The D.C. public schools always seem to be at the center of the school reform debate. Maybe it's because our lawmakers must (briefly) consider sending their children to these troubled schools, or perhaps tactics like Shaw-Garnet-Patterson Middle School's pay-to-behave experiment just make for good headlines. NPR's Claudio Sanchez returned to D.C.'s Shaw-Garnet-Patterson Middle School to see how some of the school's youngest teachers are faring.
22-year-old Meredith Leonard teaches sixth grade English. She may not have an education degree, but that doesn't mean she can't teach. Leonard is stern and fair, but not afraid to inject some fun into the classroom. She reinforces her students' research skills by having them look up the origins of the Twinkie. She's quick to reprimand bad behavior, but believes that every student can develop a love of learning - regardless of their background or home life. Leonard's students love coming to class. She actually has to shoo them away when the bell rings.
24-year-old Nicholas Fiorelli is having more trouble as a first year teacher. He doesn't exude the same confidence as Leonard and the kids love to push his buttons. He too is trying unconventional means to get students' attention. If a student misbehaves, Fiorelli has been known to call his or her parents during class. It's a tactic that works, but often at the expense of his lesson plan.
Older teachers worry about rookie teachers, according to Sanchez. Yet young teachers are the linchpin in D.C. Schools Chancellor Michele Rhee's proposal to enact merit pay and do away with tenure. No matter how you feel about the issue, take a few minutes to listen to this engaging piece. It's a rare glimpse into D.C.'s public school classrooms and the front lines of school reform.
(photo by Chris Campbell)