Fewer rants and more solutions.
Vibrant storytelling replacing edu-speak and jargon.
Looking forward with hope instead of backwards with bitterness.
Sounds like the kind of conversation reform we all need more of in the education reform space.
With that, I’d like to welcome Bright, launched this week on Medium and billing itself as a “pop-up publication about innovation in education.”
I’m a big fan of solutions-oriented journalism, because it’s the kind of journalism that I liked to do even before it had a fancy name. I’m not talking about the kind of fluffy, “happy-news” stories about teaching awards and elementary school read-a-thons and high school charity drives, which may make some principals and public information officers feel good but doesn’t do much to elevate journalism or improve schools.
No, I’m thinking of the same kind of nuanced storytelling that Bright is promising to deliver: about the potential and peril of technology in the classroom, or about what it actually looks like when an inspiring teacher named Marquita Prinzing chooses to believe in the promise of her classroom’s biggest troublemaker instead of succumbing to the stereotypes.
When I covered Chicago Public Schools, the worst part of my month was covering the monthly board meeting. It was four hours of futile adult theater—screaming accusations, mind-numbing powerpoints, self-congratulatory bureaucrats, depressingly predictable politics. I covered it because I had to, because I didn’t want to miss anything important.
The online debates are a lot like those board meetings, and that’s why I pay attention, as divisive and depressing as it seems sometimes. But I know the only truly important stuff happens in the classroom.
I never wanted to cover the political debates over class size. I wanted to spend the day with a kindergarten teacher who figured out how to cope—and take on the system—when her principal gave her 36 five-year-olds and no classroom aide.
I wanted to understand why a handful of city schools were such toxic workplaces that they became an epicenter of teacher absenteeism—or what would drive a teacher to say publicly, “I hate my school. I hate my students.”
It’s not happy news, but it helps us all to understand how schools work, what students really need, how teachers struggle, solve problems and even find joy in their work.
To that end, I welcome Bright to the better conversation we all want. You may catch a lot of grief about your funders (especially the Gates Foundation) and the word “innovation” may make some folks nervous (because they will say it sounds a lot like experimentation). But keep fighting the good fight, because our children need more solutions and less screaming.