** This is the first in a series of posts. So often we receive questions from other teachers about starting a blog or web site of their own. We wanted to share the story of how we got started and what we have learned. We will also be including suggestions and questions from other teacher bloggers out there. We hope that this series gives you that little push you need to begin your own blog!
Jill and I first met at a 4 Block Conference in July of 2002. Jill was presenting and I was attending. At the conference we learned that we would soon be next door neighbors. We taught in the same school district but not at the same elementary school. Throughout the first years of being neighbors we were friendly but never spent much time together. We would talk about school and as we had children, our boys would sometimes play together outside. And then… there was a snow day! I invited four neighbors and their children over for a play date. We had mimosas. A cruise for five moms was booked. And that is when we became good friends.
A few years later we began talking about ways to help teachers, being very aware that we were luckier than most in regards to the training we had received. Our school district had always been ahead of the game when it came to implementing the newest practices in education. Because of this, we had the opportunity to learn new techniques for helping students. We have also always been lucky to teach in a diverse school district, allowing us to learn to teach children from different backgrounds and with a variety of needs.
When we began brainstorming creating our own blog, we quickly decided that we did not have the skills needed to create our own site. We found many free places to begin but in the end, we decided that an investment under $700 was a fairly small price to pay to begin a new business. We contacted a neighbor who had her own web design business and hired her to design our site. Our requests for what we envisioned were beyond what we could have made on our own. We have never regretted the decision to pay for the site design from the beginning. It was a cost that we were able to recover within 6 months of our site being live. Not only was it a benefit to start with a design we liked, it was also incredibly beneficial to have a professional in the business to help as we encountered problems and came up with new questions. Not only did we have our web designer to go to for help, we also had our close friend from Unexpected Elegance (who also happened to be on the cruise with us!) We are fairly confident that our site would not be what it is today if we had not had Angela to help us get started!
So, once we started talking, we went from teachers to teacher bloggers pretty quickly. We went from no web site to being excited over reaching some days of 100 visitors in the first months to reaching 2,000 visits a day by the end of 2012. (During our peak back to school time last year we had some days that reached over 14,000 visits.) Things began to move after those first posts and we realized we had something unique. We were offering free resources for teachers, something not a lot of sites were doing. There was a need for what we were creating and our audience began to grow.
At the time we had the help of the newly popular Pinterest to get us started. We could share a post to Pinterest and receive 100s of repins in minutes. Jill and I still remember the night our families went out for pizza after finishing our teacher planning binder. At dinner that night we watched our first pin reach 1000 repins – at the time it was such an exciting moment for us! Soon after that we added Google AdSense ads to our sidebar and began making money! At first it was a very small amount and mostly fueled by the popularity of our Teacher Planning Binder. A few days early on we hit $20.00 and some days we only hit $5.00. We began to realize that we were going to be able to make money from our site and that we were just going to need to wait and be patient. We tried adding a few affiliate links early on but we weren’t pushing any products so these were not helpful. When we discovered that Amazon provided an affiliate link, we had a little success.
We have since found many other companies to work with in order to help us monetize our site. We have also found ways to work for companies and keep our posts relevant. This was difficult for us at first. In the beginning, when we were hired by a company, we would write a post to sell their product. It often didn’t fit our site and rarely provided free resources for teachers. We still do sponsored posts but we approach these in a different way. We will only apply for a sponsored post if we feel that we can create a coordinating resource that is useful to teachers. For example, we recently did a General Mills Cereal sponsored posts on finding the 7th Minion in cereal boxes. We created a write the room activity using the Minions and focusing on prepositions. It is an activity that teachers will use but still included the required points for the sponsored post. We feel much better about our sponsored posts now than in the past! Teachers don’t mind having a picture of a product in a post if they are receiving quality materials for their classrooms at no charge.
Not only has the way we have gone about monetizing our site changed, our site itself has gone through many changes. When we began, we were focused on grades 1 -3. We began to receive more and more questions about providing materials for upper grades. We also began playing around with the idea of creating a site geared towards families. We wanted to provide recipes, activities for families and so much more. We launched The Curriculum Corner Family and The Curriculum Corner 456 in the fall of 2012. Our family site is still live simply because we know we have pins floating around on Pinterest we want people to have access to. However, it has been neglected for over a year now. We don’t see ourselves going back to it but who knows what will happen. We found that it wasn’t where our expertise was and our time was better spent creating resources for teachers. We have played with the idea of someday filling it with guest bloggers but haven’t taken the time to go on that hunt yet.
Because we didn’t have enough on our plate, we decided to add The Research Corner. Our idea was to provide articles written in kid friendly language to help children with research. We still think it is a good idea, it just isn’t something that is worth our time right now. Our next dream was to open The Book Club Corner. We wanted to have a site that provided various resources to accompany book studies for the classroom, each geared towards specific books. This task would be huge and it’s another that has been pushed aside.
We finally decided The Kinder Corner would be another good addition to our collection. This is one we have stuck with, although we have not grown it to where we would like.
So, if you are keeping score, we are down to our three main sites which keep us fairly busy. We are now officially working from home as we just resigned from teaching in May. We know that because we are not currently teaching, we need to make the effort to keep ourselves up to date in terms of best practice and new ideas in education. This school year we will be attending professional development conferences and are looking to find some must reads for teachers.
When we began, we could have never envisioned where this journey would take us but it has been exciting! There is much more to come – who knows what our future will hold!
We hope you will check back next week as we share more about becoming a teacher blogger! If you are a teacher blogger, we would love for you to share your site in the comments below. If you have questions or tips, add those to the comments as well or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for more input as we write this series. We would love to link back to as many of your blogs as possible to help with your traffic!
If you are new to our site and are curious about the types of resources we provided, take a look at some of our most popular posts: Welcome to The Curriculum Corner.