Consistently Blogging Consistently

Filed as Features on January 28, 2008 4:40 pm

In Israel, I had a Hebrew teacher who was a doll. Sweet, friendly, a charming lady. I faced her delightful smiling self three times a week for Hebrew class.

I hated it. She couldn’t teach for nothing.

Honestly. At first, I thought it was me. I didn’t want to be one of those twits who always blame the bad teacher and not be responsible for being a bad, clueless student. I hate that excuse. Yet, here I was faced with this delightful woman who couldn’t teach me anything.

Yet, she was an elementary school teacher who taught Hebrew as a second (or eighth) language at night. She had all the teaching credentials, and years of experience, and I was totally ignorance in the language of the country I was living in. I was at her mercy.

Over the weeks, I sat there, desperately trying to learn the basics of Hebrew. While becoming fluent was important, my highest priorities were learning how to ask for the price of something. I needed to know how to ask at the deli for shredded or sliced cheese. I needed to know how to mail a letter and buy a stamp. I needed to know how to get money out of the bank beyond a cash machine. I needed the words to pay my electric and phone bills. I needed to ask how to find things. I needed to know what it was that they were asking me about when I went to check out at the grocery store. I needed to know the difference between the words check, cash, and debit card.

I needed some basic phrases to help me get along in the new life in this new country, a country full of people who lie when they tell you everyone speaks English. Yes, the children speak English. The English speaking immigrants speak English. The folks on the street in the markets, at the post office, and in the electrical and telephone service buildings do not speak English, and if they do, it’s a vocabulary of 24 words. I’d do better with Arabic, Russian, or Philippine.

My Hebrew teacher would talk to us for the first hour as if we were in kindergarten. We’d sing the alef, bet, gimel song and she’d draw cartoons on the blackboard and we’d sing-song say their names.

Sure it was fun, by by week three, it was old. Learning the ABC song does not buy me a loaf of bread or bottle of milk. At the break, we adults would feel like we were on Teletubbies and complain. Worried by our whines, during the second half, she would talk to us in a speed and level of Hebrew only found on college campuses. We were humiliated from both ends twice a night.

We tried to talk to her, and she listened. Then she’d dance around and try new methods. This one this night, that one the next night, but going back to switching between baby talk and college talk. She totally confused us with her inconsistent teaching styles.

I know she was trying to find a tone that worked with us. She listened to our complaints and helpful tips, especially from four of us who were teachers in our own right, but she never stayed with what worked. She just kept switching things around.

At one point, I stood up in the class and announced that I didn’t get it.

“Didn’t get what, mo-teck [dear]?”

“While learning the ABC song is fun, I have to know how to communicate in order to live here. I need to learn how to shop. I need to learn how to ask and get directions. I have to pay my bills in Hebrew. I’ve been in this class for three weeks and I still don’t know how to ask: how much is this. I don’t know the names of the food I’m buying. I need the words to live here.”

“What do you want to know how to say?”

“I want to know how to ask a shopkeeper: How much is this?”

“Cama ze oley.”

“Cama ze oley?”

“Yes, dear.”

The whole class recited it, then broke out in applause. Weeks at this and we had finally learned something we could actually use.

I kept working at it, wanting to believe it was me and not her with the problem. When the class dropped from 40 students to four, I knew I couldn’t take it any longer.

I changed teachers and finally started learning Hebrew after five weeks of wasted effort and depression.

Next semester when my husband landed her for a teacher, he told me that she couldn’t have been such a terrible teacher. By the second class, he switched to a new teacher.

Your blog is no different. Inconsistent style, presentation, and content will drive readers away.

You readers are probably smarter than I am. They won’t last as long as I did. They will know right away the trouble isn’t with them. It’s with you and your blogging style.

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  1. By Dave posted on January 30, 2008 at 9:22 am
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    That’s a good story. But you fail to make it clear how this analogy pertains to blogging. If one has a narrow, niche blog dedicated to conveying a certain kind of information, than I can certainly see the value of stylistic consistency. But if the purpose is to entertain, or to challenge readers on different levels, or simply to serve as the repository of a daily writing process, than variety might be a more worthwhile goal than consistency. And one could also make a case for a middle position of serial consistency: do one thing for a while until it seems played out, then switch to something else, the way a painter might regularly change her style or technique.

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  2. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on January 30, 2008 at 1:22 pm
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    @Dave:

    Consistency isn’t about variety. Change is acceptable, but not every 20 minutes. :D I think you’ve explained the point as well as I did in my story.

    It’s also about the reader’s experience, not the bloggers. The more readers get yanked around and surprised, and not in a good way, the more likely they are to dismiss you. There are a lot of blogs out there to choose from, often blogging on the same or similar subjects.

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  3. By Jessi posted on January 31, 2008 at 3:47 pm
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    What an excellent way to explain it!

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  4. By anon posted on June 6, 2008 at 2:56 am
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    I agree, nice way to make the point. I think bloggers too often are content with stream of conciousnes blogging that doesnt convey the point.

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  5. By maress posted on July 3, 2008 at 9:04 pm
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    Consistency isn’t about variety. Change is acceptable, but not every 20 minutes. :D I think you’ve explained the point as well as I did in my story.

    Reply

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