Monday, November 21, 2011

A little more sleep, a lot more education

By Caroline Seabolt

For the past month, I have been working with a kindergartener named Lynell who, at first, could not recognize his own name.  Lynell was incredibly sweet but was distracted and behind from too many absences at school.  He also does not sleep at night.  Constantly, the teachers in the classroom tell Lynell to “wake up” and to go to bed at a "good" hour.  But honestly, how much control does a kindergartener have over when they go to bed?  The other day when I was having trouble getting Lynell to focus, he responded that he was sleepy. I asked him what time he went to bed and he muttered “one in the morning.”  Unfortunately, I can’t tell whether Lynell is purposely not going to bed or his mother is keeping him up, but either way it is affecting his performance in school.  I’ve talked to some other tutors about this issue I’ve been having and they tell me that they encounter the same problem.  As DC Reads tutors, we educate parents on how to include literacy in their children’s lives outside of the classroom.  But what about getting enough sleep?  Do parents know how much sleep their child is supposed to be getting a night?  These types of facts are crucial to make sure children get the most out of their classroom experience.  I would suggest at our next literacy event, we stress the importance of sleep to parents so children, like Lynell, can finally come to school well rested and ready to learn.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Reflection on TFA Founder Wendy Kopp’s Visit to Georgetown

By Allyson Lynch

I managed to snatch one of the last available seats in Copley Formal Lounge, which was filled with people waiting to hear from Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach For America.  As someone interested in post-graduation work in education, I was beyond excited to be present at this event.  One topic brought up over the course of the evening related to the fact that many TFA teachers do not end up pursuing teaching as their permanent career.  This comment immediately caught my attention, because, were I to participate in a program like Teach For America, I would most likely end up in this group.  I have wanted to become a doctor since I was 12, so imagine my surprise when I came to Georgetown, joined DC Reads somewhat casually, and ended up just as engrossed and fascinated by educational issues as much as I was by the prospect of going to medical school...
Therefore, for the past three years, I have struggled with my non-compatible interests in both fields and wondered how to reconcile them.  What would be the point of doing a program like TFA if not to become a teacher eventually?  I would end up in this former TFA “non-teacher” group.  And according to Wendy Kopp, that is great.  As she put it, having experienced teaching and its challenges, especially in the schools TFA teaches in, is a valuable experience that can go a long way in changing things in the future for education, regardless of whether you end up an actual teacher.  The people who have experiences like that of TFA under their belt need to be in all other sectors, not just education.  When people who know what post-TFA teachers know go into other professions, they can help articulate the scope of the issues that face our education system, leading to a more universal understanding of why change is necessary, which can only help fix schools in America.  It was an inspiring message, especially for those of us that may still be undecided about our future career paths; even having had experience as tutors in DC Reads gives us the voice to impart change in education regardless of where our future takes us.  
 


Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Fest!

By Caroline Seabolt

I love the idea of Fall Fest as a way for DC Reads tutors to strengthen our relationships with the children we help.  As a morning tutor, I do not have an individual tutee but have 20 incredibly cute kindergarteners at Kenilworth Elementary to call my own, so for me Fall Fest was more of a helping and observing experience.  The atmosphere was fun and celebratory of the fall and Halloween season. Kids dressed in full costume looks so genuinely happy with their tutors as they went to games, collected candy, and stopped at my booth.  I ran the table where kids would stick their hands in jars to determine which scary body part they were feeling, it was so fun to see their reactions!  

Facts That Will Shock You

By Bisi Orisamolu 

Yesterday DC Reads hosted a seminar with guest speaker Mr. Latham who had taught second grade for the past three years at Houston Elementary School. One thing in particular that Mr. Latham said was especially surprising to me. Someone asked the question of how and when it is determined whether a student should move on to the next grade level or repeat a grade. Mr. Latham revealed that in the DC Public School system, a student can only be retained in 3rd and 5th grade and only once. If the student has an Individualized Education Plan which is a program designed for special education students, then they cannot be retained at all. If a teacher would like to hold a student back in any other grade, there needs to be a special write up consisting of a lot of paper work that must be submitted and the consent of parents needs to be given. When asked how many kids he thinks are moved on to the next grade when they should be retained, Mr. Lantham answered all of them that are not at proficient. At Houston Elementary this would be about 60%. In a system where most of the kids are failing, it seems to only encourage the problem by making it so hard to fail.
It comes as no surprise that kids that are not on grade level are passing through to the next grade. However, the system is so imperfect that kids that do not know their letters or colors are passing through to middle school and high school. Holding 60% of a grade back might be impractical but holding back 0% also seems wholly inefficient. This causes there to be large discrepancies in the ability of the children in a single classroom. For example, Mr. Lantham said that in a 6th grade classroom the teacher may single out a group that is reading on a 3rd grade level and give them material on that level. Instead of creating an atmosphere of different grades under one teacher, it seems more logical to leave kids who are not passing in the grades that match their ability.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Protect the Vulnerable and Create Opportunity

