He was a journalist covering education. What he saw made him switch professions
After covering education as an outsider, one journalist has been inspired to make a difference from the inside.
Who is he? Cameron Fields was a Cleveland-based reporter, originally focused on writing about sports before transitioning into community journalism. That eventually led him to work on a project called Cleveland's Promise.
- The project focused on telling the stories of young students, including their struggles, triumphs, and everything in between.
- Fields was stationed at Almira Elementary School on the west side of Cleveland, alongside reporting partner Hannah Drown. It was there among the students and community that he realized education was the next step he wanted to take in his career.
- "That was when I started to think about it, just because I loved coming to school every day, and helping the students with their work, helping them with any problems that they had, with any things that they had on their mind. And that just felt like it was really fulfilling and rewarding work to me," Fields told NPR.
What's the big deal? Aside from those students gaining a dedicated and qualified new teacher?
- America is facing a teacher crunch. The national teacher shortage has been well documented, with low pay, pandemic burnout, and culture wars failing to attract new educators.
- In October of last year, 45% of public schools in the country had at least one teacher vacancy, according to limited federal data.
- NPR correspondent Cory Turner reports that for nearly a decade, fewer people have been going to school to become teachers and pay remains low in many places.
- Black male teachers make up fewer than 2% of teachers in this country, according to National Teacher and Principal Survey data.
- "That's something I'm looking forward to being: A Black male teacher and being a positive role model for my students.
Want more journalism on education? Listen to the Consider This episode on how the class of 2023 survived high school in a pandemic.
What is he saying? Fields spoke with NPR's Juana Summers about making the switch.
On the ethos behind Cleveland's Promise:
The goal was to show the different challenges [within] the Metropolitan School District, [focusing on] a Cleveland school, and the teachers and staff and students experiences, because Cleveland is one of the poorest big cities in the nation.
There's a lot of different challenges that people in Cleveland, and the city of Cleveland experience with regards to financial [difficulties], with regards to social challenges as well, and different emotional challenges.
And what I think I was able to help out with, was show the commitment to social emotional learning, within Cleveland schools. And I think that that was one of the main tenets that Cleveland's Promise showed was that teachers and staff were trying their best to help students, not just academically, but also develop socially and emotionally as well.
On making the switch:
It was definitely kind of hard. I had been thinking about it. And I was like, journalism is kind of the only thing that I know, and it's what my degree is in.
Writing has been challenging for me, and reporting, it has been challenging mentally. So I was ready for something different, I was ready for a change, and I wanted to go into something where I felt like I could really just continue to do great work.
On working with the kids:
So they were just awesome to be around, awesome to work with, and really, really resilient children.
A lot of the students there may not have the highest self image, or self esteem. And that's why I want to be in education and be in this work, because students need someone who is going to believe in them, students need someone who's going to help them and nurture them.
So, what now?
- Fields has joined Teach for America, and will be training with them this summer to build his teaching skills.
- Some lucky students will get to call Fields their teacher very soon.