What’s Happening in Arizona and Why I’m Rallying: Guest Post from The Creative Classroom

Featured, Political
As a part of the “Politics” section of my blog, I’ll be bringing you relevant posts by not only myself, but other educators who are dealing with the issues being discussed. This post is one part of the four part series featuring the teacher strikes that are happening across the country.
This guest post is brought to you by Ashlyn from The Creative Classroom. 
_________________________________________________
Does our community, leaders and friends support and understand what’s going on currently in education? As an Arizona teacher, I have learned quickly who is rallying behind me and supporting an effort that we cannot back down on. My name is Ashlyn Ellsworth and I’m a teacher in Chandler, Arizona.
I have been in education for 12 years. During my time as a teacher, I have taught in 3 different states, 4 different districts and alongside many amazing teachers who do their very best every single day for their students. After 12 years of teaching I can say I am still making less than I did as a new teacher in other states. My salary in Arizona is pitiful!Arizona is ranked one of the lowest in elementary teacher salaries and we have not seen significant raises in over 10 years. If I had to support myself, I wouldn’t be able to live each month on a teacher’s salary. With added expenses of healthcare, school loans and other bills, I have had to look elsewhere for opportunities to make additional money to cover my monthly costs of living here in Arizona. The worst part is that because of the low salaries in our state, teachers are fleeing to other states for better pay. This has led to over 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs. These classrooms are left with unqualified substitutes to teach the content that they barely know. This isn’t the way to educate and prepare our future!
When I graduated college many years ago, I knew what I was getting myself into. I was ready for the low pay, runny noses, untied shoes, struggling readers, gifted students, after school meetings, parent conferences, committees and field trips. What I wasn’t ready for was pay freezes, high healthcare costs, large class sizes, loss of jobs because of low enrollment, gun control concerns, and increased behavior issues. The future is in our classrooms and we need the respect and encouragement from our lawmakers. We need the support and funds for our schools, students and teachers. Teachers are the ones who are preparing students to become doctors, lawyers, athletes and musicians. Where is the respect for a career that has lost it’s value and appreciation? Why is it that many ask, “Why would you choose teaching when you know it’s a low paying career?” I chose teaching because it’s for the students. I didn’t choose teaching for me! Support our students, support our communities, support our Arizona future!

Teaching is a Political Act

Featured, Political

As a teacher in the “online teaching community”, I’ve noticed that many teachers are “just here for the cutesy”. Whether I or my friends have posted about something political and have lost many followers, or by the comments and DMs that I’ve seen exchanged on Instagram, there are many people that seem to not want teachers to engage in any dialogue about things that seem “political”. The best conversations I’ve seen on Instagram and Facebook, however, have revolved around someone’s “political” posts–whether they have pushed teachers to be more reflective in their practice, in their personal life or have helped people to re-examine how they use their platforms to advocate for others and causes that matter.

For my blog’s re-branding, I’m shifting away from just posting about things “for middle school teachers” and I’ve simply changed the name to “A Blog for Teachers”. In an effort to make the blog more “me” and so I can also work to extend some conversations that are happening in the online teacher community to longer blog posts, I am expanding my focus to also include “Politics”. I have a passion for teaching, connecting with others and in politics. I want my blog to reflect those things. My teaching posts will be the same old stuff you’re used to–middle school tips and tricks. My blogging posts will be to engage the Teacher Blogger Seller + Network and to help out teachers who want to start their own business as a teacher blogger or Teachers Pay Teachers seller (which has become a passion of mine!). And my Political Posts will be an effort to bring authentic voices to issues that are already being discussed in our online communities–whether about current events, gun violence advocacy, cultural competency, unpacking privilege, etc.

I want to be proof that is it okay to not be silent on “political issues”–you will still run your successful business. I want to show others that talking about things that may seem uncomfortable helps make us all better.

Teaching in and of itself is a political act. Teachers are change agents. We all need to become more comfortable engaging with material that educates us, pushes us and forces us to reflect. I hope my little slice of internet real estate can help us all continue to do this.

If you have a post idea or would like to be a guest contributor for a political post, please email me at kelseynhayes@gmail.com.

 

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How to Move a WordPress.com Blog to a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog with Siteground

Blogging

*This post contains affiliate links*

Hey y’all! A common conversation I have with teacher bloggers is that they want to start a self-hosted teacher blog as they become more serious about their blog and/or Teachers Pay Teachers store, but they’re nervous to make the switch because they don’t want to “lose everything”. If this applies to you…I have some GOOD NEWS! When you decide to move to a self-hosted WordPress blog with Siteground, they will do one free website transfer for you!