By Helen Conway

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a talk with Dick Durbin, a Senior US Senator and Assistant Majority Leader. Durbin is a major proponent of the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented immigrant students who came into the country as minors to earn legal status by attending college or enlisting in the military.

Durbin’s talk focused more on the contested issue of immigration and not on education. However, Durbin said one thing in support of the DREAM Act that stood out to me: “Protect the vulnerable and create opportunity.”

Since arriving at Georgetown, I’ve thought a lot about opportunity. I graduated from a failing public high school. An impoverished community run by a highly politicized and inefficient school board made for lack of resources, lack of community involvement and a lack of vision. 

Clearly, my high school experience was a lot different than that of many of my peers. Upon hearing of my friend’s experiences at private schools or superior public schools, I find myself feeling envious. I value my high school experience but I would have loved the opportunity to attend one of those schools and receive that quality of education. I believe it is the right of every student in America to receive a quality, well-funded education. Not every student should have to attend an elite private school or live in an affluent community for this to be possible.

Education in its current state is a hindrance to the future of our country. Unless bipartisan systematic reform takes place, it will continue on this path. Education creates opportunity however the current educational system is denying thousands upon thousands of deserving students the right to seek such opportunity. Coming from a failing school district, as well as now serving as a literacy tutor in Ward 7, I can speak to this from personal experience.

What can be done to solve such a crisis? I haven’t figured that out yet; that’s why I’m at Georgetown. However, when I become frustrated and despondent, I remember a quote from my favorite TV show – The West Wing. “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.” You’re so right, Sam Seaborn.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Book a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

By Justine Achille

Not exactly the phrase we’re used to hearing— but reading one book per day might be just what the doctor prescribed for our DC Reads tutees. Living in a society where the majority of adults are functionally illiterate* leads to low expectations for the future generations and unfortunately, it has also been proven to lead to decreased life expectancy. *(Do not possess the reading/comprehension skills necessary to fill out simple forms such as a job application.)

It may seem strange that the ability to read and understand what you are reading can be tied to your health—but it turns out that there is a direct correlation between literacy and wellbeing. Up to a certain degree, the more literate you are, the healthier you will likely be. But why is this so?

 It all comes down to the definition of health literacy. According to HHS Healthy People 2020, health literacy is “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needs to make appropriate health decisions.” 
To get a better glimpse at what it might be like to be have very low literacy try reading the following passage that was presented to my Health Promotion and Disease Prevention class: 
GNINAELC – Ot erussa hgih ecnamrofrep, yllacidoirep naelc eht epat sdaeh dna natspac revenehw uoy eciton na noitalumucca fo tsud dna nworb-red edixo selcitrap. Esu a nottoc baws denetsiom htiw lyporposi lohocla. Eb erus on lohocla sehcuot eht rebbur strap, sa ti sdnet ot yrd dna yllautneve kcarc eht rebbur. Esu a pmad tholc ro egnops ot naelc eht tenibac. A dlim paos, ekil gnihsawhsid tnegreted, lliw pleh evomer esaerg ro lio.
(The American Medical Association Foundation & American Medical Association considers this a simulation of how someone who is “non-literate in English” would view a printed page)

It’s difficult, isn’t it?—especially if there is the occasional misspelled word. Well what if I asked you some questions about that paragraph—such as: what color should the particles on the tapehead be when you clean it?—would you be able to answer? Did you even know that this paragraph is about cleaning tapeheads? Do you know what that means? Well now imagine you are a third-grader from Ward 8, twenty years in the future. You are at a doctor’s office reading about a procedure you need to get to stop the horrible headaches you’ve been having—but unfortunately, you read at a first-grade level. That consent form you are reading is going to look a lot like the paragraph above, and chances are you won’t understand the majority of it. 
This scenario occurs every day throughout America. Patients who cannot read at their age-level fail to understand information that is critical to their health. This results in missed appointments, incorrect use of medicine, and potentially death.

