When I decided to start a career as a content writer, I never expected it to turn into such a rewarding experience so quickly. When I accepted my first gig at the end of September 2016 (creating lines of dialogue for an alarm clock app), I wasn’t totally convinced this writing thing was going to pan out. Still, I took what I could get.

I wrote a review of an LED toilet-bowl light, crafted a Kick Starter pitch for a linguistics app, and edited the CV and cover letter of a UN official.

In relatively short order, I was extremely lucky to stumble upon an ad seeking an educational content writer for the Knowledge Roundtable, a free tutoring marketplace based out of New England. I made my pitch to Jared, the site’s founder, and started a professional relationship that has been flourishing ever since.

From there, I have linked up with a number of amazing partners ranging from education sites like Teach.com and Clear Choice Prep to technology sites like Chromebook.net and a major software security firm. In this, my first year, I have worked for clients in over half-a-dozen countries and have even started my own site here to feature posts that are of especial importance to me (like this one!).

I’m eternally grateful to everyone who I have had the privilege to work with on this journey so far. Being able to write and share my insights has already made such a difference in my life both personally and professionally.

Thank you to those who have helped me navigate this unique path, those who have read and shared my work, those in my PLN who continue to challenge me to think and grow as an educator and writer, fellow writers who have been willing to exchange guest posts, and my loving editor-in-wife who makes sure my finished products are always ready for the world.

Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Favorite Pieces of the Year:

Honorable Mentions: The Ghost Writings

While I can’t link to them here (or even officially take credit), some of the most fun I’ve had this year came from ghostwriting projects. The bulk of these pieces were technology focused and allowed me to do some deep dives into some interesting (read: nerdy) content.

Most recently, I conducted an in-depth industry analysis of portable battery technologies. I worked on a data software manual that made me immediately change my Windows security settings, personal passwords, and even my garage door alarm code.

Topping the list of my favorite ghostwriting assignments has to be an exhaustive 10,000+ word guide about ditching cable and becoming a “cord cutter”. That piece will presumably hold my personal word count record for some time.

None of these efforts will ever see the light of day with my name attached, but they were a blast to sink my teeth into anyway!

10: Video Games Are Not the Enemy

SoperWritings.com

I have always had a personal connection to video games. Throughout my life, they have been pathways to learning, friendship, and family bonding.

I originally started writing this piece for a partner at a parenting site. As I got deeper into writing it, I found myself growing more and more connected to the content.  I ended up opting to keep it here on my personal blog as a way to share my views on how video games can be used as a force for good when coupled with responsibility and balance.

9: Improve Your Teaching Practice with These Great Podcasts

CertificationMap.com

I love projects that expose me to new things. I’ve listened to podcasts on my daily commute for years, but before this piece, I had never ventured into the world of education podcasts. Since the post’s publication this summer, these four featured pods are still in my regular rotation.

For those still looking for more audible professional development, the follow-up piece on Teach.com, “Thought-Provoking Podcasts That Will Make You a Better Educator”, has even more great podcasts worthy of your earbuds!

8. Five Practical Ways to Use Music to Promote Learning

The Knowledge Roundtable

I come from a very musical family. My mom teaches instrumental music and my father plays a handful of instruments as well. One of my grandfathers was a gifted organist while the other spent decades as a camp song leader. As such, it is no surprise that music has infiltrated my pedagogy.

This piece features some of my favorite ways music can be used as a learning tool.

7. The Classroom Tech Choice: Chromebooks or iPads?

Teach.com

I spent the past seven school years teaching with a classroom set of iPad 2s. In the process, I created a hybrid paper/digital workflow they was both accessible and transparent. During that same time period, my school made a push for a 1-to-1 ratio of students to Chromebooks. I held out as long as I could, but this summer I took the plunge and made the switch to Chromebooks myself.

This piece chronicles that journey and includes my first ever infographic: a decision tree outlining how to make the right technological choice for your classroom.

6. Using Card Games to Teach Basic Math Skills

ThinkFun Education Blog

guest post on behalf of The Knowledge Roundtable

Every so often, I start a piece, get about 85% of the way through, and then decide to put it on the shelf. This guest post for ThinkFun was the direct result of one of these decisions. I started in on a deep dive connecting educational psychology and video games (a piece I eventually returned to); but as I came down the home stretch, didn’t feel it was a good fit for the target audience. ThinkFun’s blog is more about practical ways to connect games and learning, and I was getting deep in the weeds on the theoretical end.

