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How to Start a Teacher Blog

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.

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

My Experience at an ECET2 Conference

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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The Top 20 Instagram Hashtags to Follow: Teacher Edition

Hey, y'all!

When I started this blog about a year ago, I was looking for an outlet to share teaching ideas that can make teachers' lives easier. At the time, I felt proficient in terms of social media. I was already obsessed with Twitter, had a personal Instagram, and was on Pinterest daily for inspiration and to find resources. It was only when I started this blog, however, that I came to realize that Instagram (yes, Instagram!) is basically a wonderland of teaching inspiration! I had never searched Instagram for teaching related stuff before, but as I've explored more and more, I've now become hooked!

As I said, I hadn't previously viewed Instagram as a go-to place for teaching inspiration, but was oh-so-wrong. I wanted to write a post to share some of the popular hashtags I check out, and inspiring teachers I follow.

Hashtags for Middle School Teachers

#teacherblogger (also, #teacherbloggers)

Other Popular Hashtags


People to Follow 

I chose the people to follow based off who is popular to follow, who posts consistently, and who posts inspiring content. 

Middle/High School (6th-12th)
@kelseynhayesblog (me!) ;) 

Elementary Teachers (K-5th)

Do you have any favorite hashtags you follow? Do you know of any inspiring educators on Instagram? I'd love to hear them--share them in the comments!

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My 10 Goals for 2017

Hey y'all! Anyone have any big plans for NYE? I'm posting today to publish my goals for the blog in 2017. I'm so thankful for all of you and your support these last 6-7 months and really, truly, appreciate every view/comment/like/follow in terms of things related to this blog. I'm hoping that by posting my goals and putting them "out there", it will help hold me accountable to following through! So, here we go...

My Goals for 2017 

(in no particular order)

1. Don't Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
When I started this blog last summer, I had a lot more time on my hands than I do during the school year (obviously). Once the school year started, the blog was put on the back (very back) burner--not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I felt that I didn't really have time to commit to it. I didn't want to be doing the blog "half way" or be stressed out about it because that takes the fun out of it all!

I was so worried about making sure that my posts were perfect (great content, lengthy, useful to a large group, etc.) that it took me a long time to put together a post. Like a long time. Not because I didn't have anything to say, but because I would re-work it until I was 100% happy. Because of this habit, I stopped posting altogether and lost a lot of momentum. My goal for 2017 is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to just hit PUBLISH :) 

2. Don't Compare Myself to Other Blogs
Just like with anything in life, if you compare yourself to others too much then you lose a part of yourself (especially with teaching). I'm not going to worry about blog statistics so much and again just continue to post what I can, when I can. I just started not quite a year ago and took many months off...I won't have a couple thousand IG followers like some other teaching blogs out there and THAT. IS. OKAY. As long as I enjoy what I'm doing, then I should keep doing it :) The other stuff will come, and I won't lose my authenticity along the way trying to do something/be something/post something  that is not me.

3. Include More Content Geared Toward Specific Subject Areas
This is a BLOG FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS! This is not just a blog for ELA teachers! I have a lot of ELA related posts I'm planning to write, but I need to make sure that I include relevant info and engaging posts that pertain to the other subjects as well. And that leads me into my next goal...

4. Reach Out to Get Guest Contributors
I don't think I could write a post about science resources/something science related if my life depended on it (well, that may be a bit dramatic, but you get the idea...). That is not in my wheelhouse at all and that is okay. So, in order to fulfill goal #3, I will have to reach out to people to be guest contributors on the blog (want to be one? email me!)! That idea is exciting to me in general because I started this blog to be a place to collaborate and share ideas, but it is necessary if I truly want this to be a blog for all middle school teachers! Again, want to be a guest contributor? EMAIL ME!

5. STICK TO A CONTENT CALENDAR (for the love of God!)
I have a lot of ideas with what I want to do as far as creating new content, posting on social media sites, sending out newsletters, etc. but time creeps up on me and I just do it all at once when I have time to just "put it out there". This is absolutely not best practice so I am going to stick to a content calendar this year! I have Hootsuite and all of that jazz, but I just have to remember to cue it all up :) I'm currently working on an easy system to put my ideas in one place to actually execute this plan!

6. Post on Instagram 5x/Week
Who knew when I started this blog that Instagram was (is?) a wonderland for teacher bloggers. I have a personal Instagram account, but really started to follow and explore teacher-bloggers/TPT authors on Instagram and it has been amazing! Not only have I gotten awesome ideas from other teachers by following people I wouldn't have "met" otherwise, I have really done a lot of hashtag research to help me navigate all of the awesome info! I've also noticed that a significant portion of my blog and TPT traffic is coming from my Link In Profile account from my Instagram account so it cannot be ignored! I want to post 5x/week on Instagram in order to stay consistent, and continue to meet more inspiring teachers online!

Sidenote: If you are not on Instagram for teaching stuff...you should be! It is much easier to navigate and less overwhelming than just randomly scrolling through Pinterest! (More on this topic soon!).

7. Post on Blog 2xMonth

Again, in thinking back to my 1st goal, I'm going to publish a lot more often and not worry about everything being perfect. I currently have 40+ blog post ideas in my "Drafts" and have already began creating the content calendar for it. I'm sure I will post a lot in spurts, and not so much when it gets busy, so I think that twice a month is definitely an attainable goal.

8. Twitter Chat 1x/Month
I know I just wrote about how I love Instagram but I LOVE Twitter. I love it to get news, keep up with friends, follow teaching stuff, etc. but I especially love it for the Twitter chats! My district currently has a chat on the 3rd Tuesday of each month (SHOUTOUT #JCPSchat) that I try to participate in, but I want to find another to begin participating in as well (anyone know of any great middle school chats?). Finding teacher friends who are equally engaged in this work and like to chat/write/collaborate about it is so inspiring to me and I always leave the chats I participate in feeling motivated.

9. Grow TPT Followers by 300
So,  I really want to work on creating products for TPT in order to grow my follower count. TPT followers can lead to selling more products/helping more teachers & students/engaging with more middle school teachers so this goal is really important! It is out of my comfort zone to attach a number to this goal, but I preach to my students that our goals must be measurable so for the sake of accountability...

Like blog post ideas, I have a list of 50+ things I want to create for TeachersPayTeachers but have just not had the time. Some of it I have already created for my own classroom, but I need to "polish" it, or make sure I have all of the correct rights in order to post it to sell. It is hard to grow my TPT followers with a small number of products in my store. I'm currently working on a plan to try to grow my TPT follower list. In my opinion, getting TPT followers is hard because teachers have to find your store first and THEN actually like something enough to click follow!

10. Grow Email Subscribers by 500
When I first started this blog, I felt like I was doing a good job of getting email subscribers. That progress dwindled, though, when I took a break from posting. Almost every time I have sent out a newsletter (I haven't sent out many, but will improve because of GOAL #5!) I have either sold product(s), received an email, or gotten some return out of engaging the subscribers. That list is super important to me because they are going to end up being some of the most loyal people to this whole endeavor! (Want to subscribe? Click here :) ) I think growing my list by 500 may be a lofty goal, but I'm hoping that if I really work hard from January 1, I'll be able to do it!

What did I miss? Any teacher bloggers/TPT authors out there with advice? I'd love to hear from any/all of you in the comments below or on Instagram!

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