Monday, June 6, 2011

Work Hard. Be Nice.

I just finished reading an excellent and inspirational book called Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America by Jay Mathews.

The book explores the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and follows the founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin through their journey creating a school that generally - and wholeheartedly - believes that with proper mentors, student incentives and unrestrained enthusiasm on the part of the teachers, some of the country's poorest children could surpass the expectations of most inner-city public schools.
I'm not sure if any of you out there have read it (if you have, leave a comment below with your thoughts), but it is an insightful and enlightening book and definitely worth a read.

I have to admit, however, at times I found
myself feeling a bit cynical as I read, knowing, as I do today as a mother of two, that the hours that these two young men put into their jobs (and the hours they expect from the teachers they hire) would be very challenging - if not unrealistic - for someone like myself.

Still, their dedication to their students and their profession is to be admired!

Over the course of this week, I'd like to share some points that I picked up from the book. As always, leave a comment below to add your own thoughts to this discussion/list!

1. Harriet Ball was one of their inspired mentors. The most prominent idea they got from her (in addition to endless math chants and ideas for decorating one's classroom) is that: All children WILL learn (as opposed to "can" which was too passive).

Harriet Ball particularly felt strongly about using the word will. She would say, "All of us will learn. I will learn from the kids. They will learn from me. Ain't no 'can.'"

This belief was the foundation upon which the KIPP schools were built. What a terrific attitude for ANY teacher to have...

2. Another inspired mentor teacher, Rafe Esquith, got Mike and Dave to not see problems anymore, only opportunities.

(Wow - what a great way to approach work, life and the world, eh?)

Rafe also inspired them to think beyond the classroom walls and see the potential of using the world as their classroom. He encouraged them to provide field trips as incentives for the students - and not just field trips to museums and parks - these were field trips to Washington, DC and the Grand Canyon!

3. The beginning of KIPP: Mike and Dave were actually inspired to think about creating their own school after attending a talk by Rafe Esquith. From their endless late-night discussions with each other, they began formulating their own school idea:

KIPP - Knowledge Is Power Program.

Some of the unique aspects of their program included long school days, required summer school, every-other-week Saturday classes, two hours of homework a night, and frequent contact with teachers who gave students their cell phone numbers and the permission to contact them in the evening if they had questions about their homework.

And with that last point, I'll leave you the chance to offer comments below.

Tomorrow I'll discuss more from the book, so stay tuned!

Resources for Teaching in London

Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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