It doesn’t matter that I’ve worked professionally as a journalist for 30 years, have degrees in journalism and communication management as well as a masters in teaching. Or that I’ve been in the teaching ‘game’ for seven years with career breaks, which is why I’ve been able to stretch out my provisional period.
“How can you write about education? You need to be an expert to do so,” they challenge me.
I wouldn’t even consider myself an expert journalist as I continue to learn and refine that craft.
I’m someone who straddles two professions – writing and teaching – and plans to continue that for the medium-term.
Over the years, I’ve specialised as a writer about business, finance, residential property, construction, engineering, dig-tech start-ups, transport-tech, higher education, over-50s’ lifestyle, travel, disability services, local government and more.
No interviewee in any of those sectors or professions asked me if I had expertise in those areas. Ever.
They saw me as a journalist and that was my speciality. It involves sniffing out a story idea, ‘pre-interviewing’ possible interviewees, pitching the idea to a publication, taking on board the editor’s refined story brief if that happens, then going to work on it.
That’s when I chase my interviewees to commit to talking to me well before the deadline. I research not just on Google, but chat to my own contacts, see what’s trending in BuzzSumo, and dip into the peer-reviewed journals (access I’ve gained thanks to having three university degrees). I do phone interviews, recording the calls as well as typing a near-verbatim manuscript with my 100wpm typing skills.
As I quiz, I reflect with my interviewees about what I think are strong quotes or a great hook for the story or where I need more detail.
Finally, I get down to writing the story and submitting it. It’s the same process whether I’m working for a generalist publication or a specialist publication.
Wouldn’t you prefer someone who writes about education and teaching to also be actually in the classroom? But, do they need to be an expert in teaching practice whether they’re writing opinion pieces, news or feature stories?
Don’t think you’re expert enough? According to the book How People Learn: Brain, Mind Experience, and School published by the (US) National Research Council, experts have “acquired extensive knowledge that affects what they notice and how they organize, represent, and interpret information in their environment. This, in turn, affects their abilities to remember, reason, and solve problems”.
The National Research Council lists six principles of expertise. They include finding meaningful patterns, having strong content knowledge, as well as flexibly applying it to conditions or circumstances and approaching new situations.
Importantly, don’t assume experts can teach others. That’s a whole other ‘expertise’, so to speak.
I write and teach in an era when expertise across all sectors is constantly being questioned yet made more accessible. You can read ‘how to’ books about becoming a Key Person of Influence (the act of writing that book made the author an expert) or moving From Unknown to Expert.
This centres on building your own following – a community, an audience – or leveraging off a readership, for example, to morph into an expert.
I’m but one voice amongst chalkies who write. Have we heard yours lately? When an issue fires you up or when something’s working well in your teaching practice, writing about it is a way to share it with your peers.
EducationHQ allows you to contribute stories anonymously if you need to. Writing about your practice is part of the reflection we need to do to hone our craft.