Expectations satisfied?

Around this time last year Hana Tichá took a small step for her, but a giant leap for the ELT blogging community. She tagged me.

If you feel the above claim is a tad exaggerated – fine, I was looking for an effective opening. But it _is_ rather better than saying, “This post is going to be about [insert topic here] ”, don’t you think?

I’m very much the type of person who likes poking her nose into other people’s makeup bags, reading lists, family albums, music collections…you get the idea. On the hunch that there may be some kindred spirits out there, a bit voyeuristically inclined where ELT blogging is concerned, I thought I would take a look back and see if there’s any insightful conclusion I can draw at the end of my first year. Although I’m not at all sure that there will be, so no promises.

Looking back at 2014
Looking back at 2014

My first post was Eleven, which I think was a great way to start, as everybody and his sister was doing it and it was quite clearly not meant to be a post replete with significant contributions to the collective wisdom of language teaching. As subsequent posts naturally turned out to be. 🙂 I set myself some homework in that post, listing a couple of topics that I thought I wanted to write about at the time. This seemed to be prudent because I have found that am more likely to stick with something if I commit to it publicly. Looking at these topics now, I see that I managed to address – sort of – a grand total of two: #1 in Some perks of teaching online, and #10 in Customer satisfaction. It turns out that I’m not at all concerned about that; I might come back to the others at some point. Or not.

In February I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the chief reasons that there _is_ an online ELT community – the pretty amazing Mike Griffin, whose name I shall not misspell on my blog twice – included my blog in his post …In with the new. I thought that was really optimistic of him as the blog only consisted of three posts at the time. So I decided that I would try and post twice a month. However, with a total of 14 posts in 2014 even I, mathematically challenged as I am, can see that I’ve fallen a bit short of the mark. Turns out I’m not concerned about that either; in fact, I think I did pretty well. You see, the thing is, I take quite a long time to get started, and then even longer to finish a post off. No hitting publish for me unless I’ve quadruple-checked everything, slept on it, quadruple-checked again…Yes, I realize that’s sort of not the point of a blog, but there _is_ an upside: generally, I can go back and reread my posts without too much cringing. At least that’s what I tell myself. I should probably emphasize that I cringe at the smallest details. In my writing, I hasten to add, not other people’s. I do admire people who can dash off a post, hit publish, sit back and relax. How do you do it? Any practical suggestions?

Given the above, it’s probably ironic that the post which got the most views was the one I wrote with the greatest degree of spontaneity – The fear of being unemployable. I think I only let it sit a day before I posted it, and I didn’t edit much. People still occasionally read it now, which is amazing. Obviously it’s not that I think they shouldn’t or that it’s bad, but as mine is still a fledgling blog, a part of me is always filled with mild disbelief that there are people outside of my immediate family who would want to read it. In fact, it appears the blog has had views from 53 countries – an astounding number to me. Oh God. It has just occurred to me they could be mostly bots or something! Well, if they are, most of them come from Croatia, which is strangely comforting. Seriously, though, if these are real Croatians, that’s also great, because in the first couple of months I got very few views from Croatia.

Following on from this, most people seem to have found the blog from Twitter, which does not surprise me in the least. I’ve only recently (and reluctantly) joined another major social network, and frankly, the deal there seems to be mostly about personality quizzes, baby pictures and cat videos. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand. I do love a good cat video. I also confess to being extremely disappointed with the lack of interesting search engine terms that brought people to the blog. All year I’ve been coming across people tweeting some truly bizarre – and cool – terms that brought visitors to their blogs, but the best that I’ve got is “apple shaped wordle”. See what I mean?

Croatians may have been my most frequent viewers, but they were a little reluctant to like posts or comment on them. That actually _is_ pretty much what you’d expect from Croatian readers, English teachers or not. They’re very restrained. Unless they’re commenting on something to do with Croatian politics or the economy, when they have been known to turn abusive. With good reason, I might add, but this is probably not the place… Where was I? Oh yes, likes and comments. Of course, you’re not supposed to act as if you give two hoots if anyone reads what you’ve written, because you’re writing for yourself, to help you reflect, and if someone reads it, cool, and if they don’t, that’s cool too – only the former is way cooler. I would therefore like to thank everyone who has read, liked, commented on or shared any of my posts, or followed the blog. At the risk of leaving someone out – because I have no stats on this – I would especially like to thank three ladies who often seemed to react to what I wrote and whose support has meant a lot: Hana Tichá, Ljiljana Havran and Zhenya Polosatova. I don’t know how much, if anything, I should read into the relative geographical proximity of the countries we come from? Probably not much though, if the restrained attitude of Croatians is anything to go by.

