Friday, August 10, 2012

Mission Possible

It's a bird! 

It's a plane!


Faster than a roving pack of four year olds!

More powerful than the nap whisperer!

Able to leap tall block towers in a single bound!

For twelve years I was lucky enough to don a bedazzled cape and soar into my pre-k classroom. The children I taught were classified "at-risk". They were living in poverty (which for a family of four is $23,050 per year in 2012). Many were in single parent homes with adults who were lucky if they earned a high school diploma or GED. They had parents in prison. Some were in foster care or being raised by ageing grandparents. Domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness was a way of life for many.

They lived in crowded houses, sharing beds with a sibling. More than once we bathed children when they arrived at school wearing the same clothes as the day before-smelling of day old pee, smoke and dirt.Their neighbors were drug dealers and known gang members. They lived with a revolving door of dad's girlfriends, in single wide trailers that made Hoarders look like minimalist. They saw their uncle get shot and die over a game of cards and hid in the bathroom until the police came and took them to the place "where you get to eat EVERY DAY and sleep in a bed and watch Disney movies." Many faced developmental challenges too.

It was the best job in the world! It was a chance to change the world one child at a time. To truly make a difference in their chaotic, young lives.

Changing lives and high expectations is the heart and soul of Success Academies. In their new book, Mission Possible, Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia share their secrets and offer practical ideas for vastly improving teaching and student achievement. What began as one charter school in Harlem serving 165 kindergarten and first graders has grown to 14 schools serving 4,600 students up thru seventh grade.

Yet all around us, schools are failing. Fingers are being pointed and money is being slashed. Everyone is looking for someone to blame. Many point to teachers.

With all the finger pointing it's no wonder stagnation, being able to accomplish one's job at a high level if an enormous source of low teacher morale.

 Why do you think this country treats teaching so differently than it does other professions?” 

The general public is not cognizant of the realities teacher's face every single day.
People think teaching is "easy and fun". They think teachers work "cushy hours with summers off." Most highly respected professions such as doctors and engineers are highly paid. People seem to think that it's simple that they themselves could succeed at doing it.

Almost daily parents, friends and strangers I met would say things like, "oh, I'd love to read books and sing songs all day. I'd love to play with kids and I'd love your job." These are the very same people who cannot manage their four year old's behavior in the school hallways and think they could handle a room of 24 at-risk three to five year olds, many of whom spend ten hours a day at school because it is safer than being at home. Many years we could barely find qualified staff for our fourteen classrooms. Almost yearly we would lose a first year teacher who was overwhelmed and didn't feel supported by administration. Success Academies

One of the MAJOR differences that sets Success Academies apart from other public schools is their hyper focus on teacher training. Administrators are constantly in classroom providing hands on training and immediate feedback. Teachers are offered an intense, four week long training session thru Teacher Success Academy. That is a far cry from the three days of less than stellar in-service and classroom set-up time that I was given a tthe start of each school year. Principals and administrators aren't just paper pushers either. They are in the classrooms, motivating, observing, evaluating, mentoring, and supporting classroom teachers.

Mission Possible is a quick, informative read for parents, teachers, and anyone with an interest in education. I love the Takeaways at the end of each chapter which provide a few simple ways to implement the strategies discussed. They believe school should be a magical place and you can read here how Success Academies works their magic with at-risk children in New York City.


I am thrilled to give away a copy of this fantastic book. Want to enter? Of course you do and it's SUPER easy.  Please leave a comment describing your favorite teacher in school. What made him/her special? Winner will be selected at random on August 31, 2012 at midnight PST.

**This is a sponsored post and part of a campaign by
and The SITS Girls.  All opinions and experiences expressed here are my own.  Learn more Success Academies by following them on Facebook and Twitter.  


Fritter said...

"teaching= easy and fun"


Sorry, I just had a flashback to my 9th grade class that I taught for 120 minutes straight, 5 days a week with 37 students (13 esol, 8IEP, etc) and was consequently sent straight to the hospital at 35 weeks with pre eclampsia when pregnant. Oh joy. I wish teaching didn't leave such a bitter taste in my mouth- but damn. It almost killed me and my first child.

Robbie K said...

Parents/people who think teaching is easy should job shadow for one day..most would never survive!

When preggo with #3 I had to call the office for ppl to cover my class so I could pee. It's possible I used the tiny kid toilets attached to our room on more than one occasion.

Stacie @ Snaps and Bits said...

How awesome that you got to make such a huge difference Robbie! My favorite teacher was my first grade teacher Ms Strand. I also had her for 2nd grade. She really made us want to learn. We still exchange holiday cards! Of course, it was a great school with no hardships of the kind you describe but still she made a big impact.