This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
It’s one thing to write as a teacher from a teacher’s perspective. It’s another altogether to write from the sidelines about teachers’ daily lives. Perspective is one of those things that shapes—or blunts—the way people believe or disbelieve the things that you have to say. So I’m excited to see the new teacher bloggers for The Notebook blog. Their voices offer their truths about their schools, as well as the everyday realities of living and working in the Philadelphia community.
But writing as a teacher in a public school system is risky. Which parts do you share? What can you withhold? When the constructs of the school system impact the lives of students, is it wisest to critique, offer solutions, or just focus on the positive?
As a former teacher myself, I remember believing that that kind of talk just wasn’t part of my jurisdiction.
A reporter stopped me once following my routine visit to my former school. He’d hoped to gain some “insider knowledge” about the violence that went on there. Not only did he not know that I’d been a teacher there, he’d assumed that my co-worker and I were parents of a current student, visiting the school in anger. He held the microphone out to us, and I remember thinking, Now. Now is the time.
I wanted to talk. I really did. I wanted to sit with someone who would listen, someone who had the power of telling. I wanted to situate my little voice as one capable of sweeping, authentic change.
But even then, it was a risk: my former co-workers were inside, and so were my students. Friends with whom I’d (literally) learned to teach were doing innovative things to improve the educational experience for students in our school. Not only that, but I was technically still a school district employee. There is a lot at stake when you’re so entrenched.
These teacher-leaders offer unique insight on how district decisions play out in real time. They’re the ones who can tell you which curriculum generates the most interest, or how amendments to funding impact the individual student.
The fact is, there’s a lot wrong in the district, and teachers’ experiences might just be the best yardsticks by which to measure the success of our schools. On the other hand, there’s a host of amazing stuff going on too. What are your thoughts? Feel free to weigh in here or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am excited to get a peek inside the worlds of such amazing educators!