Want to Start a Teacher Blog? You Must Do This First

Blogging
Don't start a teacher blog that isn't focused...do this first and set yourself up for success from day one!

Hey, y’all!

I wrote recently about Why You Should Start a Teacher Blog This Summer and that post has sparked some questions from some of you regarding how to get started. If you’re convinced you want to start a teacher blog already, you must do this first: figure out your “What”. In the blogging world, this is usually called your niche.

Once you figure out what your blog’s topic is,  you can get rolling in a way that is focused, and easily comes through to your future readers! You could start a blog and figure out your purpose as you go, however, you will most likely get frustrated, and have few page views as your readers won’t know what to expect from your blog!

It is important to know your “what” (or niche) from day one because you want to make sure that as you’re setting up your blog, you’re designing it to reflect your goals. Having your niche in mind as you’re getting started makes sure your posts reflect your goals from the get go so you can gain momentum from day one in the blogging world.

Blogging is fun, enlightening, an outlet, creative, social, and many other positive things, but at times it is also hard. Understanding your niche early on will help you stay focused so you can reach your goals. It may take a little while to totally flesh out your ideas/focus, and it may even change as you begin your blogging journey (mine did!), but understanding your niche from the beginning helps set you up for success on day one.

Finding Your “What”

So, how do you find your “what”, or your niche? Stick to what you know and your passions. I’ve told so many people to start a blog and many always say back to me, “Kelsey, I don’t have anything to say!” or “I don’t have any ideas that aren’t already out there!” And that just isn’t true! There are no other yous in the world which means your perspective is different and you need to tell your story! Your passion is going to determine your blog’s general topic. Since you found my blog, your topic is probably “teaching” or “education” but you’ll need to narrow it down from there.

Once you decide what your blog topic is going to be about, “teaching”, “kindergarten”, etc., You’re probably feeling like you’re ready to get started! But wait, there are a lot of blogs about teaching and kindergarten. Blogging about teaching is so broad, that it will be hard to pinpoint an ideal reader, who will come to your blog and know what to expect from you and want to keep coming back!

There is a FREEBIE at the bottom of this post that can help you think through some questions in order to determine your topic and narrow it even further into a niche. Grab it and you can use it as a worksheet to help you in your planning!

How Your Blog is Different

No matter the niche you choose, yes, there are others out there that have started a blog on that topic, or with that narrow focus. However, not everyone has explored everything of every niche, and no one else has YOUR personality and voice!

I started “A Blog for Middle School Teachers” because I felt that there weren’t enough resources readily available for middle school teachers, or enough prominent voices out in blog land to represent teachers in middle grades. Search Pinterest for any of the elementary grades and countless things come up, but search “middle school” and options are limited. That is why I chose to have a blog “for middle school teachers” where I write about topics like behavior management, and I try to offer practical advice. My topic is teaching, my narrowed focus is middle school and I have narrowed it even further writing about behavior management related topics (with a little bit of other “stuff” in between).

My blog niche has also shifted some as I’ve realized that a passion of mine is to help people start blogs but that there isn’t much information online geared toward teachers starting blogs. I’m now not only writing about “stuff for middle school teachers” but also writing about how all teachers can start blogs, which is a passion of mine.

If  your niche ends up changing, that. is. okay. But, as I said above, trying to pinpoint it now will set you up for future success instead of getting started and jumping from niche to niche as you go.

If you’re reading this and already have an established blog but realize your”niche” maybe needs a little bit of work, get some feedback from things at your disposal: your readers and your blog’s stats. You can ask your readers in a post, on social media, or through a survey what types of posts they want to see. You should also view your existing posts and see what has “popped”. Have your posts about literacy (classroom library, literature circles, etc.) all been your most read? Then you may be on to something in terms of identifying a narrowed focus!

Ready to get started? Grab the freebie at the bottom of this post and complete the activities. It will help you pinpoint a niche!

Until next time,

Ready to jump in and want to join the Teacher Blogger + Seller Network? Join our Facebook group!

EdTech Tip of the Week: Deck.Toys

EdTech, Teaching
Deck.Toys is an platform that adds interactivity for lessons! Read this week's EdTech Tip of the Week for more details!

 

You. Guys. I’m back this week for the latest EdTech Tip of the Week” featuring Deck.Toys and I am so excited about it! My friend Sarah (you should go follow her on Twitter, for real) heard about Deck.Toys from her Teacher of the Year friends and when I looked it up, I was blown away at how cool it is. I have not yet used this in my classroom, because I just heard about it, but I will DEFINITELY be using it this coming school year!

