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.
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.
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!