Friday, July 13, 2012

I Hope Heaven Accepts Alcoholics

Because working for DC Public Schools makes people turn into drunks. If you work for the public schools in DC (or at least in the Office of Special Education), there's about a 98.7% chance, that you will hate your job or at least it will stress you out to the point where you just can't stand the thought of waking up in the morning and walking into to work. It will make you yearn for happy hours and bitch sessions with your colleagues.

I remember the sickening feeling I would get in the mornings before I had to go to work as a public school teacher. That feeling is coming back now even though I'm not a teacher. It's because I still work for the school system and it's a miserable place to be employed.

This system chews people up and spits them out for breakfast. I sometimes think of DCPS as this terrible monster that slowly preys on people and steals their soul. Maybe I work for the devil. I surely hope not because I was relying on getting to heaven and using the kids as an excuse for letting me. Hey, I'd do anything for these kids.

While I'm on the subject of doing anything for students, let me recount my latest antics as a Central Office employee. Watha was a student who attended the program I managed for the last 6 months. He had already finished up all of his credits months ago, but no one could find him. He was a ghost of a student. He came to my attention because it seemed silly to me to not track down this kid who only needed community service hours to graduate. But I was told by staff, teachers, and his social worker that he was MIA. No one could find him.

Have I mentioned that I like a good challenge? Well, Watha wasn't actually that much of a challenge or particularly difficult to track down. I looked up his mother in the white pages and called every number that was listed. I made contact with his mom and told her that I just wanted her son to graduate and was here to help in any way. She passed the phone to Watha, who explained his whereabouts over the last school year.

Watha told  me that he had some trouble over the past year and needed to get himself together. I told him that I would be in touch but that it was really important for him to get his community service hours. I asked him to meet me at the school I was managing. Four days later he showed up to school and I met him in person. What a dynamic and bright young man he was. I was so impressed by his energy and demeanor and continued to encourage him to finish his service hours in order to finish high school. I had made a connection--he knew that I cared.

Long story short: Several months later Watha and I met (he, in tow with his adorable blue pit puppy) and he handed me his community service hours form. This was after I pounded on his back door at 8:00 a.m. earlier that morning reminding him that he needed to get me the paperwork for graduation. After looking through the papers, I jumped up and down and gave him a high five. I was so proud of a kid, who despite countless challenges, completed this one obstacle that was keeping him from graduating. I was so proud of a kid I barely knew. Watha had a a big cheesy smile on his face because he realized his accomplishment. 

I ask myself every day: Why am I here? What do I even do? Does it matter? And when I think about the smile on Watha's face from last week, knowing that he had accomplished something big, I know why I am here in DC Public Schools. And in those precious moments, I know my purpose. I hope the big Man in the sky knows that I always try to do right by these kids. I hope he's saving my space. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ms. S Returns

It's official. I'm a DCPS Central Office employee (no longer a gov't contractor). As of February, I work for the Office of Special Education on a very small team of intelligent, dynamic education reformers. I came home the other day and told my husband: "I had a good day today." This is a first since coming to live in DC and working for the school system that I actually enjoy what I do.

It's interesting how close I am to all of the policy decisions that are being made and it's so amazing to me how disconnected people at Central Office are from the local school level. I feel as though there are many people who don't actually understand the dynamics of the DC school system and the city itself. It's very much a niche district. What works in NYC isn't necessarily going to work here. It can be frustrating, but I feel like I advocate for what will work for OUR students, not just some students in a case study. We'll see what exciting adventures (read: problems) this new job will bring.

A Haiku for You

Wrinkle on forehead
Grey in the hair, stress, this mess
My D-C-P-S

Farewell, Bill Turque

I read this morning that Bill Turque, DC Schools Insider, will be leaving the Washington Post to embark on a presidential campaign assignment. I was saddened by his departure, as Bill Turque provided insight and commentary that challenged many of the actions of the DC Public School system. Bill, will be greatly missed by this former Rheebot. I have enjoyed reading his posts over the last few years and he has greatly influenced the way I perceive the decisions of the school system here in DC.