Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Curmudgucation Birthday

I made my first post here one year ago today (this is post #485). Several, in fact. Do us both a favor and don't go read them; it was a month or so before I started to figure out what the hell I was doing. Still working on it.

I was fortunate to find some audience fairly quickly. I joined BATs back when there were around 1600 members, and the responses I garnered there were encouraging. I was fortunate to be welcomed into that group. Anthony Cody was the first A-lister to ask to reprint me. Then Diane Ravitch saw something worthwhile in my work and has connected me with a much larger audience. I have been fortunate to have her backing and support. More recently, Bryan Maygers accepted me into the stable of Huffington Post bloggers, which has also let me reach even more folks. Here on the mother ship, this post has pulled about 5,300 views. On the HuffPo, it's been translated into three other languages and pulled about 450,000 likes. That would be my personal best. Soon, I'll be starting work to reach yet another audience by blogging at Education Week.

I have fans, bizarre as that seems to me, many of whom make up the small army of proofreaders who help me avoid looking too wrong for too long. I'm fast, but not always precise. I appreciate all of them as well, and that they care enough to help me do better.

I would be lying if I said it wasn't personally gratifying to have an audience. The only thing I ever wanted to be as much as I wanted to be a teacher was a writer (what tipped the scale was that I also wanted to be a Person Who Eats).

But I've been writing for a variety of audiences for decades. I've never had the material pouring with the volume it does here, nor felt so fired up when I work. That's not because I'm cranked up with dreams of fame and fortune (which is just as well)-- it's because I'm saying things that I believe are important directly to the people who want or need to hear them. The two most gratifying pieces of feedback I get are "You made me think about this differently" and "You put into words what I wanted to say but had trouble expressing."

I've never met any of the people in person that I have "met" on line. As an English teacher, I find it absolutely gutbustingly awesome that we live in an age where so much can be done just through the written word. I haven't found an audience because of my sparkling charm or a multi-million dollar PR campaign. I have a small gift for stringing words together, and I was fortunate enough to connect with people who connect with it. I never cease to find it unutterably cool that we live in a world in which such things can happen.

I'm proud to have connected with so many people, to have written words that help inform some people's opinions and understanding of their work. I'm also a little flabbergasted; I'm at about 550,000 hits on the blog-- how the heck did that happen.

But I'm not what's important here. What's important is the cause, the resistance, the continuing marathon that is the work of making American public education live up to everything it can be. What's important is to find our way as teachers, as parents, as students, in a world that has somehow twisted itself into an attack on its own best hopes and aspirations.What's important is education and teaching and doing it the best way we know how, and doing it every day better than we did it the day before. That's what's important. The attention that my posts get is not because I'm anybody-- it's because people care deeply, passionately about the issues that I write about.

I'm using the blog birthday to spend some time thinking about where I really want to focus, and what I issues I have failed to highlight effectively and see if I can't do better moving forward. I owe a huge debt to public education; I want to keep trying to pay it back.

I'm also resolved to do a better job of promoting other voices. When I was starting out, I felt awkward about hooking onto other people's stuff-- it felt like trying to grab coattails to draw an audience. But I am increasingly aware of the enormous value in amplifying all the voices of the resistance. There are a lot of good, thoughtful writers, each with his or her own strengths to bring to the table. At this point, I have an audience of my own, and I want to direct them to some of the other great stuff that's out there. If I am showing them people they already know, that's okay, too. Linkage and referrals raise a writer's profile on line, and as we've seen, it is good for public education when its advocates cannot be dismissed as a small splinter cell, but must be seen for what we are-- a large and diverse crowd of many and varied voices. Just as my students are better served if I don't close the door and ignore my colleagues, the cause of public education is better served if I don't just sit in my own corner and post nothing but my own thoughts from my own head. Dialogue, discussion, sharing, sass-- those are the building blocks of good edublogging.

This post, like pretty much everything I post, is about getting my thoughts organized and out of my head, to give me a place I can go read a note to myself to refocus and renew (without getting ridiculous). Every year I try to do everything a little better-- better teacher, better father, better trombone player, better husband, better non-jackass. This year I'll also try to be a better blogger.


  1. Gratz on one year! Looking forward to more.

  2. Peter, you write fantastically well and are very, very productive.
    Writing well is in fact a LOT of work.
    Thank you for your contributions to the national debate on education. And may the good guys and good gals and good kids win and defeat the one-tenth of one percent who are trying to destroy what little was good in education. And may you continue to remain employed teaching!