TBT: How Being A Journalist Resembles Being An Educator

On the occasion of Throwback Thursday, let’s take a look at former education reporter David M. Herszenhorn’s July 2007 piece about covering the beat.

Titled How Hard Can It Be to Teach?, the article looks back at one of Herszenhorn’s favorite moments covering the NYC school system, an awkward moment during which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg confused a group of students by issuing a series of requests with an unclear sequence of operation:

Working with children looks easy. It is not. In four and a half years on the city schools beat, I have often repeated this anecdote to principals. And typically they chuckle, grateful for the recognition that many people, including the mayor, may underestimate how difficult it is to work in schools on a daily basis, and not just because of the intellectual challenges of teaching.

The daily work in schools is so hard that most educators in the system do not distinguish between the chancellor’s office and the mayor, the labor unions and state government, the teachers’ contract and the federal No Child Left Behind law when they complain, frequently, that the “system” is against them. Forces above and beyond school level often make the work in classrooms more difficult. And the work in classrooms is difficult enough.

Herszenhorn ends with a comparison between being a journalist and being an educator:

My colleagues on tough foreign assignments often complain that 10 percent of the work is journalism and 90 percent, logistics — just getting to and from a given place in one piece. Education is a lot like this. Many of the obstacles are logistical, involving the physical and mental health of students and teachers.

Herszenhorn covering NYC schools for four and a half years. He’s currently covering Russia, based in Moscow.

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Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.