To give another example of a common problem in health literacy read the following phrase that is often put on brightly colored labels on medicine bottles: 
MEDICATION SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH PLENTY OF WATER
This sentence was determined to be at a fourth-grade reading level—about the age of our DC Reads tutees. While it was estimated that a little under two-thirds of people at a fourth-grade reading level would be able to understand this label, in reality only a little over one-third of people at a sixth-grade reading level could understand this. **

Clearly, without good literacy we are setting the future generations up for failure—and potentially poor health. Remember that DC Reads is more than a tutoring program; we are an organization that prepares the youth for success in all areas of life—keeping to the cura personalis motto of Georgetown.

Next time you are at a doctor’s office filling out forms, take note of how many times you cannot understand exactly what is being asked of you, and then reflect on what it must be like to try to read that same form at the reading level of a third-grader.

** Information presented here reflects data found by UNC Program on Health Literacy. See http://www.nchealthliteracy.org/ for more information.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Waiting for Superman and Our Responsibility

By Matt Buccelli

This past Monday, I was riding a bus back to DC from New York and happened to be sitting across the aisle from a GW student who had been in New York for an interview and became my friend for the trip.  After we exchanged the usual pleasantries (school, major, class year, etc.), and I mentioned that I worked with DC Reads, my new travel companion (David was the kid's name) asked me about what it was like to work in the DC school system.  Immediately this set off a very interesting conversation that I think says a lot both about the state of education reform in this country and about our broader responsibility as people who work in schools.



David had recently seen Waiting for Superman, and once I told him I worked in a school he could not ask me enough questions about education.  This kid was pretty chatty to begin with (that's an understatement - I had been trying to put my headphones in when he started talking to me), but I also got the sense that he was genuinely interested in learning more about education after seeing the movie, and as someone who is always down for a good conversation about education, I was happy to oblige.

David's existing perspective had been almost entirely formed by the assertions made in WFS - the first thing he said to me, almost verbatim, was "so it really seems as if the big problem is just the teachers' unions then, right?"  Regardless of your personal opinion on the movie (I had generally positive but still very mixed feelings), we know that this is simply not true.  I started from scratch and tried to use the way WFS portrays unions as a jumping off point to talk about how there are a lot of issues for schools to contend with, and shared my own personal view that the only way to solve these problems effectively is for every party in the educational process (parents, students, teachers, administrators, policymakers) to respect each other and work together.

The education gods must have been having a good time that day, because not five minutes after David and I started talking about the movie, a young twenty-something girl sitting in front of David turned around, apologized for eavesdropping on our conversation, and explained that she was interested because she teaches preschool in Ward 8 and thus had a firsthand perspective on the exact issues we were talking about.  For the next 2 hours or so, David, the teacher, and I had a lively conversation that consisted mainly of David asking questions, the teacher answering them, and me trying to chime in where I could but treading carefully and being careful to respect this teacher's experience and not saying anything that might make me sound like I didn't know what I was talking about.  The conversation touched on just about everything - from unions, to charter schools, to teacher evaluation, merit pay, and the role of standardized tests in contemporary education.

What's the broader point here?  I didn't get on the bus back to DC to have a lengthy conversation about every education-related issue under the sun, but it happened anyway.  The kid sitting across from me got on the bus with a perspective on these issues that had been almost entirely formed by a two hour documentary, and got off of it understanding that things might just be a little bit more complicated in real life.  And while I would have to say that the teacher sitting in front of David deserves the lion's share of the credit for this, it still shows how much of a difference we all can make in DC Reads by using our experience inside of the classroom to help better inform people outside of it.

Waiting for Superman was effective in the sense that it introduced mainstream audiences to the education issue, just as An Inconvenient Truth did for global warming.  But that doesn't change the fact that it also presents an overly simplistic portrayal of school reform, makes some fair points about teachers' unions but also makes it seem like they are the only thing standing between underserved kids and a good education, which isn't true, and gives the false impression that charter schools are always the answer (in reality, only 17 percent of charters outperform traditional public schools).  Waiting for Superman should not be taken as gospel, but treated as a place to start a more extended and better-informed mainstream conversation about education. 