What It Is

Deck.Toys is a classroom engagement platform best described as a sort of digital “Breakout Games”! According to their website,  “the lesson can now be transformed into an immersive, engaging experience for every student in the classroom”. Their focus on making this happen is on:

  1. Simple lesson creation
  2. Engaging real-time interactivity
  3. Instantaneous tracking

Um, yes, that does say INSTANTANEOUS TRACKING! Time-saver 🙂

Cool Features

  • Game-Look: For students of all ages, the look of a “deck” is really engaging. When you create a lesson, you can create a rigid “path” that students must follow, by adding “locks” for them to have to break through by doing an activity or you can create a more choice-oriented deck where students can explore different activities (or you can make a combination of these!). You can also edit the deck background to make the deck look however you want! You  can add colors, shapes, custom pictures, icons, text, etc. Here are a few example decks  that are in the “Gallery” to demonstrate how different they can look:

What You Start With When You Begin Making a Deck

Example Deck: Mars Colonization

Example Deck: Mountain Top

  • Interactive Slides: For each “slide” that you create in a lesson, you can add interactivity. You can add a slide with questions, a signpost, or a study set. Within each “slide with questions”, you can add an image, embed a video, add Google Slides, PPT, PDF or a website. You also have “apps” you can add on each slide like a buzzer, randomizer, timer, or lock. The students can have the option of responding with text, a drawing, by answering a poll. etc.
  • Study Sets: These are exactly what they sound like…a set of terms, or concepts, that you set up to be studied! You can list a term, definition and picture to describe the term. The study sets can then be used multiple times and inserted into lessons. Here is an example from the Deck.Toys website:

  • Teacher Sync/ Free Mode: Teacher Sync mode means every student’s deck is synced to the teacher’s screen. Free mode means that student’s can explore the lessons at their own speed.During free mode, teachers can also monitor a student’s progress in real-time!Having both modes means that Deck.Toys would be appropriate to use during many different types of lessons/stages of a lesson.
  • Assessment with Class-Wide apps: At any time a teacher can run an “app” as a class activity. This allows the teacher to be able to formatively assess students in real-time to check for understanding/gauge progress on a topic. As students are finished with the assessment or question, they can continue on from where they were before the class activity was started.
  • Reports: This could be my favorite part…REPORTS! Deck.Toys allows teachers to get a summary of not only students’ progress on specific activities, but also specific answers submitted by students. This makes it much easier to track information in a single view for however the data may be needed (to form small group instruction, for a whole class mini-lesson, etc.).

How It Can Be Used In Your Class

Deck.Toys can be used in any class at many different stages of a lesson and/or unit. Since it is compatible with Google Slides, PPT, etc. and students can respond and participate in different ways, any class can use this platform whether is is ELA, music, or math!

Deck.Toys can be used:

  • To engage the entire class during a mini-lesson using a class-wide app and teacher sync
  • To engage a small group in a rotation/station setting
  • To remediate students/give extra practice with basic skills before they can move on to another activity
  • To provide extra enrichment activities and choice to students who finish early or master content more quickly than the whole group
  • To create competition/urgency/focus on a specific activity if used as a digital breakout game with timers and all (so fun!)

Resources

Have you heard of Deck.Toys or played around with it yet? Let me know in the comments, or Tweet me! Also, my friend Shana over at Hello, Teacher Lady, has started a Facebook group for edtech enthusiasts called The Ed Tech Collective. Interested in joining? Click here!

Have you read about Nearpod and Padlet yet?

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3 Reasons Why You Should Have a Self-Hosted Teacher Blog (& How to Get Started!)

Blogging
Are you looking to start a teacher blog? Here are 3 reasons why you need to have a self-hosted blog from day one

Disclosure: This post contains *affiliate links*. 

Hey, y’all! I’m back at the blog today to share a little bit about getting started with your own teacher blog! You can read in a previous post Why You Should Start a Teacher Blog This Summer, but if you’re already convinced to start one, let’s talk about how to get it rolling. (Side note: Have you joined our email community yet? Receive “Start a Blog” tips straight to your inbox by signing up at the bottom of this page! You’ll receive a FREEBIE for just signing up!)

After you decide on your “why” for blogging and set your initial goals, you need to grab a domain name and actually start your blog (the REALLY fun part!).

Figuring out where to start your blog can be confusing and complicated, only because there is so. much. information. online about starting a blog. The first thing you need to decide is if you want to have a self-hosted blog.