They will move all of your content from your previous blog to your new blog…so you won’t lose any posts or comments, etc! The only thing you will have to do is to re-install your theme + customize and add back any plugins you may have been previously using! I did a website transfer with Siteground when I first started with them and it was easy!

The Benefits of Being Self-Hosted + Why You Should Make the Switch

  1. It looks more professional: If you don’t get a self-hosted blog, then your blog URL will be listed with the free platform’s name as a part of your URL. With your self-hosted blog, it is just www.yourblogname.com. You can use a free platform, like Blogger or WordPress.com, and purchase a domain name to get rid of the “.wordpress.com”, but then you’re still spending money and incurring start-up costs without the benefits of having a self-hosted blog. If you start your self-hosted blog with *Siteground*, which is the service I use and highly recommend, the startup cost is $3.95/month for hosting and with a 30-day money back guarantee! Ready to make the move? Here is How to Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog with Siteground in 15 minutes (Or Less!).
  2. You have much more flexibility and control: When you use WordPress with your self-hosted blog, you are able to download plugins to help you make your site look and run how you want. With a free WordPress and any other free site (not self-hosted) you don’t have all of these plugins at your disposal. With a self-hosted blog you have full control over your blog’s layout, how it functions, SEO, etc. With free sites, you are limited in this aspect. Again, if you’re looking to view your blog as a business, then having total control over your blog from day one is crucial, because if your business grows and you decide to switch later on, it is a bit of a pain and requires some extra work.
  3. You have more advertising options: If you’re going to use ads as a way to monetize your blog, free platforms limit your advertising options which makes it more difficult to monetize in this way. Again, with a self-hosted blog, you have total control on how your site looks and what you add to it, so you have unlimited options in terms of advertising on your site.

What questions do you have? Feel free to reach out in the comments or on Facebook so I can help!

Want to join a community of Teacher Bloggers + Teachers Pay Teachers Sellers? Join us on Facebook!

How to Start a WordPress Teacher Blog on Siteground in 15 minutes

Blogging, Featured

*This post contains affiliate links*

Hey, y’all! If you’ve been following along on my blog for a while, you know that I have really enjoyed helping other teachers learn to start their professional blogs to help them achieve whatever goals they may have, whether they’re wanting to become a thought leader in their niche, share ideas with teachers in their area, or to showcase their products to accompany a Teachers Pay Teachers store. In my How to Start a Teacher Blog: The Beginner’s Guide post, I laid out the general steps you would be going through to get your blog up and running. In 3 Reasons Why You Should Have a Self-Hosted Teacher Blog , I explain the importance of starting your blogging journey as a self-hosted blog and the difference between WordPress and Blogger. In this post, I want to show you with screenshots how to get your blog up and running in 15 minutes or less!

By the end of this post, if you follow the steps, you’ll have a host, a domain name and a theme installed! You will just need to customize it to look how you want it to look! In writing this post, I’m assuming you already have a theme picked out. If you don’t, you can still do all of the steps to grab your host and domain name and to install WordPress, and you can finish set-up once you choose a theme (more on that below)!

Are you ready to jump in? I’m so excited for you! 

To begin, you will go to Siteground homepage here and click sign up.

 

Then, you will be prompted to choose your hosting plan. Be sure to review the 3 types of plans to make sure that what you’re purchasing matches up with what your goals are, but if you’re starting a brand new teacher blog, the “Start Up” plan should be fine (that is what I have!).

 

After you choose your plan, you will be prompted to choose a domain name. To register a domain name, the cost is $14.95/year. If you already have a domain name through another company, choose “I already have a domain” and follow the prompts from there.

 

Once you choose a domain name that is available, you will be asked to enter your personal information to officially register the domain to you.

 

Then, you will be asked to choose how you’d like to pay. You can pay for 1 month of hosting (3.95/month with the start-up plan + $14.95 set up fee for the start up plan) to qualify for a “Trial” period and get the 30-day money back guarantee, or you can pay for 12, 24, or 36 months to get free set-up (and not be charged the $14.95).  You will also be able to choose if you want any other add-on services.

 

Congratulations! Now you have a web host and domain name

 

All you have to do now is set up your blog. Begin by selecting “Start a New Website”.

 

Then, indicate the type of site you need. If you’re looking to set up a teacher blog, like mine, then you’ll select “Personal/Blog” and “WordPress”.

