Monday, January 17, 2011

Navigating A Relief Teacher’s Journey (Challenge #3)

As part of the Edublogs Teacher Blogging Challenge, I’ve been reflecting on, and discussing my blogging process with teachers around the world.

I have really enjoyed these conversations, as I have gained valuable constructive feedback on the layout, style, and content of my blog, as well as practicing my blog commenting skills. 

As I’ve noticed a huge spike in readership as part of the Edublogs™ Teacher Challenge, I thought now would be a good time to ask for some reader feedback on the layout and navigation of A Relief Teacher’s Journey.


Sunset over Fremantle Harbour, Western Australia (Michael Graffin, 2010)

My Landing Page

The first thing you see when you arrive at my blog is my landing page. It underwent some major changes in late December 2010, as I revised my introduction to reflect the changes in my thinking and blogging processes over the previous 7 months.

I wanted people to know a little more about me, and why I was blogging … I didn’t want prospective readers put off by a cluttered screen when they came across my blog – a pet peeve as a reader of educational blogs. I also included a personal disclaimer for the first time, reinforcing the fact that my blog reflects my personal views, not those of my employers.



Page Navigation on A Relief Teacher’s Journey

I have also made significant changes to my Page Navigation bar, which has finally found its’ home above my blog introduction.


New - About Me page

Now, up until last week, my blog didn’t have an About Me page or a Classroom Management page. I didn’t know this topic was going to be covered in today’s Teacher Challenge; however, I recently realised that an effective page navigation system would help overcome some of the limitations of my preferred Blogger™ platform.

When I started A Relief Teacher’s Journey, I always intended to share my work with my prospective employers and colleagues. I wanted my blog to reflect my professional practice, pedagogical interests, and teaching expertise. Reading today’s Teacher Challenge post, and looking back at my Big Interview reflections), I now understand the importance of sharing a little about myself  as an educator and blogger.

Since posting my About Me page last week, I’ve noticed a significant number of readers taking a look; and I’d love to get some feedback on its contents. Is there anything else you’d like to see / know about me? I’d appreciate any advice about publishing a personal photograph – I’m still not sure about the privacy angle. I’ve enabled comments on the page, so feel free to introduce yourself, and leave a link to your blog. I’ll look forward to reading your ideas.

Easing the navigation process

Now, as to my other pages. I created the Classroom Management page last week as a quick-find index of my classroom management posts. I also publish a list of my engagement in formal professional learning activities; and I’m currently contemplating a new index page focussing on my classroom teaching experiences and professional reflections.

As a wide reader of educational blogs, I find it very difficult to navigate several years worth of posts, and often bemoan the lack of a useful index. I don’t know how long this blog will be around in its current form, but I’d like to make it easy to navigate.

I’d appreciate a few suggestions and any constructive feedback from my fellow Challenge participants and blogger-mentors visiting A Relief Teacher’s Journey, particularly those coming here for the first/second time. Thankyou.


  1. These comments (as part of the Teacher Blogging challenge were originally posted under my About Me page. Unfortunately, they couldn't be posted here to a technical glitch, which I have just discovered and rectified.

    I apologise to all those readers who repeatedly tried to point out the issue - the problem turned out to be staring me in the face.

    I've moved the comment conversation here for posterity:

    Mrs Gow said... (January 17, 2011 4:48PM)

    Hi Michael and thanks for participating in the Teacher's Blogging Challenge - it has been very interesting reading posts from different educators.

    I am impressed that you have a very clear purpose for your blog and you are obviously a very reflective practitioner.

    I would encourage you to post a picture of yourself, as I think it helps readers to identify with you, but if you are worried about privacy and security issues, make it a photo that cannot be altered to use as a passport/license shot. I am really thrilled when people recognise me from my blog avatar, at conferences for example, and say hello.

    I wanted to leave a comment on your landing page, but couldn't find where?

    Michael Graffin said... (January 17, 2011 7:16PM)

    Thankyou very much for your advice and kind feedback. I was vaguely contemplating one of my artistic self-portraits, but hadn't thought about the passport/license 'shot' (I actually have neither!). I'll give it some thought.