In my opinion, if you’re looking to leverage your blog as a business (by driving traffic to a Teachers Pay Teachers store or selling products) or to craft your professional image (grow your personal brand, share your thoughts on pedagogy and classroom tips), you should have a self-hosted blog versus one that is on a free platform.  A self-hosted blog is one that is hosted on your own server. However, most people pay a 3rd party, like Siteground, Bluehost or iPage, to host it for them. An analogy I’ve seen to put it more simply is, think of the web hosting company like a landlord who rents digital space, WordPress as your house and your domain name as your address.

You Should have a Self-Hosted Blog because:

  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. For example, if I used Blogger, my blog’s name would initially be www.kelseynhayes.blogspot.com. With your self-hosted blog, it is just www.kelseynhayes.com. You can use a free platform, like Blogger or WordPress, and purchase a domain name to get rid of the “.blogspot.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 start up cost is $3.95/month and with a 30 day money back guarantee!
  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 Blogger, a free WordPress and any other free site (not self-hosted) you don’t have 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.

Getting Started

Ready to get started with your self-hosted blog? You can get started with *Siteground* in as few as a couple clicks. I highly recommend Siteground compared to other hosting companies because of 5 reasons: their support team, the cost, the 30-day money back guarantee (this was the kicker for me when I got started!), their migration services, and my personal experience.

  • Support Team: Their support team is the. bomb. (Do people still say that?) I was originally intimidated to have a self-hosted blog because I didn’t think I knew enough about the “tech” stuff to really manage it. This is also something I hear a lot from new bloggers. I was so wrong in having that assumption! For any question you may have you can either call or Live Chat their support team. Their support team is available 24/7 and are very prompt (in my experience have been on the line within 1 minute). For any questions I have personally asked, they have either found the answer, or asked questions to get more info and have found me a tutorial for how to do what I was asking about. Siteground’s support team is how I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress/Siteground seamlessly!
  • The Cost: The cost to get started is $3.95/month! That is it! If you’re starting without a previous domain name, your domain name is included (if it’s available for purchase). If you already own a domain name you can either just point the domain to your new account at *Siteground* (which support will help you do) or you can switch it over to Siteground altogether. If  you choose to move your domain name to Siteground, you will have to purchase the domain name again for $14.95, but you will get the time left on your other subscription plus an entire year included for that price!
  • Money Back Guarantee: You have nothing to lose! Not happy with their service, or change your mind about blogging? You have a 30 day money back guarantee!
  • Migration: If you already have a blog on a free site (like I did…I SO wish I would’ve originally started on a self-hosted site but that is another post) they have website migration services (free!). If the blog you have isn’t very large and you think you can do it yourself, there is a very simple process to download your current site (from Blogger, for example) and upload it on WordPress (I did this!)
  • My Personal Experience: Like I said above, when I switched from Blogger to *Siteground*, I had no experience with WordPress or with self-hosting. However, because of the support provided by Siteground and the capabilities provided by WordPress plugins I now have available, I feel like my site is better and easier to manage. I get more “bang for my buck”, if you will.
Whether you’re ready to start a teacher blog or you’re researching to see if you should switch your current blog to be self-hosted, I hope you found this post helpful! If you have any questions, please reach out to me in the comments or through Twitter!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from Siteground. This means that if you click one of the product links and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. Although this post contains affiliate links, all opinions and experiences are my own.

EdTech Tip of the Week: Padlet

EdTech, Teaching
Read this week's Ed Tech Tip of the Week on how Padlet can be used in your classroom!

Hey, y’all! I’m back at the blog to bring you the next EdTech Tip of the Week! This week I’m featuring Padlet. If you missed last week’s post about Nearpod, you can read it here.

What It Is

Padlet is a free app (iOS, Android and Kindle) and web-based program that is essentially an online bulletin board! Teachers and students can create, collaborate and curate content to their heart’s desire and it will be displayed in a simple, easy to read way without so many options that make useability confusing.  Padlet is easy to use, intuitive, flexible (any type of file can be added!), and can be private and secure (which is sometimes a concern when students are using technology).

Cool Features

Padlet has a lot of great features that make this tool easy to use in the classroom no matter if you’re an elementary, middle or high school teacher. You, or students, can add posts with a click, by copying-pasting info, or dragging and dropping the content into the Padlet.

You also share Padlets very easily, just by sharing a link, for collaborative projects. Those who has the link, will also not be required to go through a sign-up process, making collaborating even more seemless.

Something else that is handy, that actually came to mind as my first question when I saw that Padlet was free, is that there can be unlimited contributors to one Padlet. No need to sign up for a premium account, just to have your class of 30 work on something together.