 

Now, you have to choose your WordPress log-in credentials. Your username and password should be something you can remember since this is what you’ll be using daily to log in to blog!

 

YAY! WordPress is installed! You will want to bookmark the ADMIN URL that you’re given. In this pic, I’m pointing to where your specific ADMIN URL is. This is the URL you will go to to login to WordPress and see the “back end” of your site. Go ahead and go to this site.

 

Now is the fun part! Once you’ve gone to the ADMIN URL that you were given, you will see your WordPress dashboard! The only thing you have to do now is install your theme! If you don’t have a theme and want to browse for a while, come back to this step later to install your theme.

Your theme is the look/feel/layout of your blog, so you want to find a layout that you really like. You can find themes via WordPress, or you can “blog stalk” other blogs you enjoy to try to find the layout they have, or at least elements they all have in common that you may want to have on yours. To find out the specific theme other bloggers are using, scroll to the footer of their blog and it should be listed. Then, you can just Google that theme to find how to get it 🙂 Many other bloggers I have talked with have also used Etsy to find themes, or have purchased one from Georgia Lou Studios (I have their Felicity theme!)

 

To install a theme, click “Appearance” and “Themes”.

 

Click “Add New Theme” if you’re going to choose a different one via WordPress or upload your own.

 

To upload your own, choose “upload theme” and choose a file from your computer. Again, this option assumes that you’ve gotten a theme elsewhere and have already downloaded it to your computer. If you haven’t yet, come back to this step when you’re ready!

 

Once you upload your theme, you will be taken to an “Installing theme” page that will tell you if your theme is installed successfully. All you have to do now is customize! You can begin customizing by clicking “Live Preview”.

 

On the left hand side of the page, you should see options to begin playing with to change the look of your blog (fonts/colors, etc.). On the right, should be a “live preview” of changes you’re making so you can see them in real time. Once you’re finished, or just want to save changes to take a break, click “Activate and Publish” and everything is saved! To come back and customize, you will follow the same steps from the Dashboard page (Appearance > Themes)

 

Congratulations! At this point, you now have a blog! Please reach out to me with any questions you may have and send me your brand new blog name in the comments! I’d love to follow along!

Want to join a community of other teacher bloggers? Sign up to receive “start a teacher blog” tips and tricks below to get started!

How to Be a Better Teacher in 2018

Featured, reflection, Teaching
Hey, y’all!
For most, the New Year holiday brings a time of personal reflection. Many people set resolutions, or try to generally reset some part of their life once the clean slate of January 1 of the new year comes. In an upcoming post, I’ll be reflecting on my goals from 2017 and will commit to some goals for the coming year, but for this post I want to talk about How to Be a Better Teacher in 2018.

As I said in another post about reflection, it is extremely important to me to always try to continuously improve my effectiveness in the classroom and honestly, I don’t think I’ve grown much this year. In Year 6, I’ve settled in quite a bit and that makes me sort of uncomfortable. The day that I get complacent  is the day I am not putting forth my best self for kids. Reflecting honestly about my teaching practice is a key to being able to continuously get better, despite whatever is happening around me. 

When I reflect, it mainly boils down to how my teacher actions affected student actions. The following list is not exhaustive, but has questions that I have asked myself to help me re-focus over breaks. 

Classroom Goals

  • Are we on track to reach the classroom goals?
  • Of those we are on track to reach, why are we on track? What can I continue to do to build on that success?
  • Of those we aren’t on track to reach, why aren’t we on track?
  • Are my classroom goals big, measurable, and easily articulated to kids?
  • Have I done a good job of investing the kids in the big goal? What can I continue to do, or improve upon to improve investment with students?

Classroom Culture

  • Am I really getting to know all of my students so far this year?
  • If so, what do I need to ensure I continue to do to expand on this? If not, what do I need to do differently?
  • Does my attitude toward my work contribute to student learning or stifle it?
  • Are my relationships with students helping the students learn, or hindering me from effectively behavior managing?
  • Would I want to be in the class? Would I want my child to be in this class? If yes, why? If no, what should change?

Student Behavior

  • What teacher actions have led to student misbehavior this year?
  • What about my classroom layout/set-up has allowed for student misbehavior?
  • Have I been consistent with my classroom behavior management plan? If not, why not? What should be changed?
  • Do I need to teach the behavior expectations differently after break, or outline them more explicitly?
  • What is working and what isn’t work with my classroom management plan overall?
  • Did I follow through when giving consequences/communicating with parents? If not, why?
  • Am I consistent in rewarding/incentivizing positive student behavior?
  • Is what I have done this year to reward positive student behavior sustainable for the rest of the year?
  • What can I do to improve next year to encourage positive behavior/buy-in of class goals?
  • What can I do to improve re-directing and tracking of negative behavior?
  • Who can I speak with or go observe to get ideas regarding behavior management?


