“Podcasting is the new blogging.” — Seth Godin
I just hit 171.
One hundred and seventy-one episodes of the Teachers on Fire podcast.
It feels great, because creative projects of this sort don’t typically enjoy a long lifespan. I’ve read that the average amateur podcaster lasts less than seven episodes before the novelty wears off, the shine is gone, and the grind of the work required to sustain it begins to wear.
Ditto for bloggers, vloggers, authors, artists, and an army of other dreamers and would-be content creators whose enthusiasm for publishing falls victim to the steady onslaught of life.
Consistent creation is never easy, but it’s complicated even further in education — a field that demands hours of professional work before and after the start and finish of each day during the school year.
To be an educator and also a consistent content creator can be a daunting challenge. Fortunately, my professional learning network is filled with edu-creatives who inspire me by managing this feat. Pernille Ripp and Annick Rauch are just two examples of full-time teachers who blog with astounding consistency. And oh yes — they’re both mothers of four.
So consistent content creation is possible for basically everyone, but make no mistake: it requires discipline and sacrifice. It has to be more than a passing interest — it demands concerted commitment and passion.
To make it work, to sustain it over time, you have to think of content creation as a job. A job that you absolutely love, sure, but a job.
There’s no other way.
Reviewing My Mission and Vision
So why do I do it? What propels me to invest the hours of scheduling, recording, publishing, and promotion each week?
As Justin Belt once wrote, “Our why is both the battery within and the force around us. It keeps us going while also pushing us forward.”
I’ve written a little bit on my website about why I podcast, but this question could use a little more exploration. A little more digging.
1. Podcasts share best practices for teaching and learning.
“How do we make great learning go viral?” asks George Couros. Podcasts are one answer to that question.
With simultaneous syndication, instant delivery, and universal access, podcasts are consumed by large audiences. Though 73% of Teachers on Fire listeners hail from the United States, educators from over 100 countries tune in. That’s learning gone global.
There are other ways to share inspiring ideas, of course. But the podcasting medium does so in a uniquely compelling and intimate way that other mediums can’t match. Since the consumption of audio content doesn’t require stopping other activities, listeners will often listen to episodes in their entirety while driving, exercising, walking the dog, or doing household chores.
Though they’re each powerful in their own right, blogs and YouTube videos struggle to match the kind of sustained attention that people will gladly give podcasts.
2. Podcasts amplify the voices of inspiring educators.
There are so many amazing educators out there whose practices should be shared and whose views should be heard, but they aren’t being heard because no (metaphorical) microphone is available. They don’t have a platform to speak from.
You know the type I’m talking about: what is happening in their classroom is jaw-dropping, and they’re excited to share their ideas, but they’re just not sure where to start or how to go about it. Maybe they’ve never engaged on social media, and few outside their own building know who they are.
Podcasts bring their voices and ideas to the world.
3. Podcasting continues my own professional growth and learning.
Every interview I conduct for the Teachers on Fire podcast puts my mind back in a place of professional learning. Every conversation forces me to engage with important ideas, grapple with challenging problems, and interact with fresh perspectives from other agents of transformation in education.
The podcast continuously encourages me to consume more professional content in my discretionary time and pushes me to constantly re-evaluate my own professional practice.
The effect is like scheduling a coffee session with incredible coaches, mentors, and leaders in education once a week. It leaves little room for stagnancy in my thinking.
4. Podcasts connect me with other leading practitioners.
Thanks to Teachers on Fire, I enjoy daily interactions with incredible education leaders across North America and the world. Through Voxer, Twitter, and other platforms, I’m inspired, encouraged, supported, and cheered on in my work.
I’m finding my tribe, my people: educators who share my passions, my goals, my dreams for my learners and visions for future directions in education.
Some of these connections have led to real life meetings, and I know more will materialize in the months and years to come. The podcast functions as my press pass, enabling me to build relationships with people I would never meet or have the opportunity to engage with otherwise. And for that I am grateful.
5. Podcasts allow me to build a platform and find my voice.
I’m no star in the education world — I’m just an 8th grade homeroom teacher and rookie assistant principal who is trying and failing and growing and learning to improve my practice one humble step at a time.
Back in early 2018, my teacher account on Twitter was inactive and invisible. I had yet to grasp the incredible power of professional connectivity.
But thanks to Teachers on Fire, I’m learning to share my voice with increasing confidence and I’m building new professional relationships every single day.
Building more professional connections and adding more listeners isn’t about padding my ego. It’s about developing the opportunities to increase my learning, hear from more voices, and build life-giving relationships.
People will listen to those that they know, like, and trust. The podcast gives people a way to get to know me, like me, and trust me. It means that when I get around to other fun content creation projects like speaking at conferences or publishing a book, some people may actually listen.
6. Podcasts are highly valued by listeners.
In May of 2019 I surveyed listeners of the Teachers on Fire podcast regarding the impact my content — and the podcast medium in general — was having on their professional thinking and practice. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and passion of the responses. Here are two samples:
“Right now podcasts are my most significant and consistent source of professional growth, because I listen to podcasts while I drive to and from work (approx. two hours per day). If it weren’t for podcasts I wouldn’t be able to expose my thinking to new ideas or find kindred spirits and critical friends while I am also driving. It is a way for me to ‘stack’ my life and helps me feel more positive about being able to accelerate my pedagogy more quickly than would otherwise be possible.
I think it’s really good for my health because I feel less stressed while driving, plus I feel engaged in life in general because I am learning and feeling optimistic about my growth. I feel excited about ideas and touched by the stories of struggle. If I had to wait to read a book months might go by, but podcasts allow me to actively engage in learning every single day with next to zero extra effort. I can spend the time I might be reading exercising instead. It’s a win-win!”
You can podcast, too.
This piece reaffirms my why: my mission, purpose, and vision for Teachers on Fire. I love the podcast, the process, and the results, and I’m going to continue this journey for as long as I can.
But what about you?
“Everyone should have a podcast,” claimed Adam Welcome in episode 77. And I think he’s right. You have a voice, you have ideas, you have the means, and the barrier to entry is lower than ever.
So share your voice, and make great learning go viral.
Start podcasting today.