Also, perhaps my favorite of all, is that Padlet supports just about any type of file. I love this because all students think differently! Maybe a student wants to contribute a YouTube video to the Padlet while another wants to add a web link and another a Powerpoint to demonstrate their understanding or showcase their thoughts. No matter the file type, each will have a small preview added when it is included on the Padlet.

Finally, I love how Padlet is so intuitive, as I mentioned above. Whether you aren’t really sure what you want the Padlet to look like when you get started, or you’re just design-challenged, when you create a new Padlet, you are taken to a screen where you can pick how you want to start. Maybe you want to have a stream of content, similar to a blog or list. Maybe you want rows of boxes for your particular project (grid), or you want it to take a more free form shape (canvas), by selecting what you’re trying to create, Padlet gets you set up and ready to go with a click of a button.

Want to read about more features straight from Padlet? Check out their website here.

How It Can Be Used In Your Class

Padlet can be used in so.many.ways. across all subject areas that it is hard to even make a list! Here is a list to get started:

  • Book Reviews: create a class Padlet where students add their book reviews for others to read! Or, students could create their own Padlet that has their review and other documents/multimedia added to review or display their understanding of the plot’s events and complicated nature of their book’s protagonist…the possibilities for this are endless!
  • Timeline: want to display information in a timeline to aide your history lesson? Or to show how events in a plot transpired? Use Padlet’s canvas feature to add information wherever you’d like on a page, or the stream feature for an easy top to bottom display of resources.
  • Resource Hub: Working on something in your classroom where you want to curate resources for students to view/use? This could be for station work, or a guided activity. Use Padlet’s shelf or grid design to dump the resources all in one place for easy perusing.
  • KWL Chart: Want students to collaborate on a K-W-L chart? Divide the background up into 3 columns and have students add their thinking onto the canvas design! Awesome example of this here.
  • Presentation/Portfolio: want to have examples of student work all in one place? Create a class Padlet for exemplars of particular assignments or of snapshots of particular student’s work. Did the student create a video, powerpoint, podcast or other multimedia product? Even better!
  • Thank You Board: create a Thank You board that students can contribute to when you have a particular staff person go out of the way for your class, or if you have an awesome class visitor or parent volunteer. No need for the recipient to keep the handwritten cards, they can have their Thank You’s all connected to one link!
  • Questions Board: Want to keep a digital “parking lot” of questions? Students can add questions 24/7 to the Padlet that the class can view and answer, or that you can see to address misunderstandings.
  • Playlist/Flashcards: want to create a video playlist of your students’ favorite songs to play during work time? Want to create a video resource hub within Padlet so students don’t have to click back out to YouTube? Maybe you want to have flashcards be able to roll across the screen as videos would? Create a playlist of resources!

Want to see different examples? View the Padlet Gallery! Click into one and see how it’s set up.

Resources

What is your favorite EdTech program/app to use in your classroom? Have you used Padlet before? What is your favorite part about it? Let me know in the comments, or Tweet me! Also, my friend Shana has started a Facebook group for ed tech enthusiasts…want to join? Click here! 

Want more EdTech tips? Subscribe for updates when EdTech Tip of the Week posts roll out! 

Why You Should Start a Teacher Blog This Summer

Blogging

Happy Summer!

I wanted to post today to talk about something that I feel like I’ve been talking about with other teachers a lot lately, and that is: Why You Should Start a Teacher Blog This Summer.

For most of the teachers I’ve talked to on this topic, most have said that it has been on their “list” for quite some time but they either shy away from it because they aren’t “techy” and are unsure of how to get started, or they don’t have time. I had those same doubts when I first started, too, but now realize how I was just holding myself back!

You should start a teacher blog this Summer because:

1.You will Connect and Network with Other Educators and Ultimately, Expand Your #TeacherTribe!

I started blogging a little over a year ago and blogging has enabled me to network and engage with other inspiring educators I never would have met otherwise through the awesome teacher blogger + TpT Seller networks I’ve plugged into.  Through social media and searching other teacher blogs for design inspiration for my own blog, I’ve reached out and connected with teachers who have motivated and inspired me along this journey. These people have ultimately become a little part of my PLN (professional learning network) and I haven’t even met them face to face! I’ve found this teacher-blogger community is so positive and encouraging, that my #teachertribe has definitely expanded for the better.