Collaboration & Team Function

  • In what areas can I improve in order to help the team?
  • Are/Have my actions prohibiting/prohibited my team from growing, working more efficiently, or trying new things?
  • What “works” on our team?
  • What can we do to become more consistent?
  • How can we support each other better in the next year?
  • What is at least one thing that we should try as a team next year?
  • Does our team exhibit to kids that we believe all of them can meet expectations and can succeed at a high level? If not, what must we change so that is the case?

Self-Care

Instruction/Teaching Practices

  • What lessons have “worked” for me?
  • For lessons that haven’t work, was it because of lack of preparation, they weren’t interesting to kids, they should be taught in a different order?
  • Do I give enough feedback to kids? If so, is my feedback meaningful?
  • Does my grade book reflect student learning and progress?
  • Do my assessments assess learning effectively?
  • Do I backwards plan effectively?
  • What can I do to better assist those who don’t “get it”?
  • What can I do to better assist those who work more quickly and need meaningful extension?
  • How do I know that my students are learning?

So, what do you think? What am I leaving out? I’d love to hear your own reflections and questions in the comments!

p.s. Want to start a teacher blog of your own, just like this one? Check out these latest posts you can use as resources:

Already a Teacher Blogger or Teachers Pay Teachers seller? Join the Teacher Blogger Seller Network on Facebook!

How to Triple Your Teacher Blog’s Email List

Blogging
How to Triple Your Blog's Email List
*This post may contain affiliate links*

Some questions I get emailed to me a lot are “How can I grow my email list for my blog?” and “How do you offer free things in exchange for someone subscribing to an email list?” My answer to both of those questions is the same: ConvertKit. 

When I started on this blogging journey and decided it was something I wanted to stick with and really work to grow, I began looking into growing my email list. I didn’t know the first thing about how to get started, but I knew I wanted to do it right without it taking over my life. I tried Mailchimp, but Mailchimp just didn’t suit my blogging needs. When I found ConvertKit, through a fellow blogger friend, I began using it through a trial just to see what it was all about.

I immediately fell in love and realized this tool was exactly what I was looking for to really supercharge my email list and engage readers in a more individualized way. Not only could I utilize CovertKit to send broadcast “newsletter” type emails, but I could create multiple forms and attach lead magnets to various blog posts to capture more emails while giving readers a resource they want!

Want to TRIPLE your blog’s email list like I did? You should try ConvertKit (click here for a 14-day FREE trial!)! 

What It Is

ConvertKit is an email service provider that allows bloggers to set up automated email sequences and use email marketing tools to grow their business. Always wonder how your favorite blogger sends out an email literally every single day that seems super specific? Not only are they super planned out (obviously), but they are probably using an email provider, like ConvertKit, that allows them to create sequences of emails to “set” and let run in the background based off the form you signed up on! I wasn’t even aware of this when I first started looking into ConvertKit, as I was more interested in how my favorite #teacherbloggers were immediately emailing me a freebie in exchange for an email sign-up (did they never leave their computer?! 😉 )

Features

  • Create Multiple Forms to Capture Leads: When you use ConvertKit, you can make as many email sign up forms as you’d like. For example, when you write blog posts on many different topics, you can make as many different, specific forms as you’d like to link to those posts. Writing about teacher self-care? Make a form to build an email list based off that! Writing posts about specific behavior management strategies? Link a form for those looking for more on that subject!
  • Offer “Lead Magnets” in Exchange for an Email Subscription: I’m sure you’ve visited your favorite bloggers’ sites and have signed up for an email list to receive a free printable or resource. . . those resources you’re getting are called “lead magnets”. ConvertKit allows you to do the same thing! So, create as many freebies as you’d like to connect to your specific posts…this is what mainly helped me TRIPLE my email list!
  • Automation: In ConvertKit, you can set up “sequences” that automatically send out once someone signs up for your email list. Connect those sequences to your various forms and you can have many running at one time! Want to send out a “Welcome” sequence of 3 emails to subscribers? Easy! Want to start a free “email course” that people can sign up for? Do it! Once you set it up, it will automatically run in the background. All you have to do is respond to emails that people send back to you!
  • Track Conversions + Click-Through Rates: One of my favorite things ConvertKit offers are the tracking tools. Becuase you can set up multiple forms…you’re able to experiment with the various forms on different blog posts to see which ones are doing the best! Not getting any click-throughs on your email lists or no one is signing up on your form? You’ll be able to compare and make adjustments as you go!
  • Tag Subscribers: A feature that many email platforms don’t have, that ConvertKit has for you to utilize easily, is the ability to tag subscribers. You can tag subscribers for any things, but it becomes particularly helpful when you have someone opting into multiple lists for you, or you want to see who opens specific links you offer in your emails. In true teacher form, I believe the more data=the better!

