by Christopher Paslay
Today’s blog post is a special one—it’s the 100th on Chalk and Talk since this site was launched on September 28th, 2008.
In just under 11 months on the internet, this site has received 20,650 views. The exposure and reach of this blog is steadily growing. In June, Chalk and Talk generated 2,995 views—an average of 100 per day for the month. July was almost as busy: 2,811 for the month, an average of 91 per day.
On a grand scale, these numbers are small potatoes, but on a local level they are significant. The Philadelphia Pubic School Notebook, a publication that’s been covering education in Philadelphia for 15 years and was recently awarded a $200,000 grant by the Knight Foundation, launched a new website in February.
According to the paper’s editor, Paul Socolar, the site gets about 400 visitors a day. And that’s with a large staff of professionals generating material—photographers, editors, reporters and bloggers.
Chalk and Talk’s staff is a bit smaller. The entire operation is basically run by Yours Truly.
That’s not to say Chalk and Talk doesn’t generate dialogue and spark reaction, because it most certainly does. On September 29th, 2008, I posted a commentary on this blog that I had originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer titled How about the teachers? It suggested the Philadelphia School District was treating its educators less than professional, and called for a fair contract with them.
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman responded in a letter to the Inquirer headlined Taking Exception, explaining that the School Reform Commission was working hard to rectify the problems facing the District, and that there were “no easy answers”.
Shortly thereafter, I received a personal letter from Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President, Jerry Jordan. Mr. Jordan thanked me for my article, and for bringing to light the concerns of Philadelphia public school teachers, whose voices are often ignored or marginalized in the media as a whole (on a side note, the PFT has revamped its website, and now includes Jerry’s Blog. Click here to visit).
Chalk and Talk has also gotten feedback from Paul Socolar, editor of the Notebook. Those that follow my “Eye on the Notebook” series are familiar with the dialogue here (to read the exchange, click on Eye on The Notebook under “Categories” to the right). Although some feathers were ultimately ruffled, I believe my month-long encounter with Paul was positive. He taught me some things about journalism, and I enlightened him on the realities of teaching in a Philadelphia public school classroom, and made him more aware of the limited scope of his newspaper, and the fact that it isn’t always teacher friendly.
I’ve received comments from the Philadelphia Student Union when I suggested that they needed to do more to hold their peers accountable for bad behavior; last fall I got a comment from Jonathan Stein, general counsel of Community Legal Services, when I challenged his notion that the Universal Feeding program should be application free.
There’s been feedback from other bloggers, such as Samuel Reed of the Notebook and Ken DeRosa of D-Ed Reckoning; from parents and community groups, most notably Moving Creations, a non-profit arts mentoring program working with area youth; and of course, there’s been hundreds of replies from Philadelphia public school teachers, the dedicated men and women who work miracles with our city’s children on a day-to-day basis (thank you Susan Cohen Smith for your witty commentaries).
Some days I wonder if running this blog is worth the effort. When it comes to the public’s perception of education in America, the glass is always half empty. We are constantly being bombarded with words like broken and failing. More than ever, teachers and schools are being made the scapegoat for just about everything, and the other significant pieces of the education equation—such as parents, educational policy writers, politicians, professors, and society as a whole—are consistently ignored.
There is a lot of negative energy wrapped up in the politics of education. I make a conscious effort not to get pulled too far down into this muck, but some days, after I crank-off a 700 word article rebutting some point made by some know-it-all who’s never taught a day in a classroom, I find myself becoming cynical. I apologize for this. My intent is not to sling mud or call names.
I write because I want to make things better, because I want the public to see a more accurate version of the objective truth, if there is such a thing.
I hope the next 100 posts on this blog are just as meaningful and engaging. I hope they continue to inform as well as entertain, and provide readers with new insights.
Thanks to all of you who have contributed or commented. Chalk and Talk is an open forum for all points of view on education. Feel free to email the address above, or to post your thoughts on any of the articles directly on the comment board.