A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 09 2011

Overheard Outside a DCPS Staff Bathroom…

Teacher: “Good morning, [custodian's name]! Sorry to bother you, but I have a request. Is there any toilet paper? The staff bathroom is out.”

Custodian: “You know what? We’re actually really low on toilet paper right now. Like really low.”

(awkward pause)

Teacher: “And…?”

Custodian: “And… Uhh, okay, let me go check the first floor and I’ll get back to you. Give me ten minutes.”

Teacher: “Okay…?”

-Teacher and custodian, the former making a simple request, the latter struggling to fulfill it.


That the awkward pause existed in this conversation shows just how ridiculous life in DCPS can be. How is it, in a nation of such bounteous wealth, that a comprehensive neighborhood high school does not have a ready stock of toilet paper (which, by the way, has the feel of tissue paper, so shouldn’t really count); that it is reasonable to say, “it’s the end of the year, therefore I can’t help you;” that students have to deal with situations even more preposterous than the ones that teachers face?

And people wonder why the turnover rate–at my school, in DCPS, in urban districts across the country–is so high (almost a third of the staff, TFA and non-TFA, is leaving at year’s end). It’s in large part for reasons like this. Students undoubtedly deserve better. But please don’t forget the teachers. They have basic human needs, too.


In fact, give me a camera and let me take some photos of the staff bathroom (let’s not even discuss the student bathrooms) and, as Critical Exposure has been nobly doing, I’ll give you vivid evidence of what is wrong with this picture (pun intended).

Never mind, I’ll do it, “talking out” be damned:

Sad, truly sad. And, even sadder, not unique in DCPS.

I just hope that money that should be going to items as basic as toilet paper isn’t being siphoned off towards pizza parties and movie theater trips. That would be a terrible misuse of resources. Then again, nothing is as bad as someone (more specifically, a Title I coordinator), stealing Title I money from students and schools most in need of resources.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the achievement gap is not a resource gap. We need middle management for America, for real.

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    Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

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