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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here: theteachingspace.com.

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May 2, 2020

Episode 90 of The Teaching Space Podcast attempts to answer this question: should I start a teaching blog?

Introduction

I’m often asked where I get ideas for podcast episodes (which, 90 episodes in, is a fair question!) My favourite episodes are those that answer questions I am asked. This episode is one of those.

A colleague asked me if they should start a teaching blog; I have recorded this response. The short answer is YES as more voices are needed in the online teaching community. We lack diversity. My colleague, of course, works in further education, so this is an area in particular that would benefit from more voices. But I would encourage anyone who thinks they might have something to say to start writing (notice I am not saying ‘start a blog’ yet!)

This episode will look at writing in a more general sense before digging into blogging so there will be something for everyone.

It All Starts With Writing

One of my favourite business podcasts is the Seanwes podcast; I have listened for years. One of Sean’s mantras (he has a few!) is ‘it all starts with writing’. And he’s right. So much of what I do starts with writing, for example:

  • Lesson or course planning
  • Creating resources
  • Podcast episodes
  • Presentations
  • Social media messages
  • Email newsletters

Let’s face it - most communication these days starts with writing!

This is just one of the reasons writing is important. Before you decide whether or not you want to start a blog, I would suggest it is more important to establish a writing habit. Here’s some content on this topic from Sean.

By writing regularly, you can develop your technical writing skills of course, but also your voice. The more you write, the more you have to say (this podcast is a case in point).

As a teacher, writing allows me to participate in current education discussions, for example, through social media. It allows me to access a far wider community of teaching professionals than my immediate colleagues. It can be reflective, sometimes therapeutic, and always developmental. Remember, I am just talking about writing at the moment. You don’t have to share everything you write.

Writing has created opportunities for me such as speaking at events and writing for other publications. I was able to publish my first book, The Productive Teacher, over a year ago: this was a lifelong ambition for me.

Finally, writing allows me to give something back to the teaching community that I am so proud to be a part of.

Are There Any Downsides?

I honestly cannot think of any downsides to simply writing (not necessarily for publication). I guess it ‘takes time’, but time well spent really cannot be called a downside.

If you are writing for a blog (or podcast), for example, there is the challenge of coming up with content ideas. But as I explained previously, writing generates ideas. One of the best ways to come up with content ideas is to listen to the challenges members of your community face and see if you can help them with your writing.

One important thing to consider - and this should not be thought of as a downside - is that your employer is comfortable with what you intend to publish. For example, if you start a blog, it might be that you are required to make it clear on the blog that your opinions are your own and not those of your employer. This might also apply to social media. I’d like to think that most employers would encourage you to engage professionally in the wider teaching community.

Also, not everyone will agree with your view. Be ready for that. Know how much you plan to share and where you boundaries are.

Finally, there is the consideration of cost (again, a consideration, not a downside). You can start writing for free and you can publish a blog for free. You can also spend money if you want to. More on that in a moment.

How to Get Started

You’ve decided you have something to say. You’ve started writing regularly and feel ready to share it with the world. How do you get started? This is a very quick and dirty guide.

Here’s a thought: it might be that you don’t start a blog straight away. Perhaps start on social media. Twitter is a great platform for teachers and trainers and, trust me, crafting the perfect tweet takes considerable skill. You can spread longer messages too by using threaded tweets. Instagram is also an interesting platform. It is image focussed, of course, but there is lots of space for you to write something meaningful underneath that image.

If you’re ready to go all-in on your teaching blog, social media will come in handy for sharing your message after you’ve written a blog post, so I would recommend starting a Twitter account connected to your blog as a minimum. After that, you need to choose a blogging platform.

There is an overwhelming range of blogging platforms to choose from and I have tried most of them. If I was starting a free blog from scratch today, I’d probably opt for Blogger or Wordpress.com in the first instance but I would also share my articles to Medium. I have heard some great things about Wix but have personally never used it.

If you have a little budget to spend on your blog I would recommend you go for Squarespace and purchase your own domain (for me, that is theteachingspace.com as opposed to theteachingspace.squarespace.com). The Squarespace platform will enable you to create a beautiful website including a blog with limited technical skills. Unless you are super-tech savvy I would not recommend Wordpress.org.

Once you have built your blog, the next step is to commit to a regular publishing schedule. ‘People don’t notice announcements, they notice consistency’ is another of Sean’s mantras that I love. Make sure your schedule is realistic and fits in with your other life commitments. I recommend batching your content creation.

Finally, you need to tell people your blog is there. Use social media (perhaps a social media scheduling tool - don’t just share your work once) and start an email list (MailChimp is recommended). Share your work.

Wrap Up

And that’s it. If you have any questions about this episode or comments you’d like to share please join The Teaching Space Community: community.theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

If you have enjoyed this episode please consider supporting the show by making a small donation towards the running costs on my Ko-fi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace. Alternatively, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or whether you listen to the show. Thank you.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.