2. You Can Share Your Voice on Topics that are Important to You

Another reason why you should start a blog this summer is so you can share your unique voice. Another thing that teachers say to me is, “I don’t know what I’d write about that would be different!” There is no other you in the world, so whatever you write WOULD be different! It may take a bit to decide on your niche and find your unique voice, but your perspective is worth sharing with the world! For those who want to be a cheerleader of others and share tips, tricks and encouragement (like me!) then do that! For those who want to share their policy perspectives and comment on the state of education in politics…those conversations are happening anyway so an educators voice is needed! Whatever your unique voice would be, you should share it!

3. You Have Time to Blog.

“But, Kelsey…I don’t have time to blog!” I know you’re thinking it. What did you do this weekend? Binge watch House of Cards? Scroll on social media or Pinterest for hours? You can fit in a few minutes  a day to focus on your blog! I’m not saying binge watching isn’t needed sometimes (self-care is TOTALLY needed!) but if you prioritize even 20 minutes a day or every few days, those minutes add up!

There are thousands of bloggers around the world who have children and other jobs, you just have to find a blogging schedule that works for you!

4. Blogging Gives You a Project or Creative Outlet

If you’re like me, you enjoy projects, creating, and working towards a finished product or end goal. Not only did I want to learn a new skill (graphic design stuff + coding), I wanted the satisfaction of working toward something as a hobby. Even though I blog about my “job”, blogging still has been something I look forward to and get excited to continue to build.

5. It Will Help You Become Better at Your Job

Okay, this one sounds extreme. Designing a blog and writing a blog post won’t necessarily change how you execute lessons in your classroom without effort and planning, but reading other blogs and planning for your own pieces will help you not become complacent. Through blogging I have connected on social media with other teachers in an effort to drive traffic to my own blog. Through this, however, I have seriously met some awesome educators like I described in #1! I have gotten so many ideas, and gained inspiration and motivation from others who are in the trenches just like me every day. From seeing how some visualize a classroom space, to reading about getting real with students to seeing how some execute engaging lessons, I have become better at my job because of blogging.

6. You Can Make Money

You should NOT only start a blog to make money, as if that is your only goal you will probably not be too successful at it. However, once you start blogging and realize you’ll stick with it, you can make money at it! Through ad space on your blog, doing sponsored posts, affiliate links or just driving people to a Teachers Pay Teachers store, a blog can help you supplement your own income while also doing something you enjoy. Have a favorite blogger out there in blog land? I bet they are making money!

Convinced and ready to get started? Get started with Siteground *(affiliate link) and WordPress! 

Want a FREE RESOURCE to get started? Join the community here! Please reach out if you have any questions by commenting, emailing or Tweeting me!

 

EdTech Tip of the Week: Nearpod

EdTech, Teaching

Hey, y’all!

I hope by now most of you are on summer break and are enjoying a little time away from the normal duties of teaching (let’s be real, most of you are still working and are at conferences, cleaning up your classrooms, etc. so you’re not on “break” quite yet)! I wanted to write today to start a new series this summer where I will bring you an “EdTech Tip of the Week”. In these posts I will feature an app/web program or other EdTech tip to spread the word about it’s awesomeness and how it can potentially be used in your classroom! These posts are in no way sponsored, I just enjoy trying out new things and sharing helpful tips along the way!

This week, for the first “EdTech Tip of the Week”,  I’m featuring Nearpod!

What It Is

Nearpod is an app and web-based program that can help you “bring the classroom to life with interactive mobile presentations that teachers create and customize themselves”, per their website. Teachers can add in web content* and “activities” like open-ended questions, polls, quizzes, drawing, collaborate (like a digital bulletin board), fill in the blanks* and memory tests* in between traditional slides! (*for premium accounts)

Cool Features

  • Student Paced vs Live Mode: One cool thing about Nearpod is that you can either have it be in “Student Paced” or “Live Mode”. Student Paced mode is exactly what it sounds like…you can send the presentation to students and they can work their way through it at their own pace. When you’re in “Live Mode” whatever is on your screen, is on the students’ screen. So, if you’re on slide 5, the students will also be on slide 5 and they can’t go back or forward until you change the slide.
  • Notification When Student Logs Off: Something I hear a lot of from teachers about why they don’t embrace technology in the classroom, is that they feel like it’s hard to monitor. Well, Nearpod has a feature to show you if a student “logs off” during a “Live Mode” presentation. The teacher’s screen will show how many students are logged in, and the number will turn red if/when a student drops off the presentation to, say, go look at images of the newest Jordans to come out.
  • Assessment Reports:  One of my favorite things about Nearpod are the assessment reports that it produces! At the end of your presentation, you can export a PDF report to be emailed directly to you. The report tells you every students’ answer to each question that you asked, whether it be multiple choice, short answer, or a drawing! You can then review the reports to check for understanding for specific students. I show the students the report that I receive, so they are aware that they are accountable to be giving their best answers and thoughtful responses.
  • Assessibility/Integration: When making a Nearpod, you can either add content directly into the program and create from scratch, or you can upload already existing files! This was super exciting for me, as I was already some Google Slides made for a unit I was going to do when I first began tinkering with Nearpod. I just uploaded the slides, and then added the interactivity where I saw fit.
  • Lesson Market: Nearpod offers a “Market” that has free and paid Common Core aligned lessons that are ready to launch! The market has lessons for all grades and all subjects. They offer

