Every so often I stop and realize that I have been at this for a decade. I have never been actively working on such a particular idea for so long. I think it’s safe to say the crisis of career I faced a long time ago has been settled. This is what I’m supposed to do. In recognition of this “holy crap 10 years” and the fact that I like making charts, I present a series of charts about things I’ve been doing for the past decade.

For this one, let’s broach a taboo subject, teacher pay. Before I dig in, let me state that I am satisfied with how I am paid. My district makes significant efforts to keep staff pay a priority despite funding shortfalls from the state (we have a redistribution system in place in Texas, that might change this year, our district currently pays in significantly more than we get back, leaving us to pinch pennies). We’re in an urban area and there are lots of districts to choose from as employee, and they know staff pay matters. Education is still government work though, so there’s only so much you can do. The rent’s still going to rise.

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Although public school teacher pay is a matter of public record in Texas (go poke around any school district HR page and you can find the salary schedules pretty easily), I have obscured the y-axis here. This is meant to be a general discussion of pay over the course of 10 years. More or less, I’ve been sitting at US Median pay (as issued by the Census Bureau) pretty much always. Only in recent years have I surpassed inflation. I’m 8% over an inflation adjusted 2010 salary. In 2010, health insurance cost 1% of income, rent 20%. In 2019, health insurance is now 10% of income, rent 24%. Despite the salary gains, most of it is now getting lost to overhead. I don’t even have kids or a spouse and health insurance costs hurt. The best part is despite having full coverage, a major medical emergency could bankrupt me easy. To say the recent tax table adjustments did me any good is laughable (I blew 3 years worth of my “tax break” on a car repair right after they came into effect). It’s probably accurate to say that every teacher knows exactly how far their money can go.

Another fact, I have always had supplemental duties. You stick around a school long enough and you’re highly likely to wind up doing something extra. In the spring of 2018, despite taking a year off from coaching, there wasn’t a single pay period where I wasn’t paid out for an extra duty (drive a bus for $50, keep score at a game for $30). In 2019, I make extra money by teaching math (high needs stipend), coaching volleyball, driving a bus for various athletic teams, keeping score at soccer games, sponsoring National Honor Society, and sponsoring our Mathematics Competition. Currently 16% of my salary comes from extra duties. I very much enjoy my extra duties, but they do require extra time.

If you’re a teacher reading this you know this is reality. If you aren’t in education and wonder why teachers work multiple jobs, well this is why. For a variety of reasons, wages stay pretty flat while everything else gets more expensive. If your situation has gotten so dire that you’ve had to take to the streets to get people to pay attention, more power to you. Teachers in a lot of places aren’t asking for much, covering the rent should not be an outrageous demand.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon
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Every so often I stop and realize that I have been at this for a decade. I have never been actively working on such a particular idea for so long. I think it’s safe to say the crisis of career I faced a long time ago has been settled. This is what I’m supposed to do. In recognition of this “holy crap 10 years” and the fact that I like making charts, I present a series of charts about things I’ve been doing for the past decade.

A simple one this week, answering the question “how many students have I taught?” It seems simple but it has a complicated answer. Every semester we submit grade sheets to the registrar, and every year I print a second copy for myself, just because it seemed like a good idea. I keep them in a binder that I never look at.

Twenty semesters produces quite a stack of paper, and I had the ambitious goal of trying to count everyone in there. Problem was, I have taught a number of students multiple times (in some cases progressing with them through Alg 2, Pre-Cal, and Calculus). I’ve had all kinds of kids for athletics, some of whom I was simultaneously teaching in a math class, but most of the time not.

After a lot of scanning and parsing ID numbers, here’s the results:

The real number is higher than 1124 and probably closer to 1300 or 1500. This is a count of students who had a seat in my class. This doesn’t include kids I coached but never had to grade, kids I coached in middle school and never taught/coached in high school, and kids I know through other roles, such as National Honor Society.

