With my husband being an elementary school principal and I being a high school English teacher before my kids came along, we were a little excited when I was offered 2 copies of Mission Possible by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia (yes, one copy is for one of you. . keep reading!). Mission Possible describes the key ingredients of the Success Academies in NYC and how those practices can be used to strengthen any school.
Below are 3 of the messages that struck a chord in my and Rob’s hearts. Do not stop reading if you are not in educaton. These 3 messages can be applied to your life no matter what your vocation.1. Dream big. Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia have crazy big dreams.
The opening line of their book captures it well:
"It sounds like a pipe dream: open a public elementary school in the middle of Harlem, take all comers through random lottery, and within three years win recognition as the top charter in New York City and one of the very best public schools in all of New York State.”
Wow, do you or I dare to shoot that big? Would we be willing to go against the odds of kids living in poverty in some of the worst neighborhoods in America? But that is what these ladies have done and they didn’t stop there. They have opened 9 Success Academies across New York City and have a plan to open a total of forty K-8 schools to eventually serve 25,000 kids. That is the kind of dreaming I want to do. That is the kind of impact I want to have. There really are people out there doing this kind of big dreaming.
2. Do with excellence. Whatever we do should be done with excellence, in a way that people want more, in a way that makes a difference in the world. The authors say,
What would the world look like if we all took our jobs that seriously?!“Here is the attitude we should take: if the parents did not need child care and the kids were free not to go to school, would they come? If the answer is no, then we’re not doing something right.”
3. Good teaching equals good learning. Rob and I were quite inspired by the laser-like focus these schools have on strong teaching. It is as though nothing else exists in their school. Moskowitz and Lavinia claim
And that is what the Success Academies do. They send all their new teachers through an intense four-week training session. Each year, the teachers receive the equivalent of over thirteen weeks of training. Principals are freed of administrative duties and spend the bulk of their day moving from room to room observing teachers and giving them real time feedback. This is a far cry from the typical school where the teacher gets a few afternoons of training on a wide array of topics and the principal comes by about twice a year for an observation where the teacher receives almost no constructive feedback.“. . .the answer to America’s school problems is not smaller class sizes or pay-for-performance or any of the other carrots and sticks that have been tried . . .The answer is getting the adults to step up their game, giving them the training and help they need, and setting the bar far higher for everyone than anyone dreamed possible in public schools.”
For those of us who are teachers (public, private, preschool, homeschool, Sunday School, adult Bible Study, etc), we need to take note of what a difficult, but vital task teaching is. We need to study and practice and learn from the masters. If we are involved with education in some way, we need to ask ourselves, “How can I encourage an intense focus on strong teaching, and help facilitate the training of teachers so that they can get better and better?”
I would love to give a copy of Mission Possible to one of you. If you would like a copy of this book, leave a comment letting me know your big dream. . or telling me about your heart as an educator. . .or your thoughts about one of my 3 points above. I will chose one comment via random.org on Tues, Aug 7, noon EST and contact the winner via email.
Eva Moskowitz is on Facebook. You may want to go check her out. She also likes to interact with readers on Twitter.
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.