How It Can Be Used in Your Class

Nearpod has features that can be used across all subject levels (yes, even math!) which allows it to be a great tool, no matter what subject or grade you teach! I suggest that no matter your topic, start small in using Nearpod, like as exit tickets, or warm-ups, and you will find that your students will LOVE it and you will discover even more ways to utilize this multi-faceted platform in your class.

I started to make a list of ways to use Nearpod in the different subjects, and found that Nearpod had already done that on their blog! I’ve linked them below:

Resources

Want to get started with Nearpod? I’ve linked the videos that I watched when I got started with Nearpod in my classroom! Nearpod’s YouTube channel has 23 instructional videos and countless others featuring it’s awesomeness!

What is your favorite EdTech program/app to use in your classroom? Have you used Nearpod before? What is your favorite part about it? Let me know in the comments! Also, my friend Shana over at Hello, Teacher Lady has started a Facebook group for ed tech enthusiasts…want to join? Click here!

Until next week,

 

How to Participate in a Twitter Chat: For Teachers

Blogging, Featured, Teaching, Twitter

Hey, y’all!

If you’ve been following me on social media or this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably realized that I love to try new things with technology in and out of the classroom in order to impact my teaching practice.

Long before I had a blog, I was very active on Twitter. However, I had never participated in a Twitter chat before I became a teacher! Twitter chats have been an amazing way for me to connect with other educators around the world around specific topics, and I seem to always leave each one feeling more energized than before I started. Because of this, I wanted to bring you: How to Participate in a Twitter Chat: For Teachers!

Twitter chats take place every day of the week around a LOT of different topics in education. Grade specific, subject specific, education hot topic specific…you name it, there is probably a Twitter chat for it.  Don’t have a chat to join but want to find one? Check out this longggg list of Twitter chats I found. 

 
1. Get a Twitter Account. (or Sign In if you already have one)

Tip: If you’re just making an account, something that is similar to your name or position will most likely foster more engagement overall, as you will be easier to search.

If you’re at www.twitter.com. in the top right corner you will see the options to Log In to Twitter or Sign Up for an account.

2. Find Your Chat.  
Type the chat’s hashtag into your search box in the top right corner. For the sake of this example, I typed #JCPSchat, which is a chat my district has.

3. Click “Latest”.
Clicking “latest” will have the chats load in the order that people send them so you can just scroll and follow along during the chat. If you check the hashtag when the chat is not happening, you will still see the Tweets appear in order as people use the hashtag.

4. Take note of who is moderating the chat, so you’re aware who will be posting the questions (especially if it is a large chat. Tweets start moving fast!)

5. Questions/Answering
For Twitter chats, questions follow a Q1, Q2, Q3 format. When you answer questions, you then should use an A1, A2, A3 format. This allows participants to see what you’re referencing and will lead to better conversation.

For example, so you can see the format, this was question 2 in a chat I participated in:

The question has “Q2” to identify it as the 2nd question and answers to that question had “A2” at the beginning to indicate the answer corresponded with question 2.

6. Use the chat’s hashtag when tweeting.
Use the chat’s hashtag in every tweet so it shows up in the chat’s thread. Without it, people in the chat won’t see what you’re posting!

7. Start responding + engaging with others! 
It is okay, obviously, for you to be a “lurker” the first couple of times, but you will get a LOT more out of the chat by engaging and connecting with others!

It is THAT easy! If you haven’t participated in a Twitter chat yet, I highly encourage you to do so! It is like a bite-sized, pocket PD that you can access when you have time! Also, find me on Twitter, I would LOVE to connect!

Happy Tweeting,

Dear Teacher, You are Enough.

Featured, State Testing, Teaching, test prep
Dear Teachers,

 

It’s that time again. You know… the time where you have to either take down your entire classroom or cover every resource with butcher paper, even though there is a month of school left. The time where desks go in rows, countdowns begin, art projects are taken down, flexible seating options are put away and you make sure you have a place to double lock materials and store extra snacks. It’s “I can’t help you, just do your best” time. It’s state testing season.

