Currently fixing a broken plane while flying it!

After taking a one-year hiatus from blogging, I’m so happy to be back.   When I last blogged, I discussed the end of my Teach For America committment, and my decision to move back to the east coast.  In an effort to be closer to friends and family, I left the Crescent City and everything I had known since graduating in 2008.  I loved living in New Orleans and maintain contact with my friends and coworkers (Hi Milestone SABIS Academy!).   Nevertheless, in June of 2010, my 5 foot, 1 inch self, packed up my car with everything it could fit and drove from New Orleans, LA to Knoxville, TN and finally to Washington, D.C.

In June of 2011, I took a job at DC Scholars: Stanton Elementary.  After interviewing with several schools and education nonprofits, I decided that Stanton Elementary was the right place for me.  Stanton presented a unique opportunity for me to be the founding teacher of a District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) partnership school.  A partnership school is a new endeavor for DCPS where schools implement a turnaround model.  DC Scholars Stanton is managed by Scholar Academies out of Philadelphia, P.A.  I was eager to teach in a school that is on the cusp of school reform and on the frontlines of the toughest work–taking a failing school and completing setting it on the path to be a high-achieving school.  I signed up bright-eyed and eager to be a part of such work, in an area of DC that has been overlooked.

More importantly, Stanton reminded me of home.  It was a chance to work in a community similar to the one’s my peers back in Bridgeton, NJ experienced.  It was a chance for me to learn and advocate on behalf of the people working tirelessly everyday in a system that is currently set-up to allow them to fail.  Little did I know that embarking on such a journey as turnaround would place me head first in one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my entire life.

Last week, my coworkers and I began year two of turnaround.  At professional development, our principal, showed the following video of year one at Stanton.  Take a look at it below:

Many people will watch this video, and think we crashed and burned.  However, what you just saw is what many experience in turnaround work.   We came in thinking that obstacles were normal turbulence, but found out later we were in the ride of a lifetime.  People involved in turning around our nation’s most failing schools require unique skills because turnaround is no ordinary undertaking.  As a staff, we developed our turnaround toolbox.  Dealing with the fact that we have little resources (ie no computer lab and teachers have to share projectors), we began and continue to problem solve in order to meet extremely high expectations.

Our principal went on to tell us that turnaround staff have what most consider an impossible task:  We have to fix a broken plane while flying it.  And while many would spew doubt on our ambitions, we know that the time is crucial to give all children an opportunity–and that means taking best practices from high-performing schools and applying them to public schools.   Our scholars in southeast DC, deserve every opportunity as their more affluent peers in northwest DC.  We are here to help put our scholars on the path to success–no matter what it takes.  I commend the parents of my scholars for joining us in the journey.

I hope that you continue to read my blog, feel my passion, and are inspired through my words to take charge in advocating and acting on behalf of the greater good.  Thanks for taking time to read my first post in quite some time.  Feel free to leave comments and engage.

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2 thoughts on “Currently fixing a broken plane while flying it!

  1. Jenae Manns says:

    Our stories are very similar and what a great analogy…as a matter a fact it’s one that i’ve used several times this past year to describe my Dept. Of Ed. fellowship at Wheatley Education Campus. During the 2010-2011 school year, through a more than generous fellowship at GW, I was a co-teacher in a 1st grade classroom in a tun-around school while concurrently completing my Masters in Early Childhood Special Education. The experience was like learning how to build a plane and fly it at the same time. This year as a founding teacher at the newly reconstituted Amidon-Bowen, i’ll be putting that co-teaching experience to work and turning that GW education to practice. Our kids are in a fire that they didn’t start and they don’t deserve to burn; As advocates of reform our job is to extinguish the fire or “build the plane” so our kids are set up to be in environments of success where they don’t crash and burn.

    Best of luck
    Jenae’ M.

    • Darla Bunting says:

      Hi Janae, I’m so glad to be able to connect with passionate educators like you! Our classroom experiences must be documented and amplified so that people can understand the complexities of public school reform. Please continue to update me on your progress and experience. I look forward to hearing more from you! Best of luck this school year!

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