community editor

What we're doing to listen more closely and feature new voices

ESR new headshotLast month we began previewing the changes underway as we transition to Chalkbeat New York. Here’s the latest: more chances for you to shape the conversation about New York City schools.

We’ve always invited readers to comment on our stories, contribute to our community section, and attend our events. But we think it takes more than that for our coverage to reach new readers and reflect diverse experiences with the school system.

My job as community editor, a new position we designed with these goals in mind, is to create more opportunities for you to interact with reporters, share your experiences, and deepen our coverage of public schools. Here are four ways to get involved:

Talk to us

Chalkbeat Conversations are open-ended conversations between Chalkbeat reporters and community members, hosted by organizations in neighborhoods throughout the city. Instead of setting the agenda by interviewing participants about stories we already plan to write, we ask, “What most excites and frustrates you about the schools in your neighborhood?”

We held four conversations with parents this fall in collaboration with community organizations such as the New Settlement Parent Action Committee in the Bronx and La Union in Brooklyn. I attended each meeting, along with at least one other editor or reporter. If you’re interested in hosting or participating in a conversation with parents or teachers, email me at [email protected]

A Chalkbeat Conversation hosted by the New Settlement Parent Action Committee in the Bronx.
Parents discuss the challenges facing local schools at a Chalkbeat Conversation in the Bronx.

Hold us accountable

For three years, our team has been meeting with a reader advisory board made up of teachers and other education professionals who help guide our direction, give us feedback, and keep us responsive to what readers actually care about. I keep in touch with our advisory board members and plan and facilitate meetings every other month. Steve Lazar, Sanda Balaban, Andy Snyder, and Chad Gleason are the founding members, and I’ll introduce each of them in more depth next month.

Write about your experience

When we launch our new website, this section will be renamed “First Person” to highlight what Philissa Cramer originally designed the section to provide: informed perspectives based on first-hand experience with the school system. There are limits to what we as journalists can know and understand. The First Person section is a place readers can hear directly from teachers, administrators, students, policymakers, and soon, we hope, from parents as well.

At a Chalkbeat Conversation in Brooklyn, reporter Patrick Wall hears about participants' varied experiences as parents of English Language Learners.
PHOTO: U.S. Department of Education
At a Chalkbeat Conversation in Brooklyn, reporter Patrick Wall hears about participants’ varied experiences as parents of English Language Learners.

Email me if you’re interested in writing a First Person post, or if there’s a perspective missing from the section you’d like to see. As the editor of this section, my job is to build a diverse and dynamic network of contributors and edit the submissions we select for publication.

Bring students into the conversation

For the first time this fall, we teamed up with three teachers who wanted to expose their students to education reporting and encourage them to write about their own experiences in school.

One teacher built a unit on education journalism into her English class, another is teaching a journalism elective, and a third is helping students in the newspaper club she advises think about how to connect their articles to broader conversations about education.

As part of this project, I run workshops for the participating teachers’ students, who then write and submit their own pieces to First Person. We’ve received submissions from other schools as well, and I’m currently working with several students to edit their work for publication. Keep an eye out for their posts in the next few weeks, and for updates on all of these projects in the new year.

A student journalism workshop at DeWitt Clinton High School.
DeWitt Clinton High School seniors brainstorm article ideas at a GothamSchools student journalism workshop.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.