You’ve prepared for this the entire year. Even if you don’t focus much on “the test” in your classroom and in your school, you’ve still been preparing for it. You know the standards that will be tested and the kids know (dread) that this happens each year. However, no matter how great of a year you and your students have had or how awesome your classroom culture is this time of year always seems incredibly stressful.

I know you’ve had the talk with you students about how one test doesn’t measure their worth. One test doesn’t tell them if they’re a good brother, sister, friend. One test doesn’t show anyone that they’re a really good artist, that they stand up to bullies, or are extremely compassionate. One test does not define their future success in life and a label of “Novice” or “Apprentice” may show us that they aren’t there “yet” in terms of learning some standards, but it doesn’t mean they are less than. I know you’ve told them that you’re proud of them always, no matter what.  But regardless of how you and your students view testing, it happens, and we must all put forth our best effort to try to be as successful as possible.

I know students are feeling anxious. No one wants to perform poorly, whether it be for themselves, their parents or you.

And I know that you, too, are feeling anxious. You’re worried about how testing will affect the self-confidence of your students. You’re worried that the pride they’ve felt for knowing they’ve grown academically will go away when they realize the test is still hard compared to their ability and reading level. You’re worried that you didn’t do right by them because you see a poem on the test and you should’ve gone over poetry a little bit more to help them be successful.  You worry that really you should’ve assigned more reading homework or should’ve used even more lunch periods to hold math tutorials.  You worry that you didn’t do something to set them up for success.

My message for you, Teach, is that you’ve been enough. We preach this to our students all year, but you must remember it too. The consistency you’ve provided your students all year, the hugs, the encouragement are all worth much, much more than a score on a test. You’ve held high standards for students despite many of them facing extreme adversity in their lives and have helped them grow from a “Below Basic” reader to damn near “Proficient”. You’ve shown them how to have character and do the right thing even when no one is watching. You’ve modeled for them kindness, empathy, and honesty.

You’ve shown them that they are believed in, loved, trusted, listened to. You’ve shown them that they are important and that their voice matters. And while whatever will be, will be, when it comes to how they perform on their tests, you have done enough and you are enough.

p.s. Want to start a teacher blog like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!

How to Start a Teacher Blog

Blogging, Featured

Hey, y’all!

I cannot believe it has been 1 whole year since I first started this blogging journey. I originally started this blog as a creative outlet, a way to share some tips I’ve learned along the way as a teacher, as well as share some awesome resources I’ve come across. If you asked me a year ago about where I’d think I’d be a year out from starting my blog, my answer would not have been anywhere near what has happened!

Blogging has not only been a creative outlet for me, or a side hobby, but it has connected me to other really passionate educators who are doing awesome things in their classrooms. I’ve been able to gain great ideas, network and learn about opportunities I never would have heard of if it wasn’t for this inspiring community.  Because of all of this, the the purpose for this blog has changed a little bit for me, and has become even more clear in the past few weeks.

Lately, I’ve been lucky enough to start talking to others in my district about starting their own teaching blogs and sharing their voice. As a result of this,  everything I’ve tried (successful and not so successful) with blogging has come flooding back to me. I learned all about how to start my own blog through Googling (a LOT of Googling) and through just getting started and figuring it out as I went. I’ve loved this blogging community so much that now I want to share what I’ve learned!

When I first started, I literally Googled “How to Start a Teacher” blog for nothing to come up. I varied that search some and could only find links here and there where a teacher maybe wrote about something very specific in terms of customizing a blog, but there never was a “one-stop shop” place with advice. Yes, there are TONS of resources online (especially on Pinterest) about how to start a blog and market it, but the majority of the information is geared towards businesses who happen to blog. Let’s face it, teachers and teaching blogs are just different! It has led to me wanting to be very intentional and specific in how I share everything I’ve learned!

Every teacher has a story, a unique point of view, and has something to offer to the larger education community. Whether you have some awesome strategies to share that can help out new (or all!) teachers, you want to market your Teachers Pay Teachers products or are just looking to start a project, you should start YOUR teacher blog!

To start off, I’ve created an overview infographic of “How to Start a Teacher Blog”. If you want to grab it (it’s FREE!) , sign up here and you will receive it to your email as soon as you confirm your email. I’m currently building much more content along these lines to build upon the info in this graphic and to go even more into specifics. Join Our Community!

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Also, my friend, Suzi, created an ebook about starting a blog that has helped me a lot as I’ve grown my blog. My ebook is not finished yet, so you should grab hers here!

