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Background on the New York Times article

6a00d8341c6a7953ef014e8a0ca5c8970d-120wifavicon A few folks are asking how my recent article in The New York Times came to be. They want to know: Um, Mark, exactly how is it possible that the NYT deemed you a “knowledgeable outside contributor” qualified “to discuss news events and other timely issues?”

Well, I was definitely very, very lucky. Here is how it happened.

1. New York Times reporter Motoko Rich wrote “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice,” in which she concluded that some charter networks are now comfortable hiring young teachers who plan to leave the profession for “bigger and better things” after just a few years in the classroom.

2. I was deeply disturbed by the article and wrote this post, “Are Charter Schools Youth Cults?” in Iserotope. It’s one thing to hire young teachers, work them senseless, churn them out, and know full well that they’ll leave quickly. It’s another thing — quite a pretentious, icky thing — to admit this publicly.

3. As I usually do, I shared my post on Twitter.

Up until now, everything was normal. After all, it’s not a strange thing for me to read something, have a reaction to it, and write about it (or put it up on Iserotope Extras). But then, a few hours later, things got interesting.

4. Ms. Rich tweeted me.

This might be silly to say, but that tweet made my day. A New York Times reporter thanked me for something I wrote and called my thoughts “nuanced?” Did that really happen? Yes, this was a Surreal Moment.

5. Loyal Iserotope readers offered excellent responses to the Iserotope post. Laura, Heidi, Angela, and Geoff pushed my thinking. In fact, some of their language appears in my article. (I am very grateful. They will receive royalties, for sure. 🙂 )

6. The New York Times’ Room for Debate editor Nick Fox emailed me, said he had read the post on Iserotope, and wondered if I would contribute a piece to an upcoming forum on whether teachers need experience to be effective. This was Surreal Moment No. 2.

I had to read the email three times to make sure I was understanding correctly. After I returned to my senses, I realized that this wasn’t just a general call for submissions. This was an editor asking me directly to write something for publication. It was to be 300-400 words, and it was due at 1 p.m. the next day.

7. I wrote a draft. As I wrote, there was joy, adrenaline, fear, and giddiness. The looming deadline got me a tad feverish. It reminded me of my time working on The Epitaph, my high school newspaper — an experience I’ll never forget. (Thanks, Nick!)

8. Not wanting to be fired by my new (and old — more about that in a later post) employer, I ran the article by the director of development to ensure I wasn’t saying anything inappropriate. Kate gave me the OK and even spent time tightening the piece, just minutes before deadline, via Google Docs.

9. I filed the article…and waited. And passed the time. And crossed my fingers. Until, that night, my article was published in Room for Debate. This was Surreal Moment No. 3. Jubilation ensued.

It’s a great feeling, to be sure, and it makes me want to write more — not just for my own personal goals, but also to make sure that teachers have a voice in this conversation. I might not be in the classroom anymore, but I hope that my perspective is one that respects and honors teachers and the work they do. It’s crucial that teachers get their words out there. I hope you enjoy the article! favicon


    • Mark Isero

      Thanks, Kevin! It’s definitely a great (and surreal) feeling. And it motivates me to write more — and to get better at it. Thank you for your support.

  1. Heidi

    I love 2 things about this. Your article is great AND google docs played a role in the outcome. Any thoughts on what you are going to write about next?

  2. Tony

    Mark, your voice genuinely “respects and honors teachers and the work they do”. And at the same time, I love that you also push teachers and expect much from them. Reviewing old Isertope posts makes this evident. (hey – it just occurred to me, is that a twist on isertone – our WS team name?)
    Proud of the piece. Proud you are my friend.

  3. Wil

    I don’t know why the experience is surreal to you. You are and always have been a “New York Times” class writer. I am quite sure that this is not the last time we will see your articles in the Times. Great article, tremendous representation for teachers everywhere.

Please share your brilliant insights!