Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: What Did My Readers Care About?

Had I known what this blog was going to turn into, I probably would have done it on wordpress, which has many more nifty tools. This last week, I have watched with envy as worpressers get their own little number-crunching nicely-graphicked end-o'-year wrap-up. Meanwhile, even doing simple tagging is a chore on blogspot.

But my wife has been under the weather, so we've stayed close to home and I've had time to break a few things down here at the blogstand. What could I see in the tea leaves of my sites stats?

I always start with the assumption that readers in the bloggoverse respond mostly to subject. When I see a post take off and draw large readership, I don't think "Wow, I must have written the hell out of that one" so much as I think, "Damn, that must have touched a nerve." So by looking at what posts were popular, I get a sense of what nerves are out there, waiting to be touched.

By far, nothing I have ever written in my life has touched as many nerves as this piece:

The Hard Part dealt with the issue of teachers never having enough-- enough time, enough resources, enough you to do everything you know you should do. It ran on this blog a year ago, and then I later used it on my HuffPost space, where it blew up. At this point it has 560,000 likes on facebook, and has been translated into French, Spanish and German. It is not my greatest moment of writing (at one point, I announce a metaphor and then launch a simile--d'oh) but boy does it ever speak to something that many, many teachers feel-- a sense of just not being enough, of having too much to do and too little to do it with. If there was ever a moment in which blogging made me feel as if I were not the only person to feel a particular way, this was it.

As much as we've all learned to pay attention on the national level, people still respond very strongly to their own local concerns. Three of my four top posts for the year are regional: a piece about the publishing of Minneapolis teacher ratings, a piece from last spring about North Carolina's spirited drive to kick its teachers repeatedly in the face, and one of several posts following the stripping of special subjects in Ohio. Massachusetts's flirtation with teacher certificate screwery made the top 10.

Posts also take off when they address some of the favorite reformsters. People never seem to get tired of seeing what Arne Duncan's latest move of gooberdom, and I swore off directly referencing She Who Will Not Be Named because She always served as the most base-but-effective clickbait. Besides, she simply never deserved to be famous, so I stopped being part of that process.

Once you get away from the reformster A-list, however, interest drops. I will not hurt the feelings of some reformsters by listing the people in whom there's just not much interest, and I will continue responding to their work just because I like to.

People also like mockery, apparently, which is a need I'm prepared to fill. The top ten posts for the year include my directory of anti-teacher trolls and my own take on the ubiquitous "Why I Heart Common Core" letters. Which tells me that as serious as the situation is, folks are still willing to laugh at it. In seven hundred and some posts of varying degrees of seriousness, I have never gotten a "How dare you make light of these serious issues" note. I have, however, received several notes from reformsters-friendly folks saying essentially, "I disagree with most of the substance of what you wrote, but that was still pretty funny." So I guess as contentious as the debates about the future of US public education have become, we are not all so grim as the folks in some of the other big debates in this country.

My sampling here is obviously self-selecting, and not representative of the general population, but it still is interesting to get a hint of what sorts of things people are concerned about. And now I have also fulfilled my contractual obligation to do some sort of end-of-the-year post. Happy New Year to us all!


  1. Thanks, Peter! Happy New Year to you!

  2. Happy New Year to you and yours. May your wife be on the mend!

  3. Happy New Year to one of my favorite bloggers! And I must say, the Anti-Teacher Trolls was my favorite... laughed so hard I cried!