Dandan ZouNewsday education firstname.lastname@example.org
On my first day in preschool, I ran away.
The classroom was simply too much pressure for an extremely shy girl who, even at home, hid behind her mother’s skirt when relatives visited. Despite my shyness, I was incredibly nosy. I would follow my mother from room to room, asking questions, until one day she handed me a book titled “One Hundred Thousand Whys.”
I fell in love with journalism when I learned that a reporter can play the role of a fly on the wall. In this profession, I get to watch events unfold, ask questions and tell stories. I find it exhilarating to be in the room – sometimes invited and other times not – where things happen.
That “room” does not have to be in a building, but it could be a boat on the Chesapeake Bay, where I photographed watermen working before sunrise. Or the suburban streets of Long Island, where protesters rallied. Or my living room at the start of the pandemic, on the phone with a woman describing how she sang in her mind to her dying mother, who was ill with COVID-19 in a locked-down nursing home.
Now, as an education reporter, one of my favorite places is the classroom. I grew up in China and didn’t attend classes in a K-12 school system in the United States, so everything is fascinating to me, from the way a kindergarten classroom is laid out to how high school students are tested. What’s not different is the fierce desire, accompanied by anxiety, in young people seeking a good education, and how for many, that opportunity is their chance to build better lives and find pathways for upward social mobility.
That’s why I think it’s important for us at Newsday, Long Island’s hometown paper, to report on what works and what doesn’t in our education system. Because, as educators often tell me: “Our students deserve the best.”