On Teaching is a journalism and oral history project produced by The Atlantic that will collect and synthesize insights from a diverse range of educators who spent a lifetime working in public schools. Combining rich, extended interviews with reporting and historical background, we’ll allow classroom teachers to describe what they do in their own words, share the lessons and challenges they encountered in their schools, and speak about the value of public education – as well as its shortcomings. The project will become an invaluable archive of the wisdom for current and future teachers, and for the public. The project’s core will comprise at least 50 interviews from a diverse range of veteran educators.
In the next five years, most of America’s most experienced teachers will retire. The Baby Boomers are leaving behind a nation of novice educators. In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. Less than three decades later, that number had fallen to just five years leading a classroom. From the suburbs of Alabama and Massachusetts, immigrant communities in California and Ohio, rural classrooms of Washington and Virginia, and historically black neighborhoods of Chicago and Hattiesburg, On Teaching will traverse the country to create the first kaleidoscopic portrait of American public education in teachers’ own voices. Through professionally curated interviews and interactive storytelling, we will unearth and preserve what’s often left out of the news, policy debates, and official histories at a pivotal moment for the future of public schools – and our democracy.