I’ve quite often thought about another person in connection with my blog this year – a teacher who goes by the name of Kate Springcait. She was the only person (to my knowledge) to take up the challenge in my first post – read her response here – and I have since noticed that professional development is very important to her. I have followed what Kate has been up to with great interest. I have often thought how I’ve been lucky to work with many excellent teachers at Octopus, some of them experienced, some less so, but I don’t recall anyone who approached PD with quite the same zeal – at least not that I ever knew about. Kate is exactly the kind of teacher that I would hire if I were still in a position to do so, and if people willing to pay for language courses in Croatia were not about as difficult to find as the Yangtze finless porpoise.

Final thoughts

When I set up the blog, I wasn’t sure what to call it. I wanted the name to be short and easy to memorize. I also didn’t want to use my name. After what was probably an agonizing amount of thinking (shocking, I know), I settled on a name that satisfied all three requirements, and described why I chose it on the about page.

It should have been absolutely clear from the start that the blog would not be about Octopus. And it hasn’t – not a single post. There are references to the school in several posts, and there is even a post about the school I worked for before joining Octopus. But the posts actually do reflect the name of the blog. No surprises there, you’d think; what is this about?

Strangely though, I now realize I _am_ mildly surprised by this. It’s a bit as if I didn’t quite expect I would be able to move on and am watching myself from the outside, thinking in bemusement – now how did that happen? I’m not sure what to do with this bit of insight though, if anything.

All in all, blogging – if posting once a month qualifies as blogging – has been very enjoyable and definitely worth the time invested. Reading other people’s posts and (sometimes) commenting on them too, but that’s another story. Right now I feel very sure that’s a post I’ll be writing quite soon…but no promises.

Thank you for reading and I wish you all the very best in 2015. I very much hope to see you around!

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Expectations satisfied?

  1. ljiljana havran

    Hi Vedrana,

    Happy Blogiversary and very best wishes for 2015 🙂
    I enjoyed reading your posts and reflections on teaching very much. Your blog is excellent, (and the name of your blog is very interesting, too). I loved when you wrote that “you’re writing for yourself, to help you reflect, and if someone reads it, cool, and if they don’t, that’s cool too…” I have a similar feeling about blogging: it is enjoyable and helps me reflect and clarify my thoughts; I really understand some things much better when writing them down. I’m looking forward to your new insightful posts!
    Ljiljana

    Like

    1. Hi Ljiljana,

      Thanks very much for the good wishes and for all your support. It’s funny how writing helps with perspective, isn’t it? I sometimes think I feel a certain way about something, and then realize how I really feel once I write about it. Right now I’m curious about a post I know I’ll be writing sometime this year – about Octopus (sorry I’m being vague, but I’m not ready to say any more at this point) – and I’m pretty sure it’ll help me come to terms with some issues. I’m glad you enjoyed the posts over the past year and hope that this will continue to be the case. I’m very much looking forward to reading more of your posts as well!

      Like

  2. Dear Vedrana

    Thank you for the wonderfully reflective post – cool to read about the year of blogging. You asked if you could call posting once a month ‘blogging’ – I would definitely say ‘yes’, because… I have been doing less 🙂 Thank you for the mention: honor for me, being a very new blogger, to know that you found something helpful or useful in what I was writing.

    As for geography and the culture of comments (from the people in your country): I think I can say that Ukrainians are similar in this respect (I mean, reading and even giving feedback on what I wrote, but in a conversation or e-mail, not on my blog in comments) I have been thinking a lot about the ‘why’ here, and have not come up with a certain answer to myself yet.

    I am looking forward to reading your blog in 2015. And yes, please, share your thoughts about commenting on other people’s blogs – how does it feel, and what have you been learning from those conversations? The topic that makes me curious!

    Happy New Year (almost wrote ‘Merry Christmas’ but checked online and see that you celebrate in December. Very confusing calendars and geography!)

