About This Blog

This blog, Gatsby In L.A., is my record of my sabbatical from teaching during the 2013-14 school year, during which I visited high school English classrooms across the socioeconomic spectrum in order to answer two questions:

  1. What’s a great teacher?

2. What do we mean when we say “a good education?”

Before writing this blog, I taught English and electives at a charter high school in South Los Angeles.  I embarked on this journey at my own personal expense.  Along the way, I talked to dozens of teachers, administrators and parents, sat in many, many classrooms, and connected with readers in Los Angeles and beyond.  Several of my posts went viral, picked up by other, larger blogs and shared by teachers on social media.  My most popular post, “Why Do Teachers Obsess that They’re Not Good Enough?” was viewed millions of times.

Even now, two years after I stopped posting, teachers continue to seek out this site, sometimes very late in the night. I don’t have easy answers to anything, but I hope that these posts, and my search here, can provide comfort.

If you are one of those teachers, this blog is dedicated to you, out of respect for your choice to give so much every day when our educational system does not honor, respect or prepare you for the essential work that you do.  Though your work is hard and sometimes isolating, you are not alone.  I hope that this blog can introduce you to other teachers who have also given everything they have to the dream that every child has an equal right to an education, and every teacher deserves to work in professional conditions that honor the young lives in the room.

Thank you for all that you do every day for the next generation.


6 thoughts on “About This Blog”

  1. Any info on your sample size, to give an idea of the scale of these observations?

    And I like your iPad question; how useful in English class is an expensive device with no physical keyboard?

    1. Great question! So far I’ve observed at 18 schools and sat in with 1-2 teachers at each (except for one school where I sat in on 3 classrooms). I’ve talked to students in groups and individually–I’d estimate I’ve talked to about 30 kids. Not a huge sample, but I do think these numbers might be representative of general trends. Please do let me know if you are getting a different sense of the lay of the land–I want to represent this correctly.
      Thanks for responding!

  2. The last one particularly discourages me. Amidst systematic and assessment bombardment, it’s tough to find the time to just chat and connect with a student…even though that is what’s most crucial.

  3. Interesting that 95% of students felt a personal relationship with their teacher was the most important aspect of their learning. I teach elementary and truly believe that I can be successful when I can create a relationship with a student and extend myself to them. . That’s why a teacher is much more important than anything else. Why not spend more money on smaller class sizes and no money on i pads? As for teachers at charter school being under 30, that makes sense since the job openings in non-charter schools is pretty tight. Charter schools benefit from having fresh young faces and energetic teachers.

    1. I agree, though as a midlife career changer who has been working in charters, I believe that wisdom and life experience also have their place in any classroom! Thanks for responding.

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