Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Work Hard. Be Nice.

This week I've been sharing some points from a great book entitled, Work Hard. Be Nice.

I'll finish with my final points below.

7. Willingness to change.

One point I really appreciated about the way Mike and Dave approached their school and teaching was their determination to always seek "good results" and being willing to change their strategies when they were not working.

According to the author, Jay Mathews, the most important characteristic of KIPP schools is not their size or their cost or the age of the teachers or the motivation of the parents. It is their willingness to change, and quickly, when students don't improve. It was this quality they embodied as school administrators and the quality they encouraged in their teachers.

8. The administration.

Before Mike and Dave became school administrators themselves, they often found that it was precisely the rigid, traditional attitude from school administrators that prevented them from exploring new ideas, changing routines and demanding excellence from their students.

Some of the more humourous moments of the book are when the author describes some of Mike and Dave's bold antics for making school administrators accountable for their demands.

Sometimes it worked for them to simply "suck up" to school district administrators (for example, bringing them breakfast in the morning to get them in a good mood before they asked for what they wanted).

If that didn't work, they sometimes relied on what they called their "advocacy-in-democracy" lesson which involved asking students to call the administrators directly to get