Our School and How I Just Want To Hear What Happened

Jose Vilson Jose

This is a quick blog recommending that you read Our School by Sam Chaltain. I’m in the throes of reading three edu-books in a row while promoting mine. What Chaltain provides in buckets is a first-hand account of what’s happening in two different, but clearly interesting schools in Washington, DC.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a book review.

For most of my educational career, I’ve mostly read books that already come with a slant, some more bent than others. There’s a sense that it doesn’t matter what actually happened and, instead, that the author’s point of view already overlays any partially telling of the events. That’s well and good because … this is what we do now. But, for a while, I’ve often wanted to know what things were happening in other schools besides what the numbers and figures tell us. I wanted to get a feel for how two different schools are handling the changing landscape of one of education reform’s playgrounds.

This book has elements for that. It took a while to pick up the action, but after reading it, I felt empathy towards many of the situations in the book, and I’d recommend folks read for those moments. I read so many opinions on education that, at times, it’s just nice getting a few pages of what’s actually happening in these schools.

This book takes us through the struggles of a public school with a passionate leader trying to grapple with the mandates of DCPS leadership and a school staff that seems at once passionate yet inflexible. The second school is a brand new bilingual charter school (Mundo Verde) that wants to democratize all their decisions with staff and as much promise as any expeditionary school can muster, but soon ran into a need for organization, space, and strength. We get some in-depth conversations with teachers and parents as well, another interesting aspect that had me setting aside my own beliefs just to give a listen for other folks’ reasons for doing what they do.

Sam, thanks for just talking things out here, and leaving your own opinions on how schools should run until the very end.