by Rob Lane
When I started teaching in 2006, the teacher's tools were a CD player, overhead projectors and acetates, pockets full of markers, and a fistful of photocopies. The role of teacher was also somewhat more restricted to the classroom. But, language teachers are an innovative bunch. As technology has become more practical and relevant, it has invigorated and opened up new opportunities for the guerrilla English teacher. Cloud stored audio on smartphones, shared whiteboard apps, high-quality video calling and wireless printing, among others, have allowed us to have whole libraries at our fingertips. But, it is not just the teacher's tools that have been upgraded.
A teacher is rarely merely a teacher. School management are finally starting to realize teachers' potential beyond the classroom and are inviting them take on wider roles within schools. The following is one area where many teachers have already been active for some time – blogging.
I am lazy. But, laziness breeds innovation. How can I do it more efficiently? It seemed a logical step to create a bank of board notes that I could call on anytime and at any location. The boss will be happy to see the whiteboards being used, the students think you're pretty hip, and you can just keep on laughing because you don't have write so much. Within a few months I had a range of notes written - glorified acetates.
I had asked my DOS if there was anything else I could be doing to expand my skill set. At the time, most of the major schools were starting to take social media presence seriously and SEO was the buzz acronym. The school was looking for writers to flesh out the website and add content that would attract potential students. Plus, the more relevant content on the site and the more hits, the higher the search ranking. As I was using approximately the same notes in multiple locations, the question of content ownership arose. My director was happy for the content to remain mine and free to use as I pleased.
I produced an article every fortnight and posted each on two separate platforms: the school's WordPress based website and on my own Google+ page. Within just over a year, the articles have attracted a combined total of around 60,000 views.
I think that before getting started, it is essential to decide why and for whom you are writing and really customize the content. A key factor to keep in mind here is the length of each article: 250-500 words is the recommended length. For me, the most appropriate subject to write about was grammar. The strategy was to post the articles on the school's website and share them through social media pages. Effectively, no site ever runs solo. Your social media campaign should always be funneling visitors to the main website. Another important consideration is the metadata that you are invited to input on the dashboard side of the blogsite. Essentially, these are the key words and phrases that will be picked up by search engines. Experimentation with this is an ongoing process as search engines are continuously changing their parameters. A final point worth keeping in mind is that articles with images attract more traffic than those that don't. Images should be relevant and not detract from the content. The project ran for about a year and I have continued writing for myself as well as making gains in social media marketing.
Writing a blog, whether academic or cultural, will never be time wasted for a teacher. I have found it useful for honing my explanations, a source for homework, an in-class reference and a boost to the school's marketing efforts. It has allowed me to get in contact with like-minded people and participate in the global ELT discussions that are ever ongoing. It has been a learning curve. If you are interested in writing a blog, I recommend that you have a straight-up chat with your DOS to see if there is an appetite for it: there most likely is. I strongly suggest that you ensure that content ownership stays with you. Keep in mind also that content writing and marketing are two of the hottest areas for teachers making a move away from the classroom. Regardless of your motivations, there may be more to be gained from writing a blog than you expected so why not give it a lash.