I hate that I have to write this

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The blog title is so true. I hate what I’m about to say. I hate even more that I have to say this after not blogging in over 7 months. Life has been busy, both professionally and personally, and unfortunately my blog has had to take a back seat to everything else.

Well, I’m back tonight because I need to address an issue that has been festering for a while.

The issue is plagiarism. The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

First off, I need to say that I blog because I love what I do. I love to write about it and to share my ideas and thoughts from my own experiences. But that’s the thing – what I share are my ideas from my experiences. What works for me may not work for you. And that’s okay.

I also need to say that I choose to share for free on my blog. I do not have a TPT store and I do not intend to start one. I’ve been told I should sell some of my lessons or documents on there because people would actually pay to use them, but I do not. I choose to share for free.

With things like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, it should be no surprise to me that people are accessing my stuff and are using it in their own work. In fact, that’s the reason I share. I hope to help other School Counselors find what works for them. And I have, very successfully, for the almost 3 years my blog has been going.

The issue I need to address openly with you is when someone comes across something that originated on my blog – let’s say a document of some kind – and this person then “recreates” it and shares it as their own document. I’m not talking about people who like something I’ve done and find a way to use the idea in their own way in their own school (that’s why I share). I’m talking about the people who take my documents, change a few words or the overall outline so it looks a bit different, and then share it in groups such as the Elementary School Counselor Exchange (a place that currently has over 10,000 members) as their own brilliant work.

This has happened to me more than once. Imagine my surprise when I’m scrolling through the news feed and find a document that looks awfully familiar, only it’s been changed slightly and has been posted by someone saying they want to share it with others. Sometimes these posts have a disclaimer like, “This is a compilation of ideas that I’ve found online along with my own.” (By the way, this does NOT count as giving credit to the original creator.)

I get searching for ideas to use in your own school. I do that too. All the time. Thus the basis of starting my blog. But sharing someone else’s hard work as your own? And posting “your” idea in a group of 10,000 fellow School Counselors/Social Workers? And liking the comments as they roll in about how thankful they are that you shared your masterpiece? THAT I do not get.

And I’m not okay with it. It is hurtful and manipulative and unethical.

I’m not sure how I will change what I share so this stops. My work isn’t copyrighted and it’s not for sale. But it is my work.

So far, I’ll just start by writing about this issue publicly and openly, and hope that it starts a much needed conversation among bloggers and followers alike.

Please keep in mind how fortunate all of us are to have so many people willing to share their ideas for others to access and gain inspiration from. And please, please, don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

Finding my ‘just right’ school

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Well hello there. It’s nice to see you again. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. I purposely took a couple months away because I just didn’t have the energy to write anything worth reading.

Since I know I have some regulars to my blog, I want to use this post to explain what’s been going on (and that I haven’t abandoned you, I promise). So here it is, in all it’s ugly truth…

schoolYou know when things are going well for you at your school and you’re really happy and comfortable with the work that you’re doing? Well, I had that. In fact, I was lucky enough to have that for a good three years. And then, it changed. “Under new management.” It seems like all that I was good at was ripped away from me so fast that I was sent into a whirlwind of uncertainty, discomfort, and doubt. For a year and a half, I felt like I was trapped inside a snow globe, floating around aimlessly, and just when I began to feel steady, the snow globe would be shaken up again.

After a dizzy year and a half, I made my escape. And for the first time in a looooong time, I felt good! And happy. And hopeful. I found a school that was not only filled with positive leaders, but they chose me. They wanted me a part of their team. But with little grieving time for the place I left behind, I began my new journey with a heavy heart. I cried EVERY SINGLE DAY my first week. I couldn’t even explain what was going on inside me except with tears. I cried with my principal. I cried with my assistant principal. I felt like an idiot. They were so patient and understanding (seriously, they are awesome).

As I emerged from layer after layer of sadness, I began to see the school I had entered. And unfortunately, I didn’t like what I saw. It wasn’t my school. These weren’t my kids. I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me. But I had to finish what I had started. So each day, I put on my big girl pants, and I made myself go. Behind my smile was a woman who was so ferociously wishing summer to GET HERE NOW so I could just be done. And let me tell you, that is NOT a good feeling. It takes so much energy to go to a place everyday where I feel I don’t really belong.

And so, with my heart pounding in my throat, I had the really hard, big girl conversation with my principal about my feelings. I was honest about the school not being a good fit for me. And you know what? She THANKED me. Seriously. She thanked me for being willing to reflect on what I need and for being honest with her about it. She even asked me for feedback for the next school counselor. See what I mean by awesome?

