The Curious Case of the Alt-Cert Custodian
0r – What I learned from Carnegie/EWA in NYC
NOTICE TO THE READER: This article will not be reprinted in Education Week. Education Next will not invite me to write for them. No one from The Hechinger Report will even read this piece.
Others have eloquently stated the meat and bones of what was discussed at last weeks Carnegie Corp./EWA conference between Educators and Education Journalists in New York City. Due to my night before the conference being filled with Nyquil, insomnia, throat spray, and oranges from the corner deli, the enduring grogginess took me out of gregarious, affable, conversation hog, and put me into silent, uncomfortable, people watcher mode.
Here’s what I heard and noticed:
1. The Teacher wears Prada.
I’ll start by paraphrasing one journalist from the Harvard Education Letter – “I am sick and tired of hearing teachers complain about their pay. They should try to live on a journalist’s salary. Actually, teachers have it pretty good!” On the outside, I was like, “Humm?” On the inside, I was like, “Whoa!”
Surprisingly, it seems that it is more lucrative to attend Harvard and invent THE social network than it is to work for Harvard and write letters about education. Who knew? The journalists were clapping and Amen-ing so vigorously, I thought they were going to hoist this guy up on their shoulders.
Actually, the guy was kinda right. I called one of my reporter friends up to compare our W-2 stats, and yep, he’s broke too.
2. Ed Journalists write for editors, Educators write for each other.
Compare two of Ed Week’s best blogs, Stephen Sawchuck’s Teacher Beat and David Ginsburg’s Coach G’s Teaching Tips. Both (authors, not blogs!) attended the meeting, Sawchuck even moderated one of the panels. Teacher Beat is primarily for the Educratic/Legislative crowd and also for other journalists to regurgitate in their own words for their local papers. Coach G’s Teaching Tips is for the practicing teacher. It is fully embraced by those educators who want to become better at the craft of teaching. When you read Sawchuck, you will find that he is quick witted, super smart, and knows Ed Policy like the back of his hand. Ginsburg, however, has a heightened level of interaction amongst his readers (judging by the comments in quantity and in substance) but would likely seem trite and almost boring to your everyday policy wonk.
They don’t share the same mission, or audience, but both are excellent in what they do and are invaluable to their distinctive readerships.
3. The Journalists were there for story ideas, the teachers were there to express their voice, and some… well, some were just there.
There were plenty of energetic journalists who quizzed the panelists on the “story angle” of the information that was presented. You could almost feel their Lou Grant-ish Editor breathing down their neck screaming “Bring me something good!” The teachers, however, when given the opportunity to question or comment, shared who they were, why they teach, how they became educators, and other enlightening tidbits that were intelligent yet emotional.
Then there was Alexander Russo.
Russo, author of the uber-popular blog sponsored by Scholastic, Inc., Alexander Russo’s This Week In Education, used the entire Friday conference as a scenic backdrop to what has to be an epic (not to mention impressive) display of blogistical output (blogistical – give me credit for this contribution to the vernacular). From 9:21 AM (the time stamp of his first post of that day) – to 3:19 PM (the time stamp of his last post of that day), this journalist, who was never sans MacBook Pro seemingly affixed to his mug via an imaginary leash, managed to post a whopping six (seven if you include the piece written by another author that I’m sure he had to read and approve) articles to his blog. Most of them were highly linked and well researched. Admittedly, one of the six was about the conference, but excluding the title of it and the insertion of a hootsuite box displaying the tweets with the #ewateacher hash tag, after spending the whole day constantly typing on his keyboard, this was his journalistic contribution:
“Here’s what journos, bloggers, and educators have to say in real time about the CCNY / EWA teacher training confab that’s taking place on this glorious mid-February Friday in NYC: Crossed fingers it’s a useful day and the Tweets are interesting: (insert hootsuite widget) We’re on the 26th floor of an office building near 30 Rock.”
4. Students? WTF?
When the meeting first started, I thought it would be cool to draw a chart and start a running tab on how many times the word “student” was mentioned, if mentioned at all. I was up to about seven hash marks before (blame it on the prior night’s Nyquil dosage) I lost the scrap of paper I was using. I can’t give you precise stats on the linear regression that my make-shift research yielded, but isn’t it interesting that in a room full of Education economists, Ed experts, Education journalists, and teachers, all attending an Education conference, teachers were the only ones who used the word “student” consistently in their remarks?
5. Andrew Carnegie would be proud.
The Carnegie Corp. staff was on point. They knew what they were talking about. I was thoroughly impressed with their energy and their views. In a world where the Major Education Players and the Major Education Journalists know each other on a first name basis, the Carnegie staff seemed enthusiastic to open this world up to the every day teacher/blogger/ed writer/non-major market journalist, and even small town, poor district, school counselor, like myself. Hey, they let me in the door, and without their generosity and willingness to fund this event, I never would have been able to take the A Train to Harlem and spend an afternoon in the mecca of Black culture in America.*
* OK, I didn’t exactly take the A train, I actually caught a cab from the hotel, but I have always wanted to say that – the whole A train to Up Town thing.
I could go on and on with my observations from the meeting, most of which would probably bore you entirely. I could share with you my observations of the elitist segregation that did (or did not) exist within and between both groups. I could explore how I held back, when every fiber within me wanted to beg Claudio Sanchez of NPR to pose with me for a picture so I could hang it in my office and forever tell the tale of how he and I traded education war stories that time we met in NYC. At the end of the day, however, it would sort of be like if my principal were to stand up in today’s pending faculty meeting and proclaim that she plans to hire an alternatively certified custodian, not one who had graduated from a prestigious C-School and had gone the usual route of student janitoring, but one who was a career changer…
who would give a damn!
If you give a damn, hit me up with your comment.