Sunday, February 12, 2006

The MSM Meets The Education Wonks

Reporter Jessica Berthold of Pennsylvania's Allentown Morning Call interviewed me a few days ago. The piece ran in last Friday's edition of the paper:
Many education blogs are either policy rants by eggheads who haven't set foot in a classroom for years, or personal accounts by teachers looking to blow off some steam. Each has its place, and The Education Wonks ( combines the best of both.

Though it mainly focuses on current events and policy, the site is run by a middle-school teacher, so the issues resonate with those on the front lines of learning. The blog is highly interactive and collaborative, with a weekly round-up of writer-submitted entries called ''The Carnival of Education.'' And Ed Wonk frequently points up entertaining entries on other teachers' blogs, to keep things light.

Still, should all the policy talk ever make your eyes grow heavy, you can take refuge in the Wonks' comprehensive blogroll, which will direct you to anything from updates on the homeschool crowd to surly diatribes by New York City teachers about their students.


A seventh-grade history teacher in Imperial Valley, Calif., ''Ed Wonk'' says he tries to be candid on his blog, yet still protect himself from a vindictive administrator by staying anonymous. His spouse ''Wife Wonk'' and daughter ''Teen Wonk'' occasionally contribute to the site. Ed's been a teacher for 14 years.

Q: If your blog were a composition, what would its thesis statement be?

A: Ed Wonk is about the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Q: Why'd you start the blog? A: Teachers work in isolation and they rarely get the chance to have candid or frank discussions about matters of interest in education. The blog lets me discuss education and politics with a much larger, greater circle of aquaintances than I could get here in the deserts of California.

Q: Who is the sometime contributor called ''Teach Wonk''?

A: It's someone I teach with who will write maybe once a month, when something happens at school that irritates him or her.

Q: How many people at your workplace know about the blog?

A: Just the Teach Wonk. I did hear one person mention it in passing in the teacher's lounge once, but I let it go without comment.

Q: Why do you, and most teachers who blog, stay anonymous?

A: Because they fear repercussions from publicly expressing ideas that may not be acceptable with the powers-that-be in their districts. Here, for example, we have a supervisor who has earned notoriety for giving forced transfers, extra evaluations and unpleasant duties to those who cross him or her.

Q: Is blogging good for teachers?

A: Yes. It's a great way to share teaching methods and ideas for instructing, as well as letting off steam and making them feel interconnected.

Q: Any Pennsylvania or New York blogs you can recommend?

A: Ms. Frizzle, a science teacher, has a blog that's very illustrative of what can be the best in a classroom teaching blog ( Tim Frederick's ELA Teaching Blog ( is very reflective and almost exclusively focused on effective delivery of instruction.

Q: Is your blog bipartisan?

A: It is issue-driven. On one issue it might be left wing, on another it could be right wing.

Q: And that reflects where you stand on things?

A: Yes. I'm pro-death penalty but also pro-choice. That's usually enough to throw people off balance.

Q: What are a couple of the most important education issues today?

A: Adding adequate education funding and getting well-qualified, highly trained teachers in the classroom and retaining them.

Q: What's most important to teachers?

A: Working conditions and compensation. Most teachers' pay is not keeping up with inflation. Also, every 2-3 years there are new policies and it creates a lack of stability. Public education is subject to fads.

Q: What's your biggest pet peeve about teaching?

A: The lack of meritocracy when it comes to selecting educational leaders.

Q: Who do you admire in the field of education?

A: Maria Montessori, because she conceptualized the idea of teaching to children's learning styles.
The interview was great fun, but as this was "live" without pre-submitted questions, you can bet that I had plenty of butterflies dancing the two-step in the 'ole tummy during the entire time.
See this week's Carnival Of Education right here and our latest education-related posts over there.