    Zhenya

    Like

    1. Hi Zhenya,

      What a relief to hear that what I’m doing here _is_ blogging after all. 🙂 When you said you blogged less often than I did, I was a bit taken aback – I know there was a longish period during which you were a little quiet, but I’d got the impression that outside of that period you posted more frequently. Of course, frequency is pretty much irrelevant if you follow a blog and get notifications of new posts by email.
      Thanks for narrowing down my next topic (hopefully) – the one about commenting on other people’s blogs. I actually had a paragraph about that in this post and then realized it was already getting long, so I cut it. I haven’t given much thought to how I would develop it as a separate post, but now I know where to start. I might even get going sooner than I normally would. 🙂
      About Christmas – we celebrate in December, but my father-in-law comes from Macedonia and his family celebrate in January. I hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas. Thanks for your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hana Tichá

    Hi Vedrana,

    Thanks for writing up such a light-hearted post. It’s always fascinating for me to read posts about people’s blogging habits. By the way, I kind of suspected that you quadruple-check everything before you hit the publish button – your style of writing is simply flawless (feeling jealous). It surprises me that lots of bloggers complain about the fact that they can’t force themselves to blog more often than they do. Why? I think it’s ok to blog once a month. The only danger might be losing some of the (impatient and fickle) readership. On the other hand, people can get bored if one blogs too often and babbles about the same thing again and again. The truth is that I missed some of your posts in the past (I missed the tweets, I mean) and if your ‘postless’ period seemed to long, I went to your blog to check what was new. And it was always worth coming back. What doesn’t surprise me in the least is that the most spontaneous posts are the most popular. I think people can tell when you write from your heart – especially those on the same wavelength. I hope your blog will flourish and thrive in 2015! Good luck.

    Hana

    Like

    1. Hi Hana,
      I think you knew before reading this how much this blog owes to you, but I thought it was only fair that everyone else should know too. 🙂
      I’m not sure why I feel (and others do too, you say) that blogging once a month is somehow inadequate. Maybe because of those who make it seem so effortless, like yourself? 😉 Seriously, though, for me one reason is that there are so many great posts I read and immediately want to write my own take on the subject. But something else comes up, I put it off, and the next moment there’s another interesting topic (which I don’t do anything about either). So I always feel like I’m a bit behind on things. I know that’s a bit of an irrational way to feel.
      I don’t know that people would get bored with someone who blogs too often. I guess they might if there was a lot of repetition in terms of content, but if the topics are varied and the writing comes from the heart, as you say, I’m sure readers look forward to each and every post, like your readers do (well, this reader in any case).
      Thank you for everything and also for the compliment about my writing. You can imagine the cringing when Mike ever so politely pointed out that I had misspelled his name. 🙂

      Like

  4. Pingback: Blogging Habits (1) | Wednesday Seminars

  5. Pingback: A very interesting post about blogs, bloggers and their blogging. | Ann Loseva's Space

  6. Hi Vedrana,
    I’ve only just discovered your blog, and I’m glad I did. It’s wonderful to read about your reflections on blogging, particularly how you approach it. What I often tell people is that it’s your blog, and therefore you can decide how often you post. I don’t see the point in forcing yourself to post when you have nothing to say (thou shalt post every Tuesday) because that defeats the object of having a blog. There’s also the question of a work-life balance, something which I’m trying hard to get, which is why I’ve been posting less recently! Ultimately, it’s your space, and you decide how to use it.
    The other thing everyone should remember is that mistakes happen, and there’s no point feeling guilty about them or worrying (for example, misspelling names) – that’s how we learn!
    I only started ‘liking’ posts in the last couple of months, even though I read lots of blogs – I didn’t really see the point, but now I sometimes want to respond but don’t have enough to say to write a comment. Having said that, I tend to learn more from commenting on blogs and the comments I get on mine than I do from just reading and writing posts, so if I have something to say I always try to, even if it means emailing the post to myself to reply to later.
    Looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future now that I’ve added you to my feedly 🙂
    Sandy

    Like

    1. Hi Sandy,
      Thanks very much for this lovely, encouraging comment. I think this point that our blogs are our own space and can (should!) be used as we choose is very important. Since I wrote this post there’s been a discussion on Zhenya’s blog (and Ljiljana’s, and Hana’s) about how we see our blogs and why we blog (if we have a clear purpose, or several overlapping purposes). There was also a discussion if blogging is a genre, and if so, what its characteristics are – all very interesting. I think I commented on more posts over the past 10 days than almost the whole of last year! So I definitely agree with what you’ve said about learning more from commenting than simply writing our own posts.
      The mistakes bit – the rational part of me knows it’s okay to make them, but it’s kind of hard not to obsess. I also have terrible language anxiety when I have to speak French – that’s why I tend to avoid speaking it if at all possible – although as a language teacher I know full well nobody is going to laugh or criticize my efforts.
      That’s a good idea – emailing a post to yourself to comment on later. I hadn’t thought of that, thanks!

      Like

  7. Pingback: Blogging habits | How I see it now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s