If it sounds like ConvertKit is what you’re looking for, sign up for a FREE 14-day trial! After the free trial you can either opt to continue using the service or going back to whatever you use now…so you have nothing to lose!

Have questions about ConvertKit? Feel free to comment them below! Want to get more content sent to your inbox about teacher blogging? Sign up on the form below!

ConvertKit

#StopTeacherGuilt and Be Better for Kids

Teacher Self Care, Teaching

I am so excited to be at the blog today to post as a part of the 12 Days of December blog hop being hosted by some AMAZING secondary ELA teachers. This year’s theme is “Comfort and Joy in the Secondary Classroom“. When I was notified of the theme I immediately knew what I wanted to post about…and it isn’t something that is just secondary ELA specific, so bear with me as I go off-script a little bit.

I want to talk about teacher guilt. 

We all have it.

You know the feeling. During our weeks, we feel as if we could’ve taught something better if only we had planned more or bought those cutesy things at Target that could’ve helped with the lesson. We feel guilty that another teacher in our building has it all together and maybe our students would be better off if they had that other person as a teacher instead of you. We feel guilty that our shit isn’t as together as we’d want it to be and that (God forbid!) our classroom libraries look like a tornado ran through them and sometimes our rooms look a mess when we go home for the day.

On Saturday and Sunday nights, when we should be hanging out with our family and re-charging for the week, we feel guilty that we didn’t do that one thing we thought we should do; we feel guilty that we didn’t laminate and cut those new word wall words, or that we didn’t have time to give that extra specific feedback on our students’ essays. We feel guilty we didn’t work all weekend to “catch up”, when we know the reality is that there is no catching up…there is always something to be doing.

We love our jobs but because of this feeling of dread we sort of don’t look forward to going in to the job that we love.

When high stakes state tests roll around at the end of the year we feel like we didn’t do enough, our kids aren’t ready and that another year has passed where we didn’t get 100% of our kids where we want them to be before moving to the next grade.

Know the feeling I’m talking about? I know you’re nodding your head.

I want to talk about teacher guilt as the subject for my “Comfort and Joy in the Secondary Classroom” post because first and foremost, the only way there will be real comfort and joy in your classroom no matter what you teach is if you, the teacher and leader in your classroom, are taken care of first. PeriodIn order to be better for kids, you must prioritize yourself, understand that you. are. enough. and you’re doing the best you can with what you have.

As holiday break is approaching, I urge you to reset and refocus if you’re feeling like teacher guilt has really gotten you down this year. I’ve REALLY felt it. But, with the help of some teacher friends, I have been able to shake off the feeling a bit, push away my workaholic tendencies and spend more time with family and friends (or just watching trash TV because I feel like it…without a computer in front of me!). I know that I have been better and more present for my students because of it.

Two of my favorite teacher bloggers (Shana and Jenna) and I started using the hashtag #STOPTeacherGuilt on Instagram in order to show a little support to teachers who have been feeling the same way we have and to really start a conversation about that feeling of guilt. With over 700+ posts using the hashtag by teachers who are feeling the exact same way, I have been blown away by the support that insta-teachers have shown each other around this topic. So, I invite you to post and use the hashtag, and explore the posts that have already been posted. You are not alone in how you feel and it. is. okay. to take a step back if you need to. Please, reclaim your time this December and as you start out your 2018, put yourself first. 

Want Want to receive work-life balance motivation, encouraging notes and strategies sent straight to your inbox? Join the #stopteacherguilt movement. I promise your inbox won’t be flooded and the content will be short, sweet and relevant. Sign up at the bottom of this post.

See below for the other amazing posts from secondary ELA teachers in the blog hop. Also, want to enter today’s giveaway ($100 to TPT!)? Enter here. 

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Ed Tech Tip of the Week: PlayPosit

EdTech, Teaching
Check out PlayPosit and this week's EdTech Tip of the Week!

