Teaching: A Profession in Transition
The journalist Dale Russakoff kept hearing the same word in her conversations with Arizona teachers during a reporting trip last spring for The New York Times Magazine. That word, she said, was “awakening.”
Sometimes when Philadelphia school principal Sharif El-Mekki asks a roomful of students of color about their interest in teaching, they respond with laughter.
“We ask them — have you been thinking about it?” he said during a recent EWA panel on how to make the teacher workforce more racially and ethnically diverse. ”And the response,” El-Mekki said, is “No way. I’m having a miserable experience in school. Why would I commit myself to living there?”
How Do Teachers’ Unions Move Forward in Wake of ‘Janus’ Decision?
High court ruled against collecting 'agency' fees from non-members
In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling to prohibit public sector unions from collecting “agency” or “fair share” fees, some observers saw it as the beginning of the end for teachers unions.
But such dire predictions may be premature, according to education analysts and a union leader at the Education Writers Association’s October event on the teaching profession.
Barbara Laker isn’t an education reporter. She doesn’t have a long list of teachers’ phone numbers in her contacts. So, it’s amazing that she was able to find and convince 24 teachers and other school employees from 19 elementary schools to swab pipes, drinking fountains and suspicious patches of black on classroom walls.
If there’s been one constant over the last decade in terms of teacher evaluation policies in the United States, it’s been change.
First, performance reviews incorporating student test scores became – mostly – the law of the land. Then, the academic standards educators and their pupils are measured against – mostly – changed. And then, in many places, those standards changed again.
So, has the implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which did away with mandates on how states measure teacher quality, calmed the roiling waters?
There’s no one way to get a great data story on the education beat. You can start with a hunch, dig for data, and then humanize the story with on-the-ground reporting. Or you can start with the people and work back to the data.
Stellar journalists described both of these approaches at a recent Education Writers Association event, in a session called “How I Did the (Teacher) Story.”
The eighth grade classroom of English language arts teacher Natalie Mitchell is full of books by black writers. Titles like Natalie Y. Moore’s “The South Side,” and LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman’s “Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago,” are prominently displayed.
Mitchell’s literary choices here at the University of Chicago Charter School, Woodlawn campus, underscore a key element of her teaching: her own experience growing up on Chicago’s south side.
Visiting a classroom while reporting on education issues is a core part of understanding how instruction takes place. But it can also be a missed opportunity, without careful thought and planning.
If reporters don’t ask for a lesson plan in advance, for instance, stick around after students leave to speak with the teacher, or even make plans for a return visit, they risk failing to make the most of this on-the-ground reporting.
Journalists from across the Great Lakes region and the U.S. gathered in Chicago Oct. 18-19 to learn more about the teaching profession during a time of transition for the field, and to get story ideas and inspiration.
The event explored the recent surge of teacher activism across the country and the growing mismatch between teacher diversity and student diversity. Reporters also explored teacher prep, teacher evaluation, and dived into data on teacher pensions, salaries, and absenteeism.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Unless otherwise noted, all Thursday events take place in Room 304 of The University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center.