Questions? Reach out to me in the comments, or on social media! I’m current loving Instagram. 🙂

My Experience at an ECET2 Conference

ECET, Middle School, Teaching

Hey, y’all!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but I’m so excited about this that I had to make time to share!

Last weekend I attended an ECET2 conference, specifically #ECET2LOU (Louisville). ECET stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers and was born “out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession”.  It is connected with Teacher2Teacher on a national level and was organized in Louisville by JCPSForward, a group that is leading a “strategic, intentional effort to identify and connect the educators in JCPS that are deeply impacting learning and teaching”. 

I left the conference feeling inspired, energized and fired up to return to my classroom. Being around other teachers who are life long learners that want to continuously increase their effectiveness and share was a breath of fresh air during this trying time in the year. Leaving the conference, it was so apparent how many amazing, mission-oriented educators are in my district and it was awesome meeting them face-to-face.

If you have the opportunity to attend one in your area, or even go to the national ECET2 (which I’d like to do), I’m highly recommending you take advantage of it and GO!

The Format/Style
Going to the conference, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. What would the vibe be like? Would it be “sit and get” and a waste of a Saturday? Since it is FOR TEACHERS BY TEACHERS (#praise!), it wasn’t “sit and get” at all! Friday night was the “optional” night and it opened with a keynote speaker (@drvickip) who was phenomenal. She spoke about how #ItsTime teachers are given voice, space and time to do their best work.

After the keynote, there were breakout sessions. Attendees could go watch a screening of “Most Likely to Succeed” or participate in BreakoutEDU games before heading to a more social gathering to end the night.

Bright and early the next morning, the conference started off with breakfast where attendees could register for the day as well as mingle with others. The rest of the day was divided up by breakout sessions (3), a “working lunch” with a speaker, and colleague circles. One of the best parts about the day was the variety of sessions you could choose from. Just how we, educators, talk about giving kids choice in the classroom and with assignments, it is the same with adults! I was able to make meaning of things and takeaway much more because I was in sessions that I chose that were relevant to me.

#WhyITeach: To Close Achievement Gaps

My Takeaways
The first session I chose was the ESSA/Ed Policy session. I was originally a political science major and have a passion for politics, especially ed policy. Because of the state of Kentucky politics at the moment, many education bills are being discussed this session. I wanted to hear what the presenters had to say, and learn from presenters who were committed to sharing information about the bills, without partisan spin and editorializing. My takeaway from this session was that a lot more educators are plugged in to these topics than I originally thought. Some awesome discussion came out of the session as we broke to talk about specific bills that are on the docket in the Kentucky legislature now. The conversations pushed my thinking, as well as confirmed some of my viewpoints. I also learned a lot more about the history of testing in Kentucky, as I was in elementary school with the CATS test started and wasn’t privy to anything that happened outside of the playground. 🙂

The second session I chose was the Strengths and Girls of Color session presented by  Dr. Mathies, Dr. Carmichael and Dr. Young. This was the most powerful session. Not only were the presenters engaging, their statistics about discipline and suspension rates for girls of color were extremely relevant as they spoke about national trends, as well as within JCPS. Their session led participants to recognize and name some of their own privilege and bias in order to put some of their presentation into better context. They left the presenters with actionable steps and resources they can take back to their campuses. My takeaway from this session is that I’m not doing enough in order to push the thinking of my colleagues in terms of how we interact with girls of color at my campus. It is great if I am aware of myself, adjust my practice in order to better support students of color, but the work must not stop there.


My Next Steps
After reflecting this week on my takeaways and what “stuck with me”, I wanted to create some next steps for myself because the exciting work and dialogue doesn’t need to stop just because the conference is over!

Because of my passion for education policy, I’m going to be more plugged in in terms of monitoring education bills in my state and I’m going to provide feedback on bills through the KYEdPolicy website. The site allows visitors to read the bills as they are (with no partisan spin), leave feedback on a simple Google form, that then gets shared with electeds and other stakeholders. Conversations are going to be had about the legislation anyway, and I believe it is important to have as much feedback from educators as possible in the conversation.

Additionally, my next step is to to get more plugged in with the #ColorBraveJCPS work and to take steps to spread the word and challenge thinking on my campus in terms of how we support girls of color. I’m going to do this by (1) seeing if we can do the color arc activity with staff at my campus, as well as (2) have conversations about some of our school level data. I’m going to continue to dialogue with the presenters of the session (Dr. Mathies, Dr. Carmichael and Dr. Young) as well.

Have you attended an ECET2 conference? What was your experience like?

Until next time,

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