Teacher-blogging: Getting Started Week 3

Life long learning Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/

Week 3 – Find tips, tricks, resources, and classroom connections throughout my day-to-day journey in Blogging 101

Day 11 – Make a Prompt Personal (a constructivist approach)

I love the idea of personalizing The Daily Prompt. When I’m new at something, it’s comforting to be given suggestions and structure.

A fellow teacher once told me that when we create classrooms without structure, it’s like asking kids to walk across a bridge with no railings. This got me thinking about the constructivist approach to learning (Christopher Lister explains constructivism). Sometimes teachers think constructivism means students do everything on their own, without boundaries. I would interpret it differently. I believe constructivism is more successful when we support students by providing a structure within which they can have an experience. Thanks to Blogging 101 I’ve had a few railings to lean on as I construct my understanding of blogging.

Find my Daily Prompt response about secret ingredients here.

Have a thought on constructivisim? Leave a comment below.

Day 12 – Increase Your Commenting  With Confidence (letting go of being shy)

For this assignment, we found others who personalized the same prompt, read six, and commented on two. I used to be afraid of commenting on blogs. What would the world think of my opinions?!

I can definitely relate to students in the classroom who are afraid to share their thinking. It’s exciting that our new standards require us to teach students to effectively communicate with each other. I applaud this move toward making education a collaborative endeavor. Commenting through Blogging 101 has helped me shed my own shyness.

Find out what I was brave enough to share here and here.

Willing to share your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Day 13 – Try Another Blogging Event (taking the easy route)

This assignment had me stumped. So much to choose from and so little time. So I’ve decided to take the easy route and go for Blogging 201 in July.

Sometimes the most important thing we can provide to students is letting them know what’s next. Doing so creates a safe and predictable (but not boring!) environment. For me, knowing Blogging 201 is coming provides some comfort along this blogging adventure.

Have a blogging event to share about? Leave a comment below.

Day 14 – Extend Your Brand (need advice – read THIS)

This was my most productive assignment of the week. Talk about constructing learning!

First, I re-created my Facebook page as a web page (instead of business). Save yourself some time by finding out how here. I’d been trying to figure this out for weeks and Blogging 101 got me going in minutes – whew! Then I created a custom header, custom image widgets, and a custom blavatar using PicMonkey. A word to the wise, write down your steps, write down your steps, write down your steps when you use PicMonkey. There is a tremendous amount you can do but once you save your image you cannot retrace your steps. So if you want to recreate something, like custom image widgets that match your header and blavatar, keep track of what you’re doing. Scroll up to see my take on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube widgets in the sidebar. All were made with PicMonkey.

Going through this process was as gratifying as it was time-consuming. I could practically feel my neurons firing. At the same time I was aware of the hours I was poring into this project. I’m reminded of the importance of productive struggle, and the time it takes,  in the classroom. If we want students to  internalize their learning they need time to experiment, time to construct their own understanding, and time to engage in productive struggle and problems solving. I know first hand because this assignment gave me all three!

Possess tips and tricks for personalizing your work? Leave a comment below?

Day 15 – Create a New Posting Feature

I’m torn on this one. As I mentioned at the top, I appreciate a little support and structure when I try something new. So I’m considering two “challenges” for my new posting feature. One is the Slice of Life Story Challenge and the other is WordPress’ Daily Prompt. I’m intimidated by both, but for different reasons. Slice of Life is extremely open-ended, where as Daily Prompt can be a bit specific. Either way, they can both feel intimidating.

For students, the same can come up. One kind of writing prompt can be too narrow, and another too broad. Therefor it’s important for students to have choice, especially when trying to just get ideas on the table. This is one of the strengths of keeping a writer’s notebook to gather seed ideas.

Do you have a posting feature that works well on your blog? Leave a comment below.

It’s been a HUGE in terms of blogging pushing my thinking around students. This experience helps me remain a life-long learner and I’m having a ton of fun doing it!

What helps you stay fresh as a teacher/learner? Leave a comment below.


Five Secret Ingredients for an Inspired School Year (try them NOW)

Congratulations, summer is here! If you’re a newly credentialed teacher you’re poised to relish in these last few months before your new career begins. If you’ve been in the classroom awhile you’re looking forward to the replenishing days ahead. No matter who you are you know that teaching is fulfilling, but hard, work. At times it can be down-right difficult to be “an instrument of inspiration” for your students. Maintaining positivity throughout the school year takes practice and dedication.

Below you’ll find five secret ingredients for an inspired year. Use them now so that they become habits for the year ahead.