Hey, y’all! I’m back for the fourth installment of “EdTech Tip of the Week” and this week I’m featuring PlayPosit! You can find all of the other EdTech Tip of the Week posts here.

What It Is

PlayPosit is a website that allows you to add interactivity to streaming video content—yes, like YouTube! You can literally have a streaming video stop, and you can add questions to a sidebar for students to respond to 🙂

Cool Features

  • Engaging: You can add videos, interactive questions and other media into a “bulb” (which is what they call their lessons or activities). With a free account, you can add multiple choice questions, free response questions, and reflective pauses. With a paid account, you can add all of those plus polls, fill in the blanks, check all that apply questions, “skip segment” and “take to website”.
  • Easy: You can add videos from anywhere on the web, or find already made interactive videos that are banked on the site. The site also has a bank of videos (with and without questions) that you can choose from from popular sources, like Ted Ed, Disney, etc.
  • Integration: Playposit bulbs can be used with any learning management system you already use! All you have to do is share the bulbs to your system (Edmodo, Google Classroom, Schoology, Blackboard, etc.)
  • Monitor: Playposit has a “monitor” feature where you can view your students’ progress in regards to their videos. Teachers can add their classes, or import from sites like Google Classroom, and get a break-down of student performance question by question
  • Premium Features: The basic functionality of Playposit is free. If you’d like to upgrade to a premium account however, they offer: worksheet printout of your bulb, access to the full Playposit database (over 400k lessons), advanced cropping to skip irrelevant content, ability to export lesson grades for import into gradebooks, and different question types to embed into bulbs (like fill in the blanks, check all that apply, etc. as mentioned above)

How You Can Use It in Your Classroom

Playposit can be used in a variety of ways to engage students in your classroom:

  • PlayPosit can provide a “flipped” experience, if students are watching videos and completing some assignments before class
  • PlayPosit can provide a blended classroom experience
  • PlayPosit bulbs/assignments can be differentiated for students to review basic skills or for others to expand on their learning
  • Students can create Playposit bulbs to demonstrate their learning
  • Students can practice “close hearing” instead of watching videos passively

Because videos can be used from such a variety of sources like YouTube, LearnZillion, etc., this tool can be used in many ways across all content areas.

Resources

What did I miss? Have you used PlayPosit in your classroom before? I can’t wait to use it this year! What is your favorite EdTech tool to use in your classroom to aid student learning? Let me know in the comments, or by Tweeting me!

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How to Grow Your Blog in One Simple Step

Blogging
Want to grow your teacher blog? Here is how you can do it in ONE simple step!
*This post may contain affiliate links*

Hey y’all! If you’ve been following the blog this summer you’ve seen that I’ve been writing about How to Start a Teacher Blog and have been helping people through the process of getting started. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve talked to not only brand new teacher bloggers, but also established bloggers who want to grow their brand and following. Because of this, I wanted to drop by today to talk about How to Grow Your Blog in One Simple Step.

For some background...I have noticed that some bloggers that have great content, and are super active on social media, don’t have an email subscription form on their blog. They do SO much work to write amazing content and to direct people to their posts, but then they don’t have an established way to “keep” readers coming back, or to build in a following. On a basic level, every blogger needs at least one way for visitors on their site to give their email address. When you’re just getting started, this can be just a simple email capture form on the side of your blog or at the bottom of posts using Mailchimp, or if you’d like to get more advanced, ConvertKit* (which is what I use).

Now, let’s assume you already have an email form somewhere on your blog. You may be thinking, “Kelsey, literally no one signs up on that thing. Why do I even need it?” Well, to grow your email list you have to start being super intentional, just like we all are when we are teaching. Whether that is creating lead magnets (freebies and such) to send to those in exchange for subscribing, or explicitly asking for email sign-ups in posts, intentionality and consistency will yield results. 

This brings me to my “One Simple Step”: 

To grow your blog and build your email list, you just need to start asking. Literally, just asking. I did a webinar with ConvertKit recently, and they shared to do this:

Ask anyone you know this question, “I’m working on some new content right now about ___________, would that be something you’d be interested in hearing/learning more about?

Don’t add any background, or extra explanation–just straight up ask! When they say yes, add them to your email list! If they say no, well, you’re just growing in confidence 🙂 If you can get 10 people today to say yes, and you continue on to try to get 10 each day, you can grow your email list in no time! I did this exact thing, as I felt that my email list growth had become sort of stagnate, and I grew it by 100 people super quickly. Once you start getting “YES” answers from people and are seeing growth, you’ll be even more energized to keep asking!

