Michelle Rhee "The Bee Eater" (2:56) Michelle Rhee remembers the day she quieted her class by eating a bee.

Michelle Rhee: “The Bee Eater”


Before becoming chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools system, Michelle Rhee was a newly minted teacher in one of Baltimore’s roughest neighborhoods. Her school was one of the lowest performing in the city, and as a new teacher, Rhee often struggled to win the attention of her students.

That is, until the day a bee flew into her classroom window, causing panic among her unruly second graders. When the bee finally landed, Rhee smacked it with her lesson plan, killing it immediately. Her next move still causes Denise Hall, a former student, to shudder to this day: Rhee flicked the bee into her hand, popped it into her mouth, and ate it.

“It freaks me out, just talking about it, the bee story,” Hall recalls in the above clip from The Education of Michelle Rhee, which premieres tonight on FRONTLINE.

The move paid off. As Rhee put it, “You can ask my kids, they’ll tell you, ‘She was strict; she was mean.’ But in the end, they all knew the reason why I was doing everything was because I believed in them and I cared about them.”

During her time in Baltimore, Rhee learned the importance of having a good teacher. The home lives of her students never changed, she said, but because they had a teacher who set high expectations of them, they soon set high expectations for themselves.

Years later, Rhee brought that same philosophy to her new job in Washington, but instead of setting high expectations on students, she set them on teachers and principals. It was an experience that launched Rhee onto the national stage, making her one of the most admired and reviled education reformers in the nation.

The Education of Michelle Rhee airs tonight on most PBS stations (check your local listings here) or you can watch it online, starting at 10 pm EST.

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.



Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.