Kevin comes up to the plate. On the chance that you haven’t seen the AJC op ed today. VERY pretty.


Opinion 8:05 p.m. Friday, May 4, 2012, print Sunday 5/6/12.

Education’s personal to me

By Kevin Riley, Editor, Atlanta Journal Constitution

As you read this, I’ll be at my daughter’s college graduation ceremony in Ohio.

As with any family, it will be a proud moment as the eldest of our three children receives her college degree. My mother will be there, too, to see the first of her 18 grandchildren graduate.

My daughter has been very much on my mind lately, not only because of graduation day, but also because she’ll be awarded a teaching degree.

You don’t have to be a very close reader of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to recognize how often we publish stories about education. Schools and teachers are in the news almost every day.

It would be hard to argue that any profession finds itself impacted more often by societal trends, politics, the economy and the media than teaching.

During a visit with some of our editors and reporters last week, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis noted that education is the only profession he’s aware of in which failures are blamed on the workers (teachers) and not leaders. And he knows a little about the difficulties today’s educators face.

Yet, Davis remains an optimist.

“It’s a noble profession,” he said. “It’s a noble calling.”

While we’ve published stories about challenges in local school systems, changes in educational philosophy, examinations of teacher quality and questions about the integrity of school test scores, I’ve always wondered privately how all of this would affect my daughter.

(I’ve already suggested that she might avoid highlighting what her father does for a living when she interviews for jobs.)

She’s never wanted to be anything but a teacher; there was no talking her out of it, even though I thought about it.

So, as she makes her first steps into the front lines of education — looking for a job and having her own classroom — I want to offer advice on navigating the difficult world a young educator will face.

It’s a world where almost everyone, from politicians to average citizens, has an opinion and a say in how things ought to be done.

With the demands placed on today’s teachers, it’s reasonable to wonder if they can be successful.

So, I can’t help but be concerned about her leaving the shelter of college and entering that environment.

I believe, however, that no matter the circumstances, she’ll always find her own, effective way to reach and help the children for whom and to whom she’ll be responsible.

My best advice to you, Anne, is this:

I’ve never met a successful person who doesn’t have a story about encountering a special teacher along the way. A teacher who set them on the right course. A teacher who saw something in them that no one else had seen. A teacher who got them to try something for the first time that became a lifelong passion.

I don’t think I ever told you, but when I was named editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the congratulatory note from my high school journalism teacher was among the ones that most touched me.

As you walk up that aisle today, think of that teacher you had along the way who inspired you to want to be like them.

Be that kind of teacher.

Economic and political winds inevitably will push you around, and, as a young teacher, you’ll have to find your way.

I hope you’ll find a good school with a great principal. I hope the parents care about their kids as much as we cared about you.

Every school district struggles with funding, how to measure its progress and how to reward its teachers.

But nothing can stop you from caring and helping a child.

The kids you’ll be in front of won’t know much about funding arguments or about the theories of how to teach math or reading. They won’t understand implications of class sizes or student-teacher ratios.

And they probably won’t understand that the standardized tests they take may have huge implications for your job security.

But they may have had a bad ride on the bus to school. They might be sad about something at home. They might be frustrated as they learn to read.

They might need a calm, safe classroom to come to each day. They’ll need someone to help them see the immense possibilities their life holds.

And they might need a hug from you at times.

Give them as needed.

Your mother and I are proud to have a daughter who’s a teacher.

Discuss this column and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage of other areas at editor Kevin Riley’s Facebook page. Visit