Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I'm Reading: Mission Possible

Giveway is now closed. Random.org chose #3. Krista. . email me your snail mail address and I will stick the book in the mail to you.  And #1, #2, and #4 (Jen, AD, and Lauren). . I will lend you my copy of Mission Possible for you to read! 

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.

Arin Lavinia
Eva Moskowitz
















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,

“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.”
 What would the world look like if we all took our jobs that seriously?!

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
“. . .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.”  
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.

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.

4 comments:

  1. Oh how excited I am about this book~ I had not heard of it (or maybe I had but not in the right way to remember it). As a teacher, and one who has spent some time with what are labeled "Durham's worst," I can honestly say that my big dream is to see ALL students have the opportunity to dream. No matter their background, their home, their skin, or their family! I want to see students realize that they too can dream! So yes, my dream is to build dreamers~ sounds a bit cliche, but it's true!

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  2. Sounds like a fabulous book! I truly desire to see each of my students be successful. I would love to learn from these educational masters! AD

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  3. Good teaching = Good learning! Well said. I couldn't agree more. As a former teacher who left "the system" because the administration offered no support to us, I wholeheartedly agree. I saw many horrible teachers who were only there because they were 5 years away from retirement. They had no passion for their job and their students suffered for it. They "taught to the test" and that's it, nothing more. Now, I also saw many wonderful teachers - many of them have moved on though, to different positions as a result of wanting to make a difference in how things are done. I think good training programs would do a world of good for our teachers...note, I said GOOD training programs. Not something put on halfway by the county, but something that leaves the teachers inspired to go back to the classroom and take their new found knowledge and put it to work for their students.

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  4. My dream is to help others find grace with second chances in life- specifically for prisoners. I want to help people with a murky past see that the crime or bad choice that they made in their past doesn't have to define who they are for the future. I know this is different than helping an innocent child, but it will be a job that others might not agree with and I will face challenges with that. But I believe strongly in educating and providing tools for prisoners to change their life. I believe we all have made poor choices but I believe strongly that those with murky pasts should use those choices to learn and grow and more importantly we are here to be a guide for others to learn from our mistakes. - Lauren B.

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