“Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes
Five hundred, twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?”
After sixteen years in public education, I moved states and shifted to an independent school. My classroom vibe reflected growth and hope in the form of a gigantic vinyl decal tree and quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi). As I smoothed the branch bubbles of the tree, my finger ventured from trunk to branch to leaf and I saw the metaphor of my career. One person can make a difference. Teachers have reach.
Before teaching, I was a publicist – my days were filled with circulation numbers, tear sheets, viewerships, and “what’s the reach” for thousands of projects. For each client, I had metrics that showed scope, leading to significant approximations of influence. At the end of each week, I compiled dossiers for clients so publishers and writers knew – in concrete terms – if the marketing was connecting with the readers.
I never saw Rent, but heard “Seasons of Love” enough to murmur along with the music my mutated version: “five hundred twenty hum hum hum hum HUM hum…measure a year.”
Measure. We can measure a year, certainly the 180 days of an academic year, but what about educator impact?
The state can try to measure what teachers do by algorithm-ing test scores and a once-a-year observation, but I wish the state knew my students’ names as well as they know Charlotte Danielson’s.
We can measure for ourselves. Teachers can quantify their own reach.
Check this out:
In my 21 years of teaching, I’ve taught about 4,215 students. But what teacher do you know limits themselves strictly to the classroom? You don’t. Consider your extracurriculars. Your coaching. Your mentoring. Your student teachers. Your grad school classmates.
That To Kill a Mockingbird Dinner and Discussion with families for several years? 210.
Organizing Interact club members to assist with craft shows? 4,800 attendees who were endlessly impressed with the kids. The community carnival to increase connectedness? 2,000.
That’s 11,285. The population of the town in Pennsylvania where I lived was just over 5,000, so I had more than double the reach to impress upon people that they matter, they are valued, they are necessary – and that reading and writing are life tools.
Sure, I taught prepositional phrases (anything a mouse can do with his house), but I also:
• Modeled how to care openly and unapologetically (for successes and failures)
• Guided practicing self-care (my students crocheted)
• Coached how to give and receive an apology (“I’m sorry.” “Thank you.”)
• Demonstrated resilience, like when I was the alternate for a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, but applied again and got it.
My 2016-2017 Reach
In 2016-2017, I did become a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching recipient based at Queen’s University Belfast to research community use of schools and wanted my home district to realize the impact of the program, to know that a small district could have global reach, so I kept track of numbers.
170000: Homes Blue Ridge Cable Television
408372: Times News Newspaper Circulation, 34,031 x 12 instances
200974: Firebrand Fulbrighter Blog
1546: Facebook Friends
583: LinkedIn Connections
593: Twitter Followers
387: Instagram Followers
300: Local school board meetings
100: Local teacher union meetings
30000: Queen’s University Belfast online newsletter
I’m no math teacher, but so far that adds up to 812,621 (thank you, Google Sheets).
When I returned stateside, I wrote a piece for Education Week (1.6+ million readers) and The New York State English Council blog (5,000 x 2).
Pre-Covid, I presented at the NYSEC conference (300).
Because I believe so strongly in the Fulbright programs, I have presented at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, at Fulbright orientations, and I onboard grantees in the US and the UK.
I read applications and participate in interviews. (150) 2,429,356
And I’m just one person. Just one teacher.
You have reach. You are the change you wish to see in the world.
Each educator has their own gifts of mentoring how to live the best life possible. What is your hidden curriculum? What are your core values? What is your mission? Since you first stepped foot in a classroom, those are the pieces of humanity that touch others – not just standards and benchmarks.
Want to measure your reach? Go to this chart, make a copy, fill in your numbers, and I think you’ll be surprised.
Comments on this Post
Wonderful article Cristi. Your reach and impact is so much greater than the numbers listed. As a Fulbrighter myself, I have had the opportunity & privilege to hear you speak so passionately about education & the impact of community. Thanks for a poignant piece of writing reminding me that my presence matters as I head back to my teaching job & the students I care deeply about in 2023. ~ Christine Powell