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Sunday / November 19

Are you afraid to blog?

Putting ourselves out there can be really intimidating maybe even terrifying but it doesn’t have to be. Social media and blogging are an opportunity to share our unique voices with a community who is invested in learning and growing with us.

A few years ago I, too, was uncomfortable with the idea of blogging (if you can believe that). When I had something important to post, I’d email it to my boyfriend and politely ask him to put it up for me. Not understanding WordPress was my excuse to not do it myself and as a teacher, I know this tactic well. Fortunately, so did my boyfriend. After about two months of me sending him emails, he stopped posting quickly.

Since I like things done fast, he knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with him taking his time and in doing so, forced me to learn. Staring at the dashboard of my blog, I would touch buttons and hope I didn’t ruin everything. A couple of times, I did, but fortunately, my boyfriend was there to show me how to undo whatever disaster I created.

I played with themes, plugins, widgets (before I knew or understood what they were). After looking at dozens of other people’s blogs, it was time to just do it. Much like I advocate for my students, I jumped in and haven’t looked back.

The writing part isn’t particularly hard for me. I use the blog as an opportunity for reflection for better or for worse and if people read it, awesome, but I really do it for me first. In the beginning, I was only comfortable sharing the positive stuff that happened, but after a while, I realized that is only half the story. Full disclosure and transparency helped me get to a better place in my teaching and modeled a behavior for my students and, inadvertently, other teachers.

It wasn’t long after that before I started building a community of readers. Getting involved with Twitter chats offered a forum to share what I had written as it applied to what we were talking about. People started thanking me for sharing so honestly and I kind of got hooked.

Blogging is different for everyone. That’s probably why I wrote Blogging for Educators. There is no one right way to do it, but it really is beneficial for everyone who does and it has a multiplier effect because it also benefits those who read and share.

Setting up a blog is really easy. You just need to choose which platform you’d like to use, (I use WordPress for my personal blog StarrSackstein.com and our student media uses it too – WJPSnews.com, but my students use Blogger for literature blogs) and select a name. Don’t get too hung up on what you want to call it, go with what feels right and is easy to remember.

Once you’ve set up the blog and have a URL, you can start customizing the look. You can keep it simple or you can make it complicated. At first, I suggest a simple theme that doesn’t require too many pictures or content and as you grow as a blogger, you can always adjust the theme appropriately.

Starting anything new can be challenging, but also exciting. Rather than allow fear to ruin potential growth opportunities, take the plunge and model for your students how progress happens.

What are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to start blogging? I’m always here to help if you need me.

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Starr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, NY as a high school English and Journalism teacher and author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective. This year she begins a new blog with Education Week Teacher called “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog StarrSackstein.com where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #jerdchat and #sunchat as well as contributes to #NYedChat. This year she has made the Bammy Awards finals for Secondary High School Educator. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Starr is the author of Blogging for Educators.

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