Your email list is super important in terms of building your blog’s following, and eventually, lead to sales for you–whether it is for  TeachersPayTeachers products, or some other product you’re offering. Don’t spend all of your energy on creating great content and social media and neglect, in my opinion, the most important thing in terms of growing your blog: your e-mail list.

So…to practice what I preach…

I’m working on some new content right now about starting and growing your teacher blog, would this be something you’d be interested in learning more about? If so, subscribe below 🙂

How to Start a Teacher Blog: The Beginner’s Guide

Blogging, Featured
*This post contains affiliate links*

Hey, y’all! At the blog again today to expand on one of my recent posts, “Why You Should Start a Teacher Blog This Summer” to bring you How to Start a Teacher Blog–The Beginner’s Guide.

Starting a blog is fun, but can also be challenging and for some, scary. I’m here to show you that it is not scary and that anyone can do it! You do not need a ton of time, or tech expertise, to get up and going with an awesome blog in no time. Want to start a blog? It is as easy as this:

Step 1: Find Your “What” (Niche)

Before you start you blog, you have to truly understand your “WHAT”, or your niche, which is your narrowed topic. What are you going to write about? What is going to set you apart? What makes you different and why will people want to read your blog? It is important to understand your niche from day 1 so you can design your blog to meet your goals, and so you can gain readers (the whole reason why you’re blogging!). If potential readers don’t know what to expect from your posts, then they will be less likely to subscribe and follow you.

Want to read more about finding your niche? Read this + grab the freebie! 

Step 2: Set Your Goals to Meet Your “Why”

After deciding what you’re blog’s focus is going to be, you need to set some goals and understand why you want to blog. With anything in life, like learning a new skill or going on a diet, you have to know what target you want to hit so you can build out and around that goal. Are you blogging to make money or direct people to your TeachersPayTeachers store? Or are you blogging to become a thought leader? Do you want blogging to be a hobby while you gain a larger audience on social media platforms? Whatever your end goal is, you need to define it as well as you can. Being as specific as possible will allow you to break your big blog goal up into smaller goals to keep you on track.

You won’t be able to set all of your goals in one sitting, as some you will have to re-visit once you actually write your first posts. However, in my opinion, you should set goals for:

  • number of times you will post in a week and month on your blog (Blog Goal)
  • how you will engage on social media such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (Traffic Goal)
  • how you will build an email list and nurture subscribers you get (Email Goal)
  • how you will monetize and when to try, if this is a goal of yours (Money Goal)

Step 3: Set Up + Design Your Blog

This is the most fun part! After you know your “What” and “Why” it is time to actually get started to put your plans into action!

  • Decide on a Blog Name: My tip here is to have words that have to do with your niche included in your blog name. Are you going to be blogging about all things related to literacy? Then, you may want “Literacy” in your blog’s name! This is great for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes and helps people looking for “literacy” stuff to see your blog when they search! Think “What will I write about?” and “Can I combine it with something similar, or even make it rhyme?“. For example, a blog name of “Literacy for Littles” rhymes and clearly communicates a niche! Your blog name could also include your actual name if you don’t want to be totally boxed into one niche. There are pros and cons to that I’ll be discussing in an upcoming post!
  • Host Your Blog*: I wrote an entire post that details 3 Reasons Why You Should Have a Self-Hosted Blog which explains how self-hosting looks more professional, gives you much more flexibility and control in design and functionality, and you have more advertising options. If you think of your blog as a piece of internet real estate, your host is like your landlord. They have the space to store your blog. If your host is like your landlord, then your house or apartment, is your platform, like WordPress. I am a HUGE proponent of self-hosting from the get-go because it can be a pain to switch later, after you’ve been blogging a while and have grown your brand. Self-hosting allows you to work on SEO  (search engine optimization) and install other plugins to help you supercharge your site and actually make things easier on you! I highly recommend Siteground* as your web host. They offer hosting for $3.95/month with a 30 day money back guarantee and have incredible 24/7 support (including an awesome live chat!) if you ever have any questions. If you have questions about self-hosting, feel free to email me or Tweet me!
  • Get a Domain Name: This is your blog name + .com. If you don’t get a domain name, you will have yourblogname.wordpress.com or yourblogname.blogspot.com after it. For example, if I did not get my domain name of www.kelseynhayes.com, my domain name would be www.kelseynhayes.wordpress.com. I recommend you getting your domain name early on if it is available, especially if you’re going to operate your blog to eventually make money. Again, if you choose Siteground as your host, then you can grab your domain name through them–all in one spot!
  • Choose Theme + Customize: One you decide on your blog’s name and get a host and domain name, all you have to do is design a beautiful blog! When you go to design your blog, you will choose a “theme” or layout that you like. There are free themes via WordPress and all over the internet, and also paid themes. If you find a theme you like that is paid, I recommend investing that money, because you know you like it and it will require only a little customization (just changing colors, fonts and logos is easy!). When I went searching for a theme, I found blogs that I really liked the look of and I scrolled to the bottom of the blog in the footer. Many blogs have their theme listed. I would then Google the theme to research it a bit more. I started to notice trends, and that a lot of teacher bloggers have themes from Georgia Lou Studios. I ended up going with a theme from them too. I did have to pay for it, but when you pay for themes, it is just a one-time fee. You don’t have to pay monthly to have it on your blog. Once you install theme on your site, you just have to customize colors, fonts and stuff to make it yours! If you are unsure of how to install the theme, Siteground’s* customer service can either do it for you, or walk you through it via their live chat!