In this regard, it is incumbent on all of us, as people who work in schools, to share our perspective, and insure that one well-produced film doesn't create legions of faux experts who, in the words of an old MTV show, think they know but have no idea.  When we talk about being advocates for our students in DC Public Schools and for just education throughout the country, we need to show that we mean it by taking advantage of opportunities to share our knowledge and experience - and become better informed when our own perspective on the challenges of school reform isn't as complete as it can be or should be. 

There is a lot of attention being focused on education right now in America.  It's up to all of us to help make the most of this opportunity by being the best informed and most willing advocates that we can be.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Christie on Earned Tenure


To be frank, although I am not the biggest fan of Chris Christie or his policies, I actually support his proposed reformation of teacher tenure. Teacher tenure remains a contested issue in education policy throughout the United States, mostly because it makes it extremely difficult to dismiss terribly ineffective teachers. I think every public school student experienced being stuck in a class taught by an awful teacher who had been teaching for thirty years—a teacher who the school would never be able to fire, no matter how unsuccessful her teaching methods were. 



Christie proposes using teacher evaluations to assess teacher performance, and he also wants to eliminate the last in – first out policy, which results in the dismissal of new teachers over veteran teachers without consideration of performance. The NJ governor claims that he does not want to eliminate teacher tenure, which I am relieved to hear. Hopefully he sticks to this assertion, as I have read in other sources that he has considered more drastic policies than those described in this article, such as completely eliminating tenure. The success of Christie’s plans, however, depends on how he sets up this system of teacher evaluations, which could certainly be viewed by critics as biased and imprecise. Of course, he also has to negotiate with the unions and get legislature to pass his proposals. If he is able to overcome these obstacles, he will be revolutionizing education throughout the state, as well as possibly setting a precedent for the rest of the nation, such as in DC.

Our first priority is the education of children throughout the nation, and effective teachers are the best way to ensure that children receive a quality education. Christie’s tenure policy could pave the way for a more successful public school system due to more efficient and dedicated teachers. DC would hopefully follow suit. This proposal has a long way to go before it can have any effect, but for now I am (surprisingly) hoping that one of Christie’s better policies works out. 

The Right to Write


By Bisi Orisamolu

Something that was said at the educational panel last night really resonated with me. For those who did not attend Thursday night’s panel discussion, it consisted of five teachers and administrators who had taken an alternative route to teaching. One of the teachers who works in tenth and eleventh grade classrooms said something that I thought was truly inspiring. To paraphrase, he said that educational reform is the new civil rights movement. Stop and think about that for a second. If you let it sink in, then you feel the full impact of this statement.


Many can remember the time before the civil rights movement of the 60s when children of color and white children were not allowed to attend the same schools. America prides herself on moving beyond segregation and becoming the land of opportunity for all its citizens. But is this really true? It seems like segregation has been moved from between races to between social classes. As many like to say, the poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer. Cycles of poverty seem to be never-ending. This all stems from education. How can we say that everyone is granted equal opportunity when the quality of education in our public school system has such an immense gap? 

The way people react to things has a lot to do with the way a problem is presented to them. The importance of rhetoric is often underestimated. I think that if we talk more about education as a right, one that is as important as the civil rights we possess, people would take this issue more seriously. Maybe then people would be more inclined to become teachers or have greater respect for the profession. People recognize that education is a problem but the gravity of the issue seems to sometimes be overlooked. To deny a child the right to read or to write or to learn in general on a level that is equivalent to that of their more fortunate peers, is a sentence to a life of despair and destitution. It is an intolerable injustice that we must all strive to change.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A "Duhh" Moment


By Tierra Evans  

Thursday, March 31st, Georgetown University and Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy hosted an education forum focused on the importance of character development within the realm of student achievement. The conversation was carried by a distinguished group of panelists including: Tim King, who is founder, President and CEO of Urban Prep Academies, James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement under the Department of Education, Abigail Smith, Chief of Transformation Management Office of DCPS, Irasema Salcido, CEO and founder of the Chavez Schools and driving force behind the DCPNI, and Paul Tough, New York Times Magazine former editor and author of Whatever it Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America.


