Year in Review
The Newsletter Report
Back in December of 2020, when the Covid vaccine was only just becoming available, I often heard the refrain: “Well, here’s hoping for a better 2021!” And of course I felt that way too - we all did.
But rather than just waiting for the vaccine to get around to me, I wondered what I could *do* to make 2021 better. I wanted to do something affirmative, forward looking. I had recently finished the first draft of an article about the “heart of teaching,” and so I thought I would write more about that topic. And I committed to do this for one year, once per week, publishing consistently on Saturday morning.
I started this newsletter on January 1 with this announcement:
I called it The Chalkboard Life because I wanted to write about the life of teachers, and how challenging the work has become in the face of the impacts of technology and, of course, Covid.
Since the first of the year, I have published 47 issues of this newsletter, and met my two goals: first, to do this for one year, and second, to publish consistently once per week. Except for a short vacation in July, I stuck to that schedule.
I have learned a few things doing this. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned the truth of what many writers have said about their writing: that they do it to clarify their thinking. I have also learned that a regular writing schedule helps me be productive. Admittedly, these are short writing exercises, but that’s a feature not a bug. Because once committing to it, and keeping it up, before you know it you have a lot of written material. In those 47 issues, I have produced around 40,000 words this year. That is almost the length of my first book!
I have also learned the utility of having that thinking done, since it can be repurposed into other forms of writing and presentations. Some of this work appeared in a talk I gave in Australia in November, and other parts of it will appear in the new book I am currently working on.
Some more information about the newsletter this first year, should that be of interest. The most popular post dates back to mid-February, what became a set of three posts, of which this was the first:
A close second most popular post dates to mid-May, as we prepared to enter the summer break after an incredibly difficult academic year:
Subscriber growth has increased 600% this year, but that’s not saying very much, since I started with a small number. Early subscribers were mostly just my friends and colleagues who got subscribed against their will (and are probably looking for the exits right about now).
It has been encouraging to see subscriber growth, but even better, the “open rate” has also been increasing over the year. Substack says the open rate is a count of unique people reading, not one person loading the same email five times. They say if you have an open rate of about 40-50% that is good. The open rate for the newsletter this year was around 60% at first (friends), dipped to around 45% as subscribers grew, and is now above 60% at the end of the year with a larger subscriber base.
I would love to see more subscriber growth, so please refer a friend! Just click that Share this Post button below, and send it on.
Where to from here? I have decided to continue writing The Chalkboard Life in 2022, and on the same schedule: once per week, on Saturdays. I may change the focus somewhat - towards broader meditations on life and our collective future.
I have also decided to add subscription capability. That is, I have set it up that if a reader wants to subscribe - and pay $5 per month or $50 per year - they may do so at their option. But at this point there will be no posts behind a paywall, and the free subscription remains as before, so it will include all posts. If I garner paying subscribers, I might start sending newsletters to just them, but I would notify everyone if I started doing that.
If you would like to “buy me a coffee” you may do so, and I would appreciate the vote of confidence. I will assume that you are getting value out of these weekly missives, and that will encourage me to continue writing them. But I am also fine with continuing to send it out to everyone for free. I’ll let you know if that changes.
Having taken this step myself, I have decided to buy a paid subscription to three other newsletters that I subscribed to the “free” version of at first. I will now pay a subscription fee to these three - all of which I recommended to you in the last few weeks. See if you can guess which ones I chose!
Let me know what you think of all of this, please. Would you like to see more of what I have been doing with The Chalkboard Life? What would you think of receiving a newsletter focused on the future, more broadly? What other topics do you think I should address? Please let me know!