  2. takefive said... (January 18, 2011 1:42AM)

    Dear Michael,

    I think your About page does a terrific job of outlining the relevant things about you. I think it paints a good picture of your philosophy and approach to teaching.

    My only suggestion, and it's because I'm from the US, is that the term "relief" teacher is not something I know. I'm assuming it is a widely used classification in Australia but it is not something I've heard in my country.

    If you anticipate having a wider audience, you might give your international readers a short definition about relief teaching just to confirm or clarify their working definition.

    I do like the way your pages are linked at the top. Did you do this because they aren't tagged? Would people not be able to find all your posts by entering the tag, "class management" in the search window? Just wondering.

    Thanks again.

    Janelle said... (January 18, 2011 2:59AM)

    I really like how you laid out your about page. It really ties in well to the professional focus of your blog.

    Michael Graffin said... (January 18, 2011 5:35PM)

    Well, I must say that the comments on this post have helped clear up some lingering questions I had about blogging.

    I hadn't thought of describing my job role as a relief teacher - it is variously known as substitute teacher / supply teacher in various parts of the world. THANKYOU for raising this issue.

    As to tagging posts, all my posts are tagged, but I prefer to provide a categorised listing - some posts should be read together.

    Thankyou for all the kind feedback and constructive advice - I'll be making some changes in response to the pertinent issues raised.

  3. murch said... (January 18, 2011 7:27PM)

    Hi Michael. Hi like how you have clear headings which share your past, your present and your future.

    The only other thing that others have placed on their about me page, is some of their life outside school ie interests, passions etc but they may not fit in with the way you have set yours out.

    Congratulations on your success at university. Would you like full time work, or do you like the relief teaching?

    Carla Arena said... (January 18, 2011 8:00PM)

    Hi, Michael. Great About page. Just one detail that might help you improve your blog layout. In my screen, the page setting is too big, so I have to scroll right and left to read the whole information. Is there a way you could reduce a bit the post area?

    Michael Graffin said... (January 18, 2011 8:06PM)

    Hmm, I know I'm using a widescreen laptop, but there are extensive borders on either side of the page. Is anyone else having this problem (with browser zoom set to 100%?)

    I can tweak it if necessary, although it may affect the placement of my blog widgets.

    DebHogg said... (January 18, 2011 9:23PM)

    Hi Michael, I'm having page width problems too (a widescreen would be nice, must #saveupandbuyone) and I was wondering why you had used the template with the left sidebar?

    Since the stuff in the sidebar is not a visitor immediate focus because they visit to read the posts then it wouldn't it be easier if the sidebar was on the right? #justasking

    Regards, Deb

  4. Michael Graffin said... (January 19, 2011 8:02AM)

    Ok, thanks for this. I wasn't aware of this issue. I'll be doing some tweaking shortly. I personally prefer having the sidebar on the left, but I'll have a look at some other edublogs, and consider any changes.

    I really appreciate your honesty & constructive feedback. Thankyou

    Michael Graffin said... (January 19, 2011 9:02AM)

    Total page width has now been reduced by 10%. Please let me know if the width problem still occurs - I'll fix it!

    This has been one of the best outcomes of the Challenge to date - identifying all the niggly issues I didn't know existed.

    JD said... (January 20, 2011 9:07AM)

    Hi Michael,
    Page width just FINE. What a great Blog. it will build up to a great resource for new teachers. I would like to link your Blog to Digital Teacher.


    Mrs Gow said... (January 20, 2011 4:36PM)

    Great work Michael,

    One of the signs of a great teacher is a willingness to consider feedback and reflect on your practise, and you have clearly demonstrated that in your blog. The page width is fine, both on my iPad and my laptop.

    I would be more concerned about having my email address on my blog than having a photo. Some people use brittgow AT gmail DOT com to prevent bots from collecting addresses and spamming them.

    I am sure you will find a very suitable teaching position soon, and I wish you all the best for the rest of the Blogging Challenge.