             Mr. Tough gave a keynote speech surrounding the role of certain character traits that are imperative to healthy academic and social growth. Some of the traits included grit, curiosity, gratitude, self-discipline and resilience. He provided scientific studies and evidence as to how and why they are so important. What I remember most is that after that speech, Tim King remarks, “Duhhh…We already know the solutions to education. The problem is, how do we apply them?"  I agree. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. In the learning process and in everyday life, it’s important to have good character. However, where does good character come from?? It comes partially through proper relationship building and positive support systems. In essence, one’s character is defined by a set of traits that can be acquired. Together we need to figure out a system that can make that happen.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

DC gets hosed, Gray gets arrested

By Matt Buccelli

I'm taking a class on Washington, DC history this semester, and a couple weeks ago we had a local talk radio host (Mark Plotkin for WTOP FM) come and talk to us about local DC politics and other related issues.  Mr. Plotkin has lived in this city since he was a student at GW in the 1960s, so he had plenty of perspective to offer.  When the conversation turned to DC voting rights, and the injustice of living in a city that is federally taxed but not federally represented, the class talked about how people here and around the country seem to be complacent toward, if not completely ignorant of, the voting rights issue.  Mr. Plotkin gave his opinion that it would take something dramatic, something eye-opening, a we're-not-going-to-take-this-anymore type of moment, to raise public awareness and actually change the predicament here in DC.

Although the ramifications of DC Mayor Vince Gray's arrest on Monday remain to be seen, it at least may have provided the optic that people like Mr. Plotkin have been waiting for. 


Mayor Gray was arrested along with several DC city council members while protesting controversial provisions in the budget agreement negotiated last week between President Obama and congressional Republicans.  As part of the agreement, Congress will block DC from using its own money to pay for abortions, and will also terminate a needle-exchange program meant to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, which afflicts 3 percent of DC residents - the largest percentage in the country.  More relevant to the DC Reads program, and to the cause of equal and just education throughout our city, was a separate provision mandating that DC reinstate its private school voucher system.

The return of the school voucher issue is a big deal.  Vouchers are taxpayer subsidies given to low-income parents so that they may send their children to a private school of their choice.  But could the money that is being set aside for vouchers not instead be spent on shoring up the current budget gap in DC Public Schools, which is forcing schools to scale back essential programs and extra-curricular activities that help students succeed?  Republicans also plan on cutting the federal appropriation for DC that helps the city to fund its education system and pay for other essential services.  So Congress is setting aside money for DC students to flee public schools, but at the same time continuing to undermine those schools by forcing the city to cut its budget.  This makes no sense. 

Beyond vouchers, however, the federal power grab currently taking place in Washington gets to several deeper questions.  The idea that Congress could impose its will on a city that is meant to represent freedom and democracy would be laughable if it weren't so true and steeped in history.  DC was not even permitted to govern itself until 1973, when District residents first voted for a mayor and city council.  Even sincd then, Congress forcibly took control over the city's budget during the 1990s, and continues to dictate what the city can and cannot do with its own resources.  Meanwhile, the people of this city have no political recourse because they have no legitimate congressional representation.  Part of the reason this hasn't changed is because many people don't even know it's a problem - two-thirds of college educated adults do not know that Washington, DC has no congressional voting rights.  Many students on the Georgetown campus don't realize that they live in a city that literally does not have the right to solve its own problems; a city that can have essential programs and services cut or altered at any moment by politicians who have an ideological agenda but could care less about the people that actually live here. 


Education has been referred to by Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton, and others within the reform movement as "the civil rights issue of our time."  I know for a fact that this is a motivating factor which drives a lot of the work that many of us do within DC Reads.  So how can we begin to talk about the injustices surrounding education in America while ignoring the fact that the city where we live and work lacks the basic right to have its voice heard?  And what kind of a world are we tutoring and educating our students to live in if we can't also face up to this reality?

If we're to be advocates for students in this city, we also need to be advocates for this city.  And recognize that whether it's education reform or any other issue that needs to be addressed, DC will not reach its true potential as long as someone else is pulling its strings.

Reflections on Waiting for Ruperman

by Mallory Widell

Tonight I watched the screening of Waiting for Superman as a part of Education Week. Some of the statistics and facts presented in the film are astounding. The movie lists countless problems in the American education system but two of the biggest problems that stood out to me were those of teacher tenure and teacher unions. Of course there are both positive and negative sides to these concepts, and they were mainly positive when teachers' unions  were first founded. For instance, unions can help protect teachers from being fired for arbitrary reasons and from being mistreated. On the other hand, many uncaring teachers are kept around because of these practices. The film stated that only 1 in 2500 teachers lose their credentials, while the number of other professionals who lose their credentials is much higher. I think Michelle Rhee's idea to give teachers potentially higher salaries on a merit-basis is a good one but teachers' unions were unwilling to accept this proposal. Rhee's response to this was, "it all becomes about the adults," which is so true. The movie demonstrates how effective charter schools are for the most part (top charter schools send 90 percent of their students to 4-year colleges), but show us that there are not enough spaces for all the children who need them. The movie explains that the education system is broken and fixing it is not going to be easy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Morning Miracle