Despite all those qualifications, that is A LOT of students and part of what makes this job so hard to relate to people not in the field. Teachers deal with SO MANY people on a daily basis. People that you are very involved with, every day, only to have complete turn over a year later. The 2+ enrollments don’t tell the real story either. Many kids showed up 4 or 5 times (coached in 9th, taught in 10th, 11th, 12th). To be so responsible for a student’s high school math experience is really staggering, and a reminder that the work matters.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon

Every so often I stop and realize that I have been at this for a decade. I have never been actively working on such a particular idea for so long. I think it’s safe to say the crisis of career I faced a long time ago has been settled. This is what I’m supposed to do. In recognition of this “holy crap 10 years” and the fact that I like making charts, I present a series of charts about things I’ve been doing for the past decade.

In 2011 I started writing about my teaching adventures. At the same time I started using a twitter account to promote those writings and follow people in education. The early goal was to write something I would enjoy and take in what other people were sharing. Fun fact, in early 2013 that first twitter account got banned because the service I used to push blog posts to twitter got flagged. Simultaneously, one of my posts had garnered enough attention to get invited to Global Math Department. I had filed an appeal with twitter but there was no indication they were going to do anything about it. I needed a twitter handle to stick into the GMD slides, and lo, the one I use today was born. Eventually my account was reinstated but by then it was damage done. RIP original twitter account.

Though I have been writing continuously since 2011, I did a platform migration from Squarespace v5 to Squarespace v6 in late 2012 or so. You wouldn’t have noticed, because barely any one read this back then (people at TMC 13 did, which made it hard not to scream OMG YOU READ WHAT I WRITE the whole time). I did another major migration (that you wouldn’t have noticed aside from a switch from red to blue) to make the Varsity Math store possible. Either way, my currently available view counts only go back to January 2014.

For today’s chart, I thought it’d be interesting to compare tweet impressions to pageviews. Twitter analytics were only available starting in Sept 2014, and their scale is reduced by a factor of 10. Otherwise the web page view data is hard to see on the same chart. No y-axis values because this is just about trends. I don’t know that a web page view is the same thing as a twitter impression, but if you compare the raw numbers, 4 years of web views is 8.5% of my twitter impressions in the same time period.

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I tweet a lot during TMC, and I tweet A LOT on the last day of TMC. Stats aren’t available, but on a lark at the end of TMC 14 I did some dumb predictions about where TMC 15 would be (having no clue). Enough people liked it I did it again. And now it’s a thing. For fun on the last day of TMC 18 I enabled every twitter notification on my phone just to watch the insanity (I do the tweet storm from a computer). I have amassed a bit of an audience and that’s cool. The goal of my twitter feed is to be very school focused in a very un-serious way. My feed makes a little more sense when you meet me in person. I tweet a lot of gold when I’m grading. Kids are hilarious.

As others have noticed, blogs seem to be less important to teaching, not that mine ever got any huge runway. In fact, the biggest traction I get is from stuff that’s wound up on Pinterest. But yes, I have an audience. And yes, I am very thankful for you. If you’ve ever left a comment or sent me an email, I appreciate them and make a point to try to reply to them all. Other than some spikes here and there, getting traction with a teacher blog is tough. Things just don’t stay in the spotlight very long at all, and it seems like a lot of people have run out of time for reading them. Tweets are easier to parse, but you still have to tweet a lot for people to pay attention (in general a tweet will be “seen” by 10% of your followers if you’re lucky, about 5% will click links). Google Reader dying in 2013 hasn’t helped.

I post less than I used to, but I have less to figure out than I used to. In 2013, 14, and 15 I wrote over 70 entries each year. Now it’s around 50. I was deep in the weeds trying to figure stuff out some years ago, primarily working on improving the quality of student products and exploring technology integration. Those two problems were HUGE and have been kind of solved. I still have things to work on, but I haven’t needed to rely on writing as much to do them.

This site still has a purpose, and it will continue. I still treat myself as the main audience and there are still things I want to see on here. It has been a boon for documenting ideas throughout the school year to discuss at end of year appraisals. And 2018 was a good year for the site. Audience numbers were up and its role as a vehicle for Varsity Math was huge. I have an infrastructure in place to make regular merchandise offerings a reality. I eagerly await the TMC 19 shenanigans.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Claydon

Every so often I stop and realize that I have been at this for a decade. I have never been actively working on such a particular idea for so long. I think it’s safe to say the crisis of career I faced a long time ago has been settled. This is what I’m supposed to do. In recognition of this “holy crap 10 years” and the fact that I like making charts, I present a series of charts about things I’ve been doing for the past decade.

