A few weeks ago at the SOS March in DC, I met Luciano D'Orazio. We talked about our experience in public education and how it changed our views. I wrote a little about it here. We thought it might be interesting to try and compile a series of stories about teachers like us who've had our views on public education changed drastically by our experience in it. Because I'm sitting in an airport and a little strapped for time, I'm going to simply copy and paste an appeal Luciano posted on his blog about a week ago rather than write my own.
But the basic message is this:
You should contact us if you've had something of a conversion experience with public education. We want to talk with you.
From Luciano's post:
Like St. Paul on the way to Damascus, many of us undergo a “conversion” experience.
We enter the world full of lofty goals, high-minded principles and
some complex vocabulary. Sometimes, we even attempt to make those goals
real, entering the “real world” to “inspire young minds” and “do some
good in the world.”
Yet when the cold backhand of reality comes crashing across our
faces, the sting often exposes a greater truth—a truth often masked
behind the rhetoric.
I am not immune to this. When I began as a teacher, visions of
gleaming charter schools and smiling faces with vouchers to private
academies danced in my head. I couldn’t sing the praises of
privatization and Teach for America loud enough—as well as shout my disdain for veteran teachers “not doing their job.”
It didn’t take long into my first year for reality to sink in. The magic bullets, the fab theories and the rhetoric of the NCLB crowd were smoke-and-mirrors in the everyday grind of an inner city classroom. The handbooks—TFA, NYC Teaching Fellows,
or otherwise—had no answer for the problems I faced each day in that
place. The best help I got was from (Surprise, surprise!) veteran
teachers who long ago discarded the guidebooks to best educate their students.
My mind changed when I encountered the realities of public education. And I am sure I’m not alone.
At the recent Save Our Schools Conference, I had spoken with fellow blogger James Boutin
about our experiences, and we got to thinking about people like
us—people who “crossed the floor” as it were on public education. One
workshop we attended involved two Teach for America alums. They quit the
organization over their tactics and approach in regards to teacher
Surely, we thought, there are many others like them—and us—who also
had an epiphany about education and the real problems in our public
There’s a very public example of this “epiphany” in Diane Ravitch, the former assistant Secretary of Education and co-author of No Child Left Behind who saw the dangers of the monster she helped bring to life.
However, what could be even more powerful are the stories of everyday
teachers—be it from TFA, Teaching Fellows, or anywhere else—who had
once bought into the rhetoric of education “reform” and have been
transformed by their experiences in today’s classrooms.
James and I are collecting stories of similar individuals, those with
similar transformative experiences as us. If you have a story to share,
please contact James or myself. Include your contact info, as we’re not sure how to best use your information, and we want to keep in touch with you.
Finally, please send this to anyone whose life was changed by
teaching in a public school classroom. Your stories are important and
incredibly valuable. We look forward to hearing from you.