By Kate Newman
When my alarm goes off at 8:00 A.M. every Tuesday and Thursday morning, my immediate desire is to groggily grab my phone and press SNOOZE for at least another five minutes of much-needed sleep. However, knowing that this battle with technology would continue for at least another hour, I don’t try. More importantly, knowing that some very special second-graders are waiting for me at Houston Elementary School, I actually get out of bed.
It doesn’t matter how tired I am as I walk down to the McDonough parking lot, or if my eyelids start drooping in the van ride from Georgetown to Houston. Once I sit down with Da’Mion or William, I somehow find a sudden burst of energy. They make me want to wake up in the morning and be there for them.
Although I’ve been tutoring with DC Reads since my first semester at Georgetown, this is my first semester as a morning tutor—and I have to admit that I’ve never left in the morning feeling frustrated or unaccomplished, as I have in the afternoons. I’m sure this is partly due to the fact that students are more concentrated during in-school time than during after-school care. However, I believe the main reason is that I’m more concentrated.
As a morning tutor, I start my day with D.C. Reads. I don’t let myself dwell on the events of yesterday, or the things I have to do once we get back to the Hilltop—I allow myself to fully embrace the new day as a fresh start. I wake up with a purpose concerning something bigger than myself. When our van arrives back on campus, I already feel as though I’ve done something with my day. I’ve accomplished something for my tutees, and learned something in return—whether it’s the fact that I apparently look like a “very, very small 20-year-old,” or that a second-grader can come across the word “compassion” and relate it to the earthquake in Japan all on his own.
My experience as a morning tutor has revealed the benefits of fully immersing myself in the time I spend with my tutee. It has also taught me how to be a more engaged and more effective afternoon tutor. Most importantly, it has shown me how essential it is to start every day with a larger purpose. My suggestion to anyone who has an open schedule in the morning: skip the sleep and sign up for morning tutoring—you won’t regret it. Dealing with the alarm is worth it for the students of DCPS. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Love & Trust = Priceless

By Tierra Evans
Today, I stepped outside of Randle Highlands Elementary School with a valuable lesson. As a tutor, if you are fortunate enough to gain the love and trust of your tutee, that is a reward in itself. When I initially began working with my student, Jerome, I was a little uneasy. The student I had before him did not work well in the program and had to explore other options outside of D.C. Reads. As his tutor, I felt unwanted and even a little incompetent. I asked myself, “Am I doing something wrong?” When I began working with Jerome, he resisted because he wanted to stay in a group with his friend. He also felt disliked and unloved because he changed tutors a lot. More than once he told me that he thought I didn’t like him and that I was just going to leave him like everyone else.
After today, I can honestly say that Jerome is like a completely new student and has even helped me regain my own confidence with tutoring. Initially he came in sad, but after talking with him and explaining that I was never going to leave, he opened up to me. He expressed his sadness and shared tough issues about his life at home that affect him every day. I shared some of my own issues with him and then we connected instantly. From that point on, I knew that we developed our own unique bond of love, and of trust. Jerome has given me a sense of belonging because I now have a new tutee that appreciates me. Jerome also knows that I care about and that he can always count on me. All in all, the most productive environment is one in which the tutor and the tutee can feel comfortable. The mutual exchange of love, and of trust is priceless…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative

By Danna Khabbaz
http://www.dcpni.org/
This past weekend, some members of DC Reads attended a second retreat organized for the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) (Be sure to read Tierra Evans' reflection post below to learn more about the retreat). The above link leads to the DCPNI website, which explains in more detail the Promise Neighborhood Initiative, started by the Obama administration. The Parkside-Kennelworth neighborhood in Ward 7 was one of 21 neighborhoods to win a $500,000 grant that will go towards planning initiatives to improve all aspects of the area, including education, health resources, and safety. President Obama has set $210 million dollars aside in his 2011 fiscal budget to invest in 5-year grants towards these initial Promise Neighborhood plans. (An earlier post- "Back in Action" also describes the DCPNI in more detail)