I still have a little more than a week left in my ‘not a good fit’ school, but I know I can do it. I’m already launching into finding my next ‘just right’ school, however long it may take. But I don’t want to forget the experiences, as painful as they’ve been, that I’ve had the last two years in my career. I never thought I’d work for some of the best and worst administrators already in my five short years as a school counselor. There was no graduate class that taught me how to handle this. I had to figure it out on my own, with the help of some very supportive colleagues, family, and friends.

Perhaps hearing about my experiences will help you on your journey as a school counselor. Whether you’re lucky enough to be in your perfect school already, or you’re struggling to find it, just know that it IS out there. Don’t give up. Reflect on what you want and need out of a school, and then make it so.

Personally, I had to be brutally honest with myself, which was really hard to do. It meant giving up a school that I adored because I knew I deserved to be treated with respect. And then it meant leaving a school that wasn’t a good fit, even though it had amazing leaders. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, I will find a school that is both again. My ‘just right’ school. I deserve it and so do you.

Bring on the readers: Increase readership to your blog

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When you’re a blogger, either beginner or veteran, readership matters. I would say I fall somewhere in between – I’m not exactly brand new to blogging, but I’m still learning. While bloggers often write as much for themselves as for others, we want to know that people are actually reading what we put out there.

From my own experience, it’s exhilarating to see your numbers climb with each post you publish! Still, I’m always thinking about what I can write about that will bring readers in, and I’ve been pretty successful so far. In a year and a half, I’ve reached just under 100,000 hits on my blog and just over 1,000 followers. Not too shabby.

Increase readership

Whether you’re a new or veteran blogger, or thinking about beginning your first blog, here are some tips from me to increase your readership:

1. Keep your posts simple. If you try to cover too much material or too many ideas in one post, you’re going to lose readers. You’re better off writing the post in several parts.

2. Title your posts like you mean it. The title of your post is crucial. It’s what shows up when people do a search and it’s in the URL that people click on to take them to your blog. I like to be creative when naming my posts, but I also make sure it has something to do with the topic I’m writing about.

3. Keep your paragraphs short. Nobody likes to read run-on sentences or paragraphs that are a page long. Also, keep in mind that many people are reading your blog posts from their smart phones, which will make your paragraphs look even longer on their screen.

4. Edit, edit, edit. Please, for everyone’s sake, look over your post before clicking publish. Most readers will forgive a few spelling or grammar mistakes, but too many, and they’ll be on to the next blog. Simply put, if it’s not readable, it won’t be read.

5. Make your idea clear and make it yours. If I’m reading your blog post, it’s because I want to hear what you have to say about the topic. I don’t want to have to guess what you’re trying to say. I also don’t want to read what someone else has already said. If you’re writing it, make it yours.

6. State your opinion firmly. We all have opinions. It’s okay. Even as School Counselors, we are allowed to have opinions about our profession, education, curriculum, lessons, materials, etc. Don’t hold back from telling us yours. Might you ruffle some feathers or invite a few disagreeable comments? Perhaps. Do it anyway. This is your blog and we want to hear your opinions.

7. Use every ounce of social media. Consider creating a Facebook page for your blog, a Twitter account, and don’t forget to share your posts on Pinterest. The more places you are sharing your wonderful stuff, the more readers will come across your blog. And they will share it, too.

8. Read other blogs. There are so many blogs out there! Use them to inspire ideas, creativity, and future posts. Each blogger has his/her own style and it’s beautiful, so don’t think you don’t have anything to add to the blogging world. You do!

9. Write about more than lessons and strategies. Specifically for School Counselor bloggers, this rings true. We do use our blogs to share classroom lessons, small group ideas, and individual counseling strategies. And it’s great. However, writing about other things relating to our field is needed and wanted by our readers. My hottest post, topping over 22,000 views and over 90 comments, doesn’t have anything to do with lessons or strategies. When you do write about things affecting School Counselors, remember tip #5 and 6.

10. Have fun with it. Your blog is yours. You can do with it anything you want. Don’t worry if your blog doesn’t look like someone else’s. Don’t worry if you don’t have cute activity packs to give away or top notch lesson plans linked to the ASCA standards. Write about what matters to you and share it! The people who want to read what you write will find you and will keep coming back for more.

Happy blogging! 🙂