First Person Guidelines
Chalkbeat publishes personal essays in a series we call First Person. Our goal is to elevate the voices of students, educators, parents, advocates, and others on the front lines of trying to improve public education.
We’re not looking for traditional opinion pieces. We’re seeking essays centered around the writer’s personal experience or observation. Our pieces are usually around 800 words.
Strong First Person essays have a conversational tone, presenting specific examples from the author’s life and connecting those examples to larger issues.
We’re always looking for pieces that...
Consider a news event’s real-life impact on students, educators, and schools.
- I’m a college access counselor. Here’s how the affirmative action decision could upend the application process.
- After Uvalde, I dread going to school. When will our leaders act?
- When students ask why they haven’t seen cicadas, we need to talk about environmental racism
Provide a unique personal perspective about an issue people are talking about.
- As we embrace the ‘science of reading,’ we can’t leave out older students
- I was hired to write a Black history curriculum. Then I was asked to walk back key concepts.
- I voted for masks in school. I worried for my safety after.
Are vulnerable in acknowledging uncomfortable emotions and experiences, and the lessons that emerged as a result.
- I never thought my child would need a school social worker, but I’m so glad she’s in our lives
- Losing my Spanish feels like losing part of myself (Leer en español)
- I cried in front of my teenage students — with my camera on. What happened next moved me through my tears.
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.
- My high school is exempt from Regents exams. Other schools should be, too.
- Calculus is seen as a proxy for high-achieving students. That’s a problem.
Discuss the 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)
- Preschool suspensions are harmful — and surprisingly common. Curbing them is personal.
- Here’s what it was like for me to transition from ESL to mainstream classes
Speak to the lived experience of educators.
- Without paid parental leave, I went back to teaching three weeks after giving birth
- I’m a school psychologist trained for tense situations. Too often, schools call the police instead of letting me do my job.
- I’m a long-term substitute. The pandemic revealed just how vulnerable teachers like me are.
Shed light on an untraditional educational experience.
- When my daughter was being treated for cancer, her teacher worked from the hospital
- I helped my fellow inmates earn their GED. It was more rewarding than I could have imagined.
- At 17, I was homeless and alone. Here’s how my school helped me back on my feet.
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 used to see college as just a prerequisite for med school. A philosophy course changed my mind.
- I’m a first-year teacher during the pandemic. Here’s what helped me find my footing.
- Traditional op-eds that approach an issue solely from a pro/con perspective.
- Academic submissions that don’t speak to a personal experience.
- Pieces that focus on promoting a specific organization, tool, or program.