Saturday, May 26, 2012

Greatest Hits

There was a time when I could have told you the exact anniversary, but it was sometime during the early summer of 2009 when I started blogging. I fretted so much over those first few posts, striving to keep them rather bland and non-controversial, worrying about being attacked from all sides by those angry people on the internet, dreaming about being feted as the next great thing by the mysterious internet image-makers. Then, heart in my throat, I'd click the "publish" button and . . . Then what?

It didn't take me long to discover analytics, the tools out there for variously measuring the crude demographics of your readership: what they read, how long they read, where they live, and so on. If you're a blogger yourself, you likely know all about these statistics and their strange allure, these numbers that come to represent the people who come by your little corner of the web. Before long I was obsessively spying on my readers via those numbers several times a day, often just leaving the window open on my computer to track every nuance. I distinctly remember the first day I surpassed 200 readers in a day, driven by a post about health care reform, my first toe in the pool of water outside the straight early childhood eddy. I must say I was giddy and a little afraid. (This post did attract the attention of angry internet people, even though looking at it now it's was a rather mild post compared to some of the things I write now.)

I'm happy to report that my obsession with you as a statistic has faded. It's exhausting living on that kind of they-love-me-they-hate-me roller coaster. For the past year or so, I've been checking the numbers, maybe, once a month and then only when something strikes me as particularly odd, like it did a couple days ago when my volume of email suddenly began to overwhelm me. It seems the post Seven Things To Say Instead Of "Good Job!" struck a cord with many of you, causing it to make the rounds in a wider circle than my writing normally does. Yay!  Thank you for sharing!

While I was there, I got curious about my "greatest hits," so to speak, and found that this post has already risen to number 2 on the all-time charts. And while I have a few end-of-the-school-year type posts I'd like to get to, I also know from my years looking at the statistics that weekend readership tends to fall off, while depth of readership rises. So instead of "fresh" material, I thought I'd put together a reading list based on Teacher Tom's all-time most popular posts.

1)     "Spoiled Brats"   I'm quite proud of this post and it remains at the top of the charts. It was nominated for Most Influential Post in the 2011 Edublog Awards and lost out by a single vote. It's a sort of treatise on how to treat your child like a fully-formed human being without resorting to the command-and-control awfulness of what is  often referred to as "tough love."

2)     Seven Things To Say Instead Of "Good Job!"   I wrote this post around a collection of photos that got me reflecting on the interactions I'd had with kids who had been eager to include me in their accomplishments. Many readers seemed to think that the objection to the phrase "Good job!" is that it's simply overused, thus rendering it meaningless. That's part of it, but the real reason I try to avoid it (along with such pronouncements as "That's beautiful!" "You're so smart!" and "I love it!") is that it puts the focus on external validation (i.e., adult approval). Making informative statements instead of praise is how I acknowledge a child's effort, their internal drive, rather just "rewarding" them with my opinion.

3)     Hitting   In this post I offer practical tips for what to do about 2-year-olds who hit, including an 8-step plan for learning through conflict. I'm a little embarrassed to see that the entire post is in some odd typeface. I don't know how that happened, but I'm too lazy to dig through the html code to figure it out.

4)     Watching Television Is Relaxing   This post exploded for a few days and brought me many new readers, largely because some nice folks with much larger audiences than mine linked to it.  In it, I use science and research to show how TV is no different than any other narcotic, at least in how it affects the brain. I received a lot of praise for this piece, but it was tempered by some very, very angry responses as well, mostly from people who either felt they had no other choice (for their own sanity) than to put their kids in front of what my mom called "the boob tube," or who were exasperated with me for giving them yet another reason to feel inadequate as a parent.

5)     Our "Tall Paintings"   I'm soooo happy that one of my preschool art project posts is in the top 5. I'm particularly happy that it's this one. Although there was a great surge of readers during the first few days it was up, this post has picked up "hits" almost every day for over a year.

6)     If You Really Want A Smart And Happy Kid  This post, in only a few words, really does say everything I know about being a good parent.

7)     The Language Of Command   This post, in which I forcefully advocate speaking informatively with young children, preceded the "Spoiled Brats" post by a day. It was reader response to this post, especially from those who worried about "spoiling" children, that prompted me to expand upon and clarify my thoughts the following day. I'm quite proud of this post as well. This, along with "Spoiled Brats," forms the basis of not only how I try to work with young children, but with people of all ages.

8)     I Have This   This post is about the limits of "direct instruction" (the method of teaching being used in most schools in America) and the expansive nature of play-based or inquiry-based teaching. 


9)     This Is What We Are Up Against    I've written, to date, 70 posts in which I discuss my opposition to corporate education reform and my thoughts on what real, positive, research and data based education reform might look like. This is the one that readers seem to like the most. Warning: I pull no punches.  People with Libertarian tendencies really don't like this post.

10)    This Is What Math Learning Looks Like   People who are not entirely sold on a play-based curriculum often ask how children, if left to pursue their own learning in their own ways, ever learn math. In this post I show you what math learning looks like in pictures and in words.

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Anonymous said...

Hi! Thank you so much for this post! I discovered your blog about two months ago, and really enjoy it! My favorite post so far is the one about fingerpainting and getting to brown. I tried to find it again and haven't been able to. I wanted to reference it in my blog, but despite a lot of searching....I couldn't find it. Could you please respond with the title? Then I can update my blog (which doesn't have a zillion views, just one or two here and there) and give you credit! Thanks so much!!

Juliet Robertson said...

Oh what a mouthwatering list. Quite honestly I don't think your top 10 is enough,

What I like is that you speak with your heart, hands and head engaged. You have thought about what you are saying and happy to eat dirt if afterwards you reckon someone's said something that makes you think again. (Remember a bit of dirt is good to eat).

My only request is that you don't wear yourself out blogging. I hope it revives you at the end of a busy day.

Thanks to you for writing this and many more posts.

Teacher Tom said...

@fancifularts . . . I suspect this is the post about "preschool gray" that you're thinking about:

@Juliet . . . It doesn't revive me at the end of the day, but it does get me going in the morning! I've always been a morning worker and an evening slacker. I'd like to continue posting daily, but I'm taking on a new class next year, older children, in addition to my current 2 classes, so my frequency of posting might have to change.

janetlansbury said...

I can't say how glad I am that you're here...or maybe I can...I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HERE, TOM! Cheers to your upcoming 3rd anniversary! And I'm hoping for at least 33 more. You make reading, blogging and being with children all the more fun and inspiring. Thank you!

Clone-ishly yours,

Anonymous said...

"As a teacher, I see the gray as evidence of learning, as a sign that this child has explored and experimented in every way possible."
Tom, I love this quote about the process of making art, thank you for directing me to the right post!

Jeanne Zuech said...

Tom - Always love a Top 10 list! Would love to know your own Favorite 5 posts that perhaps did/not have high readership at the time but you yourself valued for specific reasons. Just curious. By the way, one of my own "favorites" is your Two Year Olds With Hammers which I have used with my college student-teachers to get some controversy mixed in with opinions in our class discussions :) Cheers. (from Jeanne, aka Zella Said Purple)