who laugh at monkeys in a cage. Yeah they spotted something funny- but the irony is lost on them. A great audience tells you your pants are on backwards before you step on stage or privately after the show.

Lastly, some people like writing comments on blogs more than blogging. Use that to your advantage. How can your blog posts read like an insightful blog comment? When you write, what are you responding to?

I would love to read any more ideas on this topic in the comments below or link to your own blog post on this comment. Thanks.

5 responses to “Falling from the Plank: Why Teacher and Student Blogs Fail

  1. Great post! Thanks for expanding on your thoughts that you left in your comment on my blog. The comment about encouraging shorter posts really resonates with me. I’ve been trying to get myself to write shorter posts and usually failing. I like the sometimes VERY short posts of Seth Godin, for example. When every post is like writing an essay it is less motivating to write…and read.
    I also think teachers may feel insecure about their writing skills. Putting your work out for the world to see is way outside of the comfort zone for many. We will go back to the drawing board.
    On the other hand, my wife runs a very successful district blog that puts a new post up every day of the school week! Wow!
    http://sbusdyearoflearning.com

  2. Hi David,
    I really like this post! it captures my challenges perfectly: to be a decent teacher, a decent blogger, a decent Twitter collaborator, a decent father,etc. You, my friend, make it look easy! I wish I could find the time and will to out nice images into my posts! And I love that you’re building off the Pirate #satchat! Or was that just a coincidence?

  3. Thanks Joe. No the Pirate thing was a nod to #satchat and a nod to the fact that Dave’s blog post helped push me into writing the post. As a failed art and photography major- putting pictures in my blog and in my English class is my way of keeping the dream alive.

  4. I made a promise to write twice weekly. 18 months later, writing for the blog is so much a part of my week, that I crave the time to compose. Obviously I need to take your advice about the 100 word post….easier on me AND the reader!

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