8 Asians

Public School Reformer Michelle Rhee

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Say you have a classroom of rambunctious second-graders and a bumblebee buzzes in, causing even more of a ruckus. Kids are screaming and jumping on desks and everything. What do you do?

Eat the bee.

Um, whut?

One day a bumblebee got into the classroom and the students were more out of control than ever. The daughter of Korean immigrants wasn’t about to let a bunch of rowdy 8-year-olds trample her aspirations to get them to learn. When the bee landed on [Michelle] Rhee’s desk, she swatted it, popped it in her mouth and gulped it down. For the first time, it seemed, her students were quiet. After that day they paid more attention, even if they were just waiting to see what she’d do next. “The kids were, like, ‘Oh, my God, she’s crazy! Who is this woman?’ ” Rhee says.

If that’s what it takes to get kids’ attention nowadays, I’m sure glad I’m not a teacher. (Can you just imagine… the crunchy wings, the hairy legs, the sharp stinger… ouch!) And I’m sure glad someone with such gusto is working towards public school reforms.

Michelle Rhee is Washington D.C.’s newest Chancellor, after being appointed by Mayor Adrian Fenty. This 37-year old, Cornell & Harvard graduate, divorced mother of two is apparently a controversial choice because:

That’s quite a list. So what does she have going for her?

  • Rhee founded The New Teacher Project, a national non-profit organization which partners with high-need school districts to recruit and train new teachers
  • Rhee’s restructuring is aimed at creating “a central administration that is more receptive and responsive when dealing with parents, teachers and principals”
  • Rhee is direct and honest with parents, teachers and principals alike
  • Rhee is not afraid to stir the waters and get on people’s nerves

Personally, I believe the current public school systems are in serious need of reforms. And someone who has the gusto to cut through all the convoluted old school bureaucracy (no pun intended) would be perfect for the job.

Is Michelle Rhee the right person for the job? Newsweek Magazine thinks so. Their end-of-year issue profiled several up and coming personalities that are likely to make news in 2008; Michelle Rhee made the list.

Here’s to 2008 and Rhee’s success!

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