When first introduced to the idea of building a teacher brand, most educators are skeptical. I know I was. We aren’t movie stars. Why sell ourselves?
Building a teacher brand can feel like an act of hubris that goes against a core teacher value: humility. Humility means thinking more of others than oneself. But building your teacher brand—identifying your strengths and sharing those strengths with others—can actually be an act of humility.
Your colleagues and students will benefit because you shared something that helped them learn. Along the way, educators who build their brands tend to reflect on their practice and work hard to constantly improve. Building teacher brand the right way is humble.
Here are a few ways you can get started building your teacher brand tomorrow.
Create a Blog and Post About What You Do
First and foremost, write. Think carefully about your blog title and your blog URL. These are the beginning of your brand.
Often, educators create blogs to reflect on their own lessons, projects, and teaching practices. These reflections are metacognitive exercises. The best posts, in my opinion, include student learning goals, links to resources, step-by-step plans, successes, and lessons learned from failure. Blog posts usually conclude with a few take-aways so that, next time, the author and his or her students will have an even better experience.
If you don’t like to write, make a vlog by posting videos about your work on YouTube, or a podcast by posting on SoundCloud. No matter which media you choose, you’ll be building a brand and simultaneously doing some great personalized PD. Take it from me: blogging has helped me track my own professional growth. I love looking back at my posts from as far back as 2009 and rolling my eyes at what I thought—at the time—was innovative teaching.
Here’s the branding part: What will your blog title be? What about the web address URL? How will you label yourself and your teaching practice?
Tough one, right? Here’s my example.
I started with “KerryHawk02’s Blog.” My handle and username were simple. But it didn’t say much about the purpose of the blog. A year or two later, I changed it to “Teaching HistoryTech.” It captured my focus on education, content area of choice, and that my favorite teaching tools usually involved technology. It fit for a few years.
Six months ago, I transitioned from teacher to digital learning specialist. This meant I no longer taught history directly to students. Instead, I now help teachers transform their practice with research-based instructional methods and thoughtful uses of technology. In this role, I ask a lot of questions to learn about student goals and teaching styles. So, my blog title changed again to “Start with a Question.”
Throughout all these changes though, my URL has remained www.kerryhawk02.com. That handle is my online identity on all social networks—so no matter the names changes, it stayed consistent.
Share What You Post
After writing a post or two, use the social media connections you already have to share them.
Post links to your blog and, of course, be sure to mention that new branded blog title. Let people know where you’ve had success, and how you’ve grown from your struggles.
Many educators see Twitter as the “go-to” for networking and sharing, and it can be a start—but don’t be afraid to use your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ to share, as well. The Educator’s Guide to Social Media has great explanations about how to use each of these social networks in a way that will connect with the most people as quickly as possible, and grow your brand.
Connect With the Edtech Brands You Love
Remember, building your teacher brand is about sharing your success, but also about learning from the success of others. We can find successful teachers in the classroom next door, but also by applying to join groups created by the companies that make our favorite tools. Some of my best educator buds are Apple Distinguished Educators, Google Certified Educators, PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators, and Schoology Ambassadors. These networks provide you with a chance to learn with other teachers who are as passionate and creative as you are, and can lead to opportunities to contribute to online courses, webinars, and articles.
Put a Face With a Brand at Conferences
If you’ve started to build your brand online, it’s time to level up with some face-to-face connections at education conferences.
For some, the first conference as a branded educator happens because of those edtech groups. You can co-present with a company about how you use their tool in your classroom or help out at their booth. If you’re brave, try submitting your own session proposal to local, regional, or national conferences. (Getting a conference proposal accepted often leads to a free—or discounted—ticket.) Be sure your proposal is focused on the pedagogy you’ve communicated in your brand. In your proposal, you can even link to blog posts that serve as examples of your strengths.
Check Out a Few Examples of Expert Teacher Branders
Teachers who have successfully built their brands post across lots of social networks, like Kayla Delzer on Twitter and Instagram. In order to make it known that they are interested in learning and growing they participate a little every day. They might post often on their blog or website like Erin Klein (@KleinErin), moderate and participate in Twitter chats like Dan Ryder (@WickedDecent) and #dtk12chat, or promote work they admire. They tend to stick to mostly professional posts, but mix in a little of their personal lives -- kids, weekends, food -- to round out their personality. When their brand has personality their interaction and learning increases.
In addition to presenting, participate in sessions and have conversations with the educators you admire. Don’t be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself to the people you think you can learn from while you are there. Not only will you learn, but you’ll also have an opportunity to talk to them about your teacher brand. Most of the teachers who have successfully built their brands are just as eager to learn from you as you are to learn from them.