By Rabiah Harris May 7th, 2014 3:00 PM

“But why, Ms. Harris, why?” one student pleaded. I can still remember the day I told my chemistry students that I was preparing to leave Wilson High School to move to New Orleans.  It was a gut-wrenching day, as this was the first time since student teaching where I was leaving a group of students before they graduated high school. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined that five years later, I would return to DCPS as a middle school teacher. However, I couldn’t be more excited about my decision.

My reasons for coming back to DCPS this school year were clear, but I will note that it was not an easy decision. I was a leader and hard working teacher at a DC charter middle school, and I had developed great relationships with the families of students I taught. Yet, there were still some things I felt were missing. In spite of the year’s challenges, I am happy with my decision and still see it as an opportunity to grow.

As one of only three science teachers at my past school and five total in the charter network, I sought to be a part of a larger network of teachers who taught similar subject areas and grade levels to my own.  I have found that in DCPS.  From New Teacher Orientation to district-wide professional development, I thoroughly enjoy networking with other science teachers in the District. I was also recently picked to be a part of the STEM Master Teacher Corps, where I get to connect with other teachers in DCPS on a the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) alignment for the District.  All of these opportunities provide professional growth that is incomparable to what is available at a small school with a smaller network.

I receive specialized coaching around leadership development for my school’s science vertical teamThis resource, provided through a partnership with TeachPlus, enables me to receive weekly coaching personalized to my growth. For instance, I needed to get a group of teachers (including myself) aligned around the work of science and scientific inquiry.  At my school, science teachers were allowed to work in silos when it came to the day-to-day work and my coach assisted me with tools and techniques to work at bringing my team together on a common goal. While my former schools were whole-heartedly invested in my growth, they just didn’t have a large enough staff to make that a reality. I still have a long way to go before I feel like I am a phenomenal leader, but I am happy to continue working towards that goal. Through this experience, I know I have made more growth with the assistance of a coach than without.

Lastly, I am a product of public schools across the country (I lived in 7 places by the time I was 18). I wholeheartedly believe in neighborhood schools and that every school in the city should be great. I have returned to DCPS because I want to be a part of the growth of schools and the work of so many other talented educators.  I also want to do my part in making sure that every student gets great educators- and that those great educators help to ensure that students, regardless of whether they attend a neighborhood school, get a great education.