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 op-eds that you might find on a newspaper editorial page. We’re looking for essays centered around your personal experience or observation, usually between 600 and 1,200 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 …
- Take on conventional wisdom about education, or about being an educator, a student, or a parent of a student. One example: I taught at a nonselective New York City school. Your assumptions about low-scoring students are wrong.
- Are vulnerable in acknowledging uncomfortable emotions and experiences, such as fear or mistakes, and the lessons that emerged as a result. One example: I’m a fifth-year Chicago teacher, and the challenges aren’t letting up. Now what?
- Discuss complex educational choices parents make for their children. One example: We’re a middle-class black family. Here’s why we’ve skipped our local schools for now.
- Speak to the lived experience of educators. One example: My most radical teaching practice? Trusting kids to handle their bathroom business.
- Considers a news event’s real-life impact on schools, educators, and students. One example: I’m a Florida teacher in the era of school shootings. This is the terrifying reality of my classroom during a lockdown drill.
- Provide a unique personal perspective about an issue people are talking about. One example: My school policed our black male students’ hair. The viral forced-haircut video showed me how wrong we were.
- Recount formative classroom experiences, why they were significant, and what changed as a result. One example: I moved 18 times as a child. ‘Why did you move?’ is now a question I don’t ask my students.
- Explain how a school policy can affect students in a surprising way. One example: My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process
Take a look in our archive for even more examples.
Please note that First Person does not publish:
- Traditional op-eds that take on 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.