The lines snacked past the rows of rainbow Post-it notes, boxes of mechanical pencils, and 3-ring binders. Staples, the office supply store, is a traffic jam of red carts and slowly expanding backpacks. This summer Staples ran a crowd-sourced commercial of people showing off their excitement for back-to-school sales by busting out shopping cart moves (a gimmicky 1980’s dance move).
For the first time in five years, I’m joining the crowds, piling my own shopping cart high with binders, notebooks, pencils, pens, and reams of lined paper. Two days ago I entered my new classroom, backpack filled, papers pristine and took a seat facing the blackboard. I’ve swapped curriculum development and activity plans for problem sets analyzing standardized testing and books on leadership styles.
As a master's student at Harvard’s School of Education I’m staying up late – no longer grading stacks of essays, but poring over readings on the economic trade-offs of countries seeking to provide greater access and greater quality education. Over lunch I fall into conversations about the possibilities of creating mobile teacher corps in Tanzania and drawing out production possibility frontier charts on the tops of takeout boxes.
I must say it is rather fun to be a student again.
My classmates come from teaching in larger inner-city public schools and from small charter schools. They come from large consulting firms, law offices, college admissions, think-tanks, research centers, Pre-K classrooms, middle school classrooms, high school classrooms. And they come from as far away as South Korea and Tanzania. Having talked to just a handful of my 650+ new classmates I have learned that our ambitions are equally diverse, but that we share a common passion for improving what is happening in schools around the world.
As the autumn air begins to turn crisp, I hope you will join me on this new adventure – sharing in the conversations, experiments, and ideas that will be filling my weeks. And while I might not be getting on a plane to a destination thousands of miles away, I am confident that come May I will have covered a great distance.