Does journalism's decline help education?
At the evening ceremony at the Washington Post last week for winners of the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Awards, I was introduced to a short, lively woman whose name, Colette Fraley, seemed familiar. The Arlington County school system had picked her as its recipient of the Post-sponsored trophy and $3,000 check, but that was not the first money she had ever earned at my newspaper.
This social studies teacher, declared to be a "superwoman" by the Wakefield High School principal, was one of the night copy editors who used to save me from countless errors when I was the Post's west coast reporter in the 1980s.
Post Co. chairman Donald E. Graham said Fraley was the first former Post employee ever to win an Agnes Meyer award, named after his grandmother. When Fraley switched to teaching, people asked her if she were crazy. She replied she saw several similarities between the two occupations, but teaching was better "because you have a chance to kindle a flame for learning--and an opportunity to shape the future."
Amen. I am not happy about the loss of good people at the Post and other journalistic enterprises in the massive reorganization of the news business, but if schools are getting some talented wordsmiths that way, it may be a net plus.
My wife, who used to be a senior producer at ABC News, sent me a news item announcing that one of her former colleagues, network vice president Mimi Gurbst, had enrolled at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education to learn how to turn her organizational and career-counseling skills into a new career as a high school guidance counselor.
I run frequently into former journalists making this change. Norman Atkins, founder of the Uncommon Schools charter network, said journalism gave him a box seat in the stadium of culture, politics and business, but "I wanted to get onto the field myself and make a difference in the lives of children and families in need." The Post's former Virginia education editor, Paul Bernstein, guided me through my first years of midlife return to the Metro staff, and now is taking his superb literary and analytical skills into high school teaching.
We could use more good journalists, but good teachers are more important to the country's future. I would have difficulty mastering the classroom skills that engage students, but my former editor Fraley has triumphed in making that transition. "Her AP U.S. History course has gone from one classroomful to three, and pass rates have increased dramatically," Graham said in presenting the award.
Change is coming fast to our society and our work places. Often we see that as bad. But funnelling into the classroom more people with both professional expertise and a knack for dealing with kids may turn out to be a very good thing.
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
| May 18, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: Colette Fraley, Journalists become teachers, Mimi Gurbst, Norman Adkins, Paul Bernstein, adding wordsmiths to the classroom
Save & Share: Previous: Does denying dreams help kids learn?
Next: When looking at colleges, study their extra-curriculars
Posted by: peterrossy | May 18, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jay Mathews | May 18, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | May 18, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Care1 | May 18, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: celestun100 | May 18, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: CrimsonWife | May 19, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dkonlinecommerce | May 22, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.