So I started fresh and, instead, focused on some of my favorite ways to use playing cards to support math skills. Of all my posts this year, this one probably received the largest and fastest positive response from readers. People latched on to the practicality, made connections to my stories about playing games with my family, and shared the piece with peers on a level I was not entirely prepared for.

I’m glad I went in the direction I did and am certainly grateful to be able to share my experiences in these types of ways!

5. True Confessions of a Tutoring Client Poacher

Clear Choice Prep

In one of my first rounds of pitches for Matt at Clear Choice Prep was a personal story about my unceremonious exit from a local tutoring company.

Long story short: I was returning to education after a short hiatus as a financial IT head-hunter (not as cool as it sounds) and accepted a position tutoring test prep, elementary math, and some AP-level sciences. In relatively short order, it became clear that I was being taken advantage of by the company.

Rather than continue to be the workhorse for a business that clearly did not value my efforts, I struck out on my own and brought some of my clients with me. It wasn’t the most ethical move, but the story serves as both a mea culpa and a warning for owners of similar businesses to respect and value their tutors.

4. The Constantly Evolving Role of the School Librarian

ALSC Blog

guest post on behalf of Teach.com

There is a wide variety of people that play important roles in the educational landscape. Many of these passionate professionals go unnoticed or worse, face the chopping block when budgets get tight.

This piece for The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) aimed to bring attention to the crucial place school librarians hold in the current educational climate of innovation, STEM skills, collaboration, and ELA proficiency. Speaking with two accomplished librarians, Dr. Andrea Ange and Marifran DeMaine, helped paint a picture of all the amazing work librarians do for students and fellow educators.

3. A Fair Opportunity for Success

EdTech Digest

guest post on behalf of The Knowledge Roundtable

From the beginning of my teaching career, technology has proven to be an essential component of the learning experiences of my students. I have used a wide variety of tools, software, and media to bring learning to life in ways that are otherwise difficult to do with ink on paper.

However, I have also come to understand the fact that students’ access to technology outside of the classroom varies greatly. As such, I have made it my point to ensure technologically-infused experiences can be accomplished in school, where access is more uniform, rather than outside of class.

In this piece, I elaborated on this push for equity and fairness when students are tasked with using technology.

2. Three Steps to Encourage Student Mindfulness

The Knowledge Roundtable

As I’ve grown older, I have come to appreciate the value of deliberately taking time to focus (…and refocus).

Several years ago I began waking up in the middle of the night suffering from debilitating panic attacks. Through some deliberate mindfulness practices I was able to not only work through these episodes, but reduce their frequency dramatically.

This got me to thinking: why aren’t we equipping students with the tools to understand and address their own mental well being? After some research and speaking with some great friends in my PLN, I wrote this piece for The Knowledge Roundtable.

This piece has had some of the longest legs of any I have written this year. Seemingly every month I receive a tweet or message from a reader who has just stumbled across it and has something to share.

1. Newborn Twins: My Summer Professional Development

More Than a Lesson

guest post on behalf of The Knowledge Roundtable

In any other year, starting a writing career would probably top my list of biggest life changes. Not this year.

In June, my wife delivered two amazing babies into our family. As first-time parents, she and I suddenly had our hands full (literally) in ways we could never have anticipated. Our babies have, without a doubt, been the most amazingly transformative forces in our lives.

Reflecting upon all the new experiences, I found myself challenging my own pedagogy and seeking ways to incorporate all the new learning from the first months of parenthood into my classroom. This piece started from that brainstorm and turned into a self-reflection about all the ways my life and classroom were changing.

It cannot be understated that it was a desire to make the best life for those two amazing little people that started me on this writing journey in the first place. As such, I can think of no better piece to hang my hat on as my most significant of 2017.

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer special thanks to Alana Stanton and her husband Mike for all of their support and positivity. I was honored that they were willing to host this post and help share it! If you don’t follow them on Twitter yet, what are you waiting for?

 

So as this post creeps towards the 2,000 word mark, thanks again to all those who have been so supportive of the SoperWritings project and, in turn, my family. I owe you all a debt that I can likely never fully repay. All I can do is try to continue my efforts to Learn, Teach, Write, and Share so that we can all continue to grow on this educational journey together.

Here’s to 2017 and a healthy, happy, and growth-filled 2018!

 

Do you have any topics you would like to see written about in 2018? Share your suggestions and feedback in either the comments below or on Twitter!

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