This time, the saga of how Varsity Math started as a tweet and turned into a massive merchandise brand. A very limited supply was offered to the public this year, but it is but a fraction of what students receive. Here’s units shipped of Varsity Math merchandise for the last 5 years:

Next to each year is a rough approximation of the money making all this possible. Each stack of bills represents $500 in real money. Students pay for their items. Currently, a base fee of $20 gets a student a t-shirt, sticker, patch, and sunglasses. No student is ever denied the base package due to an inability to pay. Other items are offered a la carte. If you’re interested in sponsoring a student, options are available.

We started small. Kids like t-shirts, so we got t-shirts. Then Andrew Stadel got me hooked on Sticker Mule and I started ordering stickers. As the whole premise is making a joke about letter jackets, I ordered patches in 2015. These were adhesive backed and the thought was kids could stick/sew them to their actual letter jacket. The concept did not take off. In 2016, I ordered patches with velcro backs and the rest was history. You want to spot a Varsity Math kid at my school? Check the lanyard. This simple addition increased our visibility 10x. Suddenly, kids were hooked on the patches. HOW DO I GET A PATCH? random underclassmen would ask me.

But oh….we weren’t done. Summer 2016 we added Summer Camp and a merchandise line to go with it. These shirts and stickers are among the most exclusive because you had to be there. Before you know it, we’re in the sunglasses business, the sweatshirt business, the sock business, and the shoe business.

Eleven kids signed up to make custom Vans with a Varsity Math logo. These shoes weren’t cheap and took 4 weeks to arrive. For this year’s round, I started collecting merchandise money in August 2018, and by Dec 1 over 800 items had been delivered. Simply put, the kids are merch crazy.

I design all the merchandise (force teaching myself Illustrator has worked wonders) and developed a whole slate of contacts who can make me just about anything. It has been a fascinating study of design, manufacturing, and logistics. By no means do I suggest it if you’re looking for a casual hobby, but if you’ve ever seen the tweets and were curious about what kind of scales I operate at, well here you go.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Claydon

Every so often I stop and realize that I have been at this for a decade. I have never been actively working on such a particular idea for so long. I think it’s safe to say the crisis of career I faced a long time ago has been settled. This is what I’m supposed to do. In recognition of this “holy crap 10 years” and the fact that I like making charts, I made a little stress diagram of those 10 years.

The taller the bar, the more work I felt like I was doing. Underneath is the variety and quantity of preps I had. Soccer balls and volleyballs represent coaching years. Trophies are major awards. Years where I took on a new prep or big responsibility spiked the work load, as I figured out how to do something for the first time. I put a LOT of effort into things when I’m doing them for the first time. REALLY quickly I figured out I like being thoughtful about my assignments and not just taking them from a binder, and that took a lot of time. Now I reap the rewards of that investment constantly. In the case of a new prep, there’s curriculum to map, assignments to make, and unknowns to solve. With a new responsibility, the time management needs a rebalance.

Along the way my confidence grew. You start to see that kids are buying what you’re selling, and that you can sell it really well. You get comfortable in the space, adapting good ideas to any old prep. College Algebra (Algebra 3 in local parlance) is this self-paced little wonderland because of all the grind that came before.

The first five years I felt I had something to prove. I was an outsider to education, a random guy with an alternative certification who did not know what he was doing. My first group of kids were very kind and said I did a good job, but I really did not know what I was doing. I wanted to show my school that I belonged, and that I could be trusted. Earning trust in the workplace is the hardest thing to do, and is so valuable once you have it.

Now though? Man, this is just the best. Yes I have three preps. Yes I coach a sport. Yes I’m co-running our National Honor Society. But it’s just so smooth. I’m not really sure what the shift was, but it’s an enjoyable place.

I want to deep dive some more into some other trends, so prepare your self for 9 more emoji-laden charts.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon