In recent months, D.C. Wire has heard from countless D.C. teachers who have felt unappreciated by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. They have cited Rhee's buyout program -- her attempt to get rid of up to 700 teachers at about 50 schools slated for closure or reorganization -- as well as her proposal at the bargaining table to eliminate seniority.
But apparently Rhee has great admiration for teachers. Today, anticipating the wind down of the school year for teachers on June 13, she sent a letter thanking them for their service this year and wishing them a happy summer.
She even referred to her own experience as a young elementary teacher in Baltimore in the early 1990s to identify with the weariness they likely feel at the end of a busy school year. Here's the text of the letter sent to D.C. Wire by a teacher:
To all DCPS Teachers,
As we approach the end of the school year the central office staff is busy planning for summer school and implementing the many changes we will be bringing to schools next year. As I work on all of these changes from 825 North Capitol Street, I also remember from my teaching in Baltimore that the end of the school year looks and feels very different for teachers.
By June, as a teacher I felt all of the hours of work that I had put into creating and implementing engaging lessons for my energetic students. When my friends who worked in offices could choose desk work on a bad day, the life of a teacher came with the pressure of being 'on' every day at 8:00 am. At the end of the school year I was glad to see my kitchen tabletop again, underneath the lesson plans and homework that had occupied many evenings and weekend days during the year. Only other teachers understood that 'summer vacation' was no extra 'perk.' It was a professional opportunity we needed in order to reflect on the year and 'recharge' so that we could bring our best selves to a new group of students the next year. Only other teachers understood the bittersweet experience at the end of a school year, when we could simultaneously feel pride for our students' accomplishments; regret for our human mistakes and determination to do a better job next year; sadness to let go of a class and moment that will not happen again; and at the same time an absolute readiness to relinquish some of our more challenging students to their next teachers the following year! I believe it is this combination that helps good teachers to become better as they reflect, assess and improve with each group of students who pass through their classrooms with each year.
As rewarding as teaching is, there are few professions that require more energy, creativity, passion or patience. Teachers need these qualities in order to hold the weight and pressure of a profession that builds the future choices of so many children. As I work in the central office to make District-wide improvements, I am grateful for your work on behalf of our students this year. Whether you are continuing your classroom presence through summer school, or continuing your professional development and reflection outside of the classroom, I wish you a happy and renewing summer!