First Person Guidelines
Chalkbeat publishes personal essays in a series we call First Person. Our goal is to elevate the voices of educators, students, parents, advocates, and others on the front lines of trying to improve public education.
We’re not looking for traditional opinion pieces, like those you might find on newspaper editorial pages. We’re seeking essays centered around your personal experience or observation. Our pieces are usually around 800 words.
Strong First Person pieces have a conversational tone, presenting specific examples from the author’s own experience and connecting those examples to larger issues.
We’re always looking for pieces that...
Are vulnerable in acknowledging uncomfortable emotions and experiences, such as fear or mistakes, and the lessons that emerged as a result.
- I cried in front of my teenage students — with my camera on. What happened next moved me through my tears.
- I dropped out of school in ninth grade. Years later, I returned, graduated, and thrived.
- Growing up, I was ‘that kid.’ I became a teacher to help others like me.
Take on conventional wisdom about education, or about being an educator, a student, or a parent of a student.
- I asked my daughter if she’d read Dickens. She asked me if I had read Trevor Noah’s memoir.
- Stop calling this generation ‘lost.’ It’s hurtful — and it’s wrong.
- I got rid of my writing class. My students are better writers for it.
Discuss complex educational choices students and families face.
- I live in the neighborhood where Adam Toledo was killed. Here’s what it’s like to raise a child there. (Leer en español)
- I almost didn’t apply to college. My school counselor changed my mind.
- My son has intellectual disabilities. He deserves a rich and challenging curriculum.
Speak to the lived experience of educators.
- I’m a long-term substitute. The pandemic revealed just how vulnerable teachers like me are.
- This lockdown wasn’t a drill. Here’s what the next four hours looked like in my classroom.
- I’m a school psychologist trained for tense situations. Too often, schools call the police instead of letting me do my job.
Consider a news event’s real-life impact on schools, educators, and students.
- When students ask why they haven’t seen cicadas, we need to talk about environmental racism
- My students are traumatized by George Floyd’s death. It’s my job to help them see a way forward.
- After a fellow Black girl was detained for not doing her schoolwork, I fought for her freedom
Provide a unique personal perspective about an issue people are talking about.
- I live in one of NYC’s most diverse neighborhoods. Here’s why it’s so hard to desegregate our local schools.
- I voted for masks in school. I worried for my safety after.
- I am a veteran history teacher. Let me teach history.
Recount formative classroom experiences, why they were significant, and what changed as a result.
- I was a Stuyvesant high school senior on 9/11. It changed me forever.
- I graduated from high school with an associate degree. Here’s how I did it.
- I’m a first-year teacher during the pandemic. Here’s what helped me find my footing.
Take a look in our archive for even more examples.
Please note that First Person does not publish:
- Traditional op-eds that approach an issue solely from a pro/con approach.
- Academic submissions that don’t speak to a personal experience.
- Pieces that focus on promoting a specific organization, tool, or program.
Interested in writing a piece? Send your questions, pitches, or drafts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not sure if your idea will work? Nervous about writing? Please reach out — we will work with you.