1. Savor your accomplishments

As a teacher it can be easy to feel under-appreciated. In the busy world of public schools sometimes expressing gratitude takes a back seat, and teachers feel that. However, this feeling offers the opportunity for building a practice of self-acknowledgement. Begin by recording your accomplishments in a journal. Starting now has three benefits: 1) You have time to ingrain your self-appreciation so that it still exists during the school year, 2) You’ll relish those pages when challenges are at a high, and 3) You can use your successes to stay inspired. Accomplishment #1 – You did the hard work to make it through last year!


If you’ve ever had a negative interaction at school then you know the sting it leaves can become distracting, even make you lose a bit of your confident edge. To turn it around use the mantra “QTIP” (quit taking it personally). Doing so helps you depersonalize and maintain positivity. Practice this summer when someone steals your parking spot or cuts you off. Instead of getting caught up, say “QTIP” and move on to your vacation-time fun. Making this a habit will make it easier to stay inspired instead of being brought down by other people.

3. Remember your influence – to the north, south, east, and west

It can be common to feel powerless as a teacher, which often results in the unproductive blaming of others. Instead, as Tim Kanold eloquently suggests, consider how your “words and actions…impact those in your north, south, east and west spheres of influence”. In other words, look at the effort you put in to positively affect your bosses, colleagues, and mentees. Try it out this summer in your interactions with those you admire, those you take for granted, and those you believe are your equals. Take this time to build a practice of intentional impact. During the year you’ll feel more in control and inspired.

4. Fake it until you make it

It’s impossible to be an expert at everything a teacher does. However, that shouldn’t stop you from trying new ways of instructing. To move through the fear of not knowing exactly how to do something act as if you know what you’re doing, and do the best you can. Then keep practicing and searching for support. This summer, get in the groove of faking it until you make it by taking on something new, big or small. These experiences will help in the coming year as you inspire your own students to stretch their comfort zones.

5. Be proud of your career choice

Over the past few years there’s been a storm of political backlash against, and scapegoating of, teachers and public education. This can affect how you feel about your job. In the face of negativity it’s important to remember why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place. This summer, think about your story. What led you to this career? What would your elevator pitch be? Focus now on why you’re proud. Doing so will help you build an inspiring sense of self to share with your students and colleagues throughout the year.

Teacher-blogging: Getting Started Week 2

I am a writer

Week 2 – Tips, resources, and classroom connections

Week one flew by! When real learning is happening it’s enthralling, and time spins away. Last week felt the same. This week I am able to say, “I am a blog writer”. If your considering blogging, take note of how quickly you can learn!

Day 6 – Make an “irresistible” About Page

This was a challenge. However, About Page 101: Making Them Care is an incredible resource. If your like me, struggling, to write about yourself, use the tip of allowing a finite amount of time on a specific topic. We use quick-writes with students, why not use them with ourselves?

Day 7 – Keep Personalizing

Playing with visuals is how we personalize things. For students, this can be a writer’s notebook. For us, it’s our teacher-blog. Today I personalized by picking my theme. To do so, I had to think about  who I am, who I want to connect with, and how my theme communicates that. When you pick a theme, think about the emotional connection you hope to evoke. More than anything this will personalize your blog.

Day 8 – Be a Good Neighbor

Time for checking out others (read below for four powerful blogs). Think of this as a gallery walk. In the classroom, before you send students off to critique each other, you lay some ground rules. It’s the same in the blogoshpere. Read these eight norms (from @kristastevens, WordPress Blogging 101) for commenting on blogs and then get visiting!

  1. Try to avoid comments that simply say “Great post!” or “Thanks!” — make an effort to add to the discussion.
  2. Be specific about why you enjoyed the post.
  3. Ask a relevant question.
  4. Respectfully offer a counterpoint. (And because it can’t be overstated: respectfully.)
  5. Share a related experience.
  6. Be concise. If your comment ends up being more than two paragraphs, consider writing a post of your own and letting the blogger know they inspired it.
  7. Don’t leave a plug that simply links to your blog — your name links back to your blog anyway.
  8. Mind your manners. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in their comment thread.

Here are the comments I left on four thought-provoking blogs

  • Book People Blog – A wonderful bookstore blog
  • Colorin Colorado – A blog sharing all things about students learning English as an additional language
  • School for Linguists Blog – A blog focused on linguistics, an important topic for those teaching students learning English as an additional language!
  • Pushing the Edge Blog – My favorite pick-me-up blog. Every time I go here I gain courage to try something new!

