Blogger Kristina Rizga photographed at Mission High by Mark Murrmann, Mother Jones.
The California Educator published a post from education blogger Kristina Rizga in the February 2011 magazine that made us feel as if we were in the classroom at Mission High in San Francisco. Rizga is in her third month of a yearlong assignment where she’ll report from this urban school. We asked her about first impressions and plans for her continuing coverage.
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California Educator: What got you interested in education?
Kristina Rizga: I ran a youth-oriented, online magazine called Wiretap for five years, and through my reporting saw how much impact a school can make in transforming a young person’s life trajectory. I’m also an immigrant from Latvia, who got great, affordable, public education in the United States when I was already older: first at a community college, and then at UC Berkeley. These institutions opened up more doors for me than anything else I’ve done in my life since then. So, in my work and in my own life, I’ve seen the huge impact of education.
What’s been the biggest surprise about reporting at Mission High?
I didn’t realize how many different variables go into building a great school. It is in part why I think it is so difficult for “holistic” reform approaches to penetrate public consciousness, and why “silver bullets” probably dominate the public debate. That is exactly why we chose to do our reporting through a hyper-local lens and over a long period of time, instead of visiting different schools only when something changes there.
What have you learned about teachers that you didn’t know as a student?
I had no idea how much craft goes into teaching. I used to think that all you need to know is the subject, but teaching is a complex craft that to me looks like part science and part art. And getting the science part down requires so much hard work, resilience, open-mindedness, and passion.
I also didn’t realize how little time teachers have for collective meetings, because they spend so much time teaching or preparing for classes, of course. I’ve now observed a few what they call “common planning time” meetings at Mission High School between teachers and am beginning to see just how helpful and important they are in building quality schools.
What stories are you planning on covering throughout the year? Is there anything that’s in your reporter’s notebook that you can share?
In addition to following several students and teachers over the next year, I also plan to look into what teachers, students, parents and district leaders want to change about the No Child Left Behind to make it more meaningful and effective. I’ll also look into which teacher evaluation and support models work best, as well as the impact of the charter school movement and parent trigger laws, among others.