Step 4: Do Research

The best blogs, the ones that not only are enjoyable to read, but that gain a large following, are ones that solve problems for readers. Understanding your audience and who your ideal reader is is important for you to make sure you’re delivering content that people will actually read. You can research topics that are doing well for other bloggers, as well as pinpointing what people want to read by:

  • Joining Facebook groups relevant to your niche
  • Searching Blogs that have similar niches to yours
  • Following Hashtags on Twitter that are relevant to your blog topic
  • Searching Pinterest for Posts That are Relevant to Your Niche

You want to try to identify a “pain point” among your readers, and then solve it in your unique voice!  For example, if you’re blogging for middle school teachers, many middle school teachers want to read about classroom management strategy. By blogging about a strategy or giving a tip that they can use, you’re solving a problem for them! If you can solve problems for readers, you will easily gain a following!

If you already have a blog, email subscribers or an Instagram account with a following, you can also ask them what they’d like to read about! Surveys from readers is invaluable information!

Step 5: Make Time

Just because you have a beautiful blog and awesome ideas, doesn’t mean your blog will gain traction and get readership. You have to put the time into building it. I know that as a teacher, you are incredibly busy. As a parent, you are incredibly busy. As a mom or dad to fur babies, you are incredibly busy. If you can block out even 30 minutes a day to focus on your blog, that time adds up! In 30 minutes a day you can work on a blog post, engage on social media, answer emails from subscribers and do topic research! You have 30 minutes a day in your schedule somewhere. If you can identify 30 minutes that you can sit down each day, you will be building your blog’s brand in no time. 

Step 6/7/8: Create Content, Get Traffic, Build Community!

So you have pinpointed a niche, have set goals for yourself, have a blog set-up and understand a bit of what readers want…then WRITE! Building up your bank of content is really important when you first start a blog so when you work to get people to your blog, they have posts to read! When I first started, I had so many “draft” posts because as I would think of a post idea I’d write a title down to come back to later. Whether your content creation is more sporadic and spontaneous (how mine was) or methodically thought out ahead of time, just WRITE! You will find a groove and systems that work for you. Also, side note to that point, remember, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Yes, you want quality content, but it doesn’t have to be PERFECT for you to hit publish! You can always go back and tweak things, so just. hit. post. 🙂 If you’re having trouble staying consistent with your posting when you first start out, I recommend thinking of a series to write that you will publish weekly. Even a 5 post series means you’re posting once a week for at least a month!

In terms of getting traffic to your blog, it takes work. You will not be a huge success over night. You will have some posts that do awesome and others not so well, so having a solid game plan in terms of being consistent in sharing your content is necessary. You could get lucky and have a post go viral but that model is not sustainable, so have a plan. Unless you are a lover of social media, I would say pick 2 platforms to really focus on and do those very well. Instagram and Twitter are my 2 favorites. I also have a Pinterest page, but I don’t count that as I’m not really “engaging” with others. Once you pick your 2 platforms, make sure you’re engaging with users. No one likes someone who just drops their links. Building community is essential to really gain loyal readers, and to build community you have to have conversations! Like, share and comment on other people’s posts. Be consistent! If you create community, are consistent in sharing your posts on social media, you will get page views, I promise. 

Now, what are you waiting for? What is holding you back? Read to jump in? Here is How to Start a WordPress Teacher Blog in 15 Minutes (or Less!) with screenshots to lead you step by step! 

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