Day 9 – Get Inspired by the Neighbors

Sometimes you have to put it all out there. Unabashedly. I learned that while ago as a classroom teacher. If I share who I am, the kids have someone to connect with. If all I do is teach, it becomes a little robotic. Education isn’t about receiving information, it’s about internalizing an experience. And I am part of their experience. I put it out here for this post because I am inspired by the neighbors. Check out my day nine post I’m a Groupie (and You Should Be Too). It speaks for itself.

You should try this too. Find a blog you love, and turn it into a post about that blog. When I shared my post with the blogger I wrote it about, it made his day. You have the power to make someone’s day too!

Day 10 – Build a Better Blogroll

Epiphany! Yes, I finally read through most of the directions for building links and adding to the menu and creating a blogroll. You know what happened? I figured out how to do something I’ve been frustrated over the past two weeks – get my Blogging 101 posts into one thread on my menu without making a page.

Have you ever noticed in the classroom what happens when students don’t read the directions? As a teacher does it make you frustrated? Are you able to empathize with why they don’t want to?

If your a WordPress used, and you need help, go straight to the support section or email the support team. Everything you need is there!

I’m a Groupie (and You Should Be Too)


It’s come to my attention this week that I’m a complete Greg Curran groupie, and you should be too. If I wasn’t so proud of my cyber-connection to this individual, I would probably be extremely embarrassed to have shared this with the world. Needless to say the facts are the facts.

So how does a well-educated, overly-analytical, teacher like me realize that she is a groupie? Here are five sure signs:

1) I follow Greg on all social media platforms that I can (find him on Twitter @GregBCurran).

2) I listen to Greg’s podcast over laundry and dishes.

3) When I received this Blogging 101 assignment to comment on a blog, guess who’s I went to right away? Yes, Greg’s.

4) I dream of connecting on a future project with Greg.

5) I hope Greg reads this and smiles.

If you, like me, have ever needed a nudge forward as an educator (or a person), you’ll know why Greg resonates with me. I chose to leave one of my first comments ever on his blog because I believe deeply in Greg’s ardent message of equity, I connect with his love of our profession, and I admire his ability to “push the edge”. I couldn’t possibly share enough about Greg’s blog. You’ll have to make sure to check it out yourself at www.pushingtheedge.org

Do you have a professional crush? Tell us who in the comments.

Teacher-blogging: Getting Started Week 1

bird touching water 2
Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/max_fellermann

Week 1 – Learn about teacher-blog creation 

In the spirit of taking risks I enrolled in WordPress’ Blogging 101. Use my chronicle of the first week to get your own blog started, and to think about how you would use blogging with students.

Day 1 – Introduce Yourself to the World

Two shares today:

1) I introduced myself to the world with Who I am and Why I’m Here. Please go read it so you know who your spending time with!

2) If you’re on the fence about starting a teacher-blog enroll in a WordPress Blogging 101 course. Here’s why: The rigor that we want for students, is the same rigor we want for ourselves. It’s characterized by what Pauline Gibbons calls high-challenge and high-support. With too much challenge, students back away after experiencing failure. With too much support, students tend to get bored or come to depend too much on others. As a newbie teacher-blogger, you need both high-challenge and high-support and WordPress courses offer exactly that!

Day 2 – Take Control of Your Title and Tagline

Before I published my first post I had already thought a lot about my title. In fact, I came to this task with some background knowledge. And we all know how important that is when it comes to new learning!

If you don’t have a lot of knowledge in this area, here is something I recently learned from writer Cyn Franks:  KISS – Keep It Simple Silly.

Titles and taglines, especially for teacher-bloggers, should be catchy but to the point. You want your readers to find you quickly, and know they’ll get what something worthwhile in exchange for their attention.

Day 3 – Say Hello to the Neighbors

Now this is something you do know about: building and utilizing community. How many times have you told students to ask a neighbor before asking you? Remember “Ask three before you ask me?” It’s the same with blogging. You need to get to know others, and rely on them for help.

Here’s what our teacher, @kristastevens, said:

“Publishing posts is only half of blogging — engaging with the community is the other. Considering what other bloggers write will inspire you and sharpen your thoughts.”

When you start your own blog find a safe group to bounce ideas around with. In WordPress courses, The Commons is a ready-made community to do just that. Trust me, it will be worth your time.

Day 4 – Identify Your Audience

I’d thought a lot about my potential audience prior to launching. I’m a teacher, of course I want to write for you, my fellow educators!

But this got me to hone in even more:

“Writing with a specific person in mind is a great way to focus both your thoughts and your goals for your blog.” (@kristastevens, WordPress Blogging 101)

Blogging and teaching are both about creating purposeful, personal connection. So when you begin your teacher-blog, put that one person in your mind that you really want to speak to. Doing so will push your blog to the next level.

Day 5 – One week down – nice work!

Whew! My first week of blogging brought joy and excitement. I’m finally doing something I’ve thought about for a long time.

I loved receiving a “nice work!” message. The power of recognition cannot be overstated. For students, and for teacher-bloggers, just a little bit goes such a long way!

Teacher-blogging Ground Zero – Keep Calm and Blog

Keep Calm and Blog

Week 0 – What in the world is blogging all about?!

If you’re reading this, then like me you’re probably a life-long learner. It’s fun and exciting to learn new things. But it can be a little nerve wracking too.

You’ve come to the right place. When you read the Blogging 101 category, you’ll join the journey to become a teacher-blogger.

By seeing how I’m doing it, you’ll learn new ideas and might just be inspired to start your own site.

There are sure to be triumphs and trials while I climb out on this limb, and I hope you’ll climb with me!

More Resources

Check out Two Writing Teachers for more posts about blogging and blogging with students.

Beginning Summer With Beginner’s Mind

Flower for Begining Summer with Beginner's MindImage found at https://flic.kr/p/eFPrAZAs

As I end this school-year, like many of you, I am asking myself: Have I really done all that I set out to do. Have I touched lives in the way I wanted to? Taken the chances worth taking? And although I’m wondering IF I’ve accomplished my goals, I’m also taking a look at WHY I want to. What is it that drew me to this career in the first place? Why is it that I will come back in the fall?

Of course there are obvious things like being a positive part of change, loving learning,  and working with amazing people. But there are many jobs that could give me this. Why education? In delving into this question I’ve come to realize that what sets teaching apart is its natural connection to beginner’s mind.

What is it that drew me to this career in the first place?

Why is it that I will come back in the fall? 

Why education?

Beginner’s mind is about having the wonder of the “first-time”, even when we are no longer novices. It is the hunger of possibility, even when we have traveled a path many times. It is a way of living into opportunity, even if we think we have experienced it all. When you meet someone with beginner’s mind they are wide-eyed with discovery, even if they are an expert. They bubble with the freedom of learning, although they already know so much.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind. It’s how we add the wonder of learning to the drive for achievement. When we promote the safe space to be a novice, we promote beginner’s mind.  When we reframe mistakes as first steps, we shape beginner’s mind. And when we exude our own passion, we exemplify beginner’s mind.

At the end of the school year it is easy to find ourselves all out of beginner’s mind. Given the best of intentions, the course of the year can diminish our intrigue. The day-to-day routine can become mundane. After months of putting in so much effort, we may be just-plain-tired. In any of these situations it can be hard to see the world through inspired eyes.

Summer is the perfect opportunity to jump-start beginner’s mind. Here are three things to try to help you get back into your beginner’s mind:

  1. Do something new – Trying something new immediately puts us in a place of beginner’s mind because, realistically, we are beginners. Doing new things can be valuable whether big or small. You may hang-glide or just try a new coffee. You might call someone you have never hung out with, or just take a different route. Either way, notice the feeling of newness and discovery. What would it be like to bring this feeling to your routines during the school year?
  2. Start small Begin to think about your day-to-day experiences as if you were just having them for the first time. Remember the first flower you planted that bloomed? How about the first time you drove a car on your own? What about when you got a new pillow and had the best night of sleep ever? How about the first time you traveled somewhere new? Starting with small ways to view the world in a new light sets us on a larger path towards maintaining a mindset of inspiration. What would it be like to keep first-time excitement at the forefront of your mind all throughout the school year?
  3. Practice gratitude for the regular – Renewing our appreciation for things we have come to take for granted opens up space in our hearts and minds. When we take time to practice gratitude we build new mental habits, new neural-connections. Doing so gives us energy where we might otherwise feel drudgery (doing dishes again?). What would it be like to feel grateful for that one thing that happened again and again last year? Could gratitude give us power in those moments?

As you begin summer, I hope you’ll consider ways to conjure beginner’s mind. No matter if you are just starting your teaching career, or have long-standing experience, beginner’s mind can help keep your passion alive. To help myself, and get others thinking along these lines, I have posted this quote by my classroom door. Maybe you will too?

The person that inspired this post

Suzuki Roshi “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

The book that inspired this post

 Zen Mind Beginner's Mind