HotSeat Interview: NYC Educator Describes Book Experience
Alexander Russo with an insightful interview of Jessica Reid, who's a major character in Class Warfare:
Did you have any idea that you and your career decisions were going to be such a hotly-debated part of debate surrounding the brill book this summer?
JR: I had no idea. In fact, I didn't really realize that I was going to actually be in Brill's book. He would mention my "narrative" in his story when he was shadowing me, but I just laughed it off. I figured my name may be mentioned in regards to Harlem Success, but I never considered myself to be that extraordinary.
…What's it felt like to read about yourself as the poster girl for charter school burnout?
JR: I am a very open and honest person, so I don't mind sharing my story, especially if my story is part of a greater story that will hopefully play an important part in the struggle to fix education. That being said, leaving Harlem Success Academy was one of the hardest choices I've ever had to make because I cared so much about my teachers and my students. I hold myself to a very high standard and dropping out of the race made me feel, on a personal level, like a failure.
How common is it from your experience for folks to step back from their breakneck speed after a few years?
JR: Very common. I will say, though, that everyone I know who has left education (be it a public or a charter school) has somehow stayed connected to education and is working to make it better.
…What did you make of the book's glorification of reformers and its final conclusion that nonunion charter schools aren't a sustainable / scalable solution?
JR: I don't have an opinion about "the book's glorification of reformers" except to say that I am glad that they are fighting for children and that they are trying to make the system better. When it comes to the book's conclusion, I think that I'm somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, I understand why Brill makes the argument that nonunion charter schools aren't sustainable/scalable. What I think is important to understand, though, is that charters like Harlem Success aren't THE model. They are A model. And, more importantly, they are a model that is proving that children can learn and achieve at phenomenally high levels even if they are from under-resourced neighborhoods. We need these models to prove that these kids CAN achieve. The hard work now is figuring out how to create schools that accomplish this and retain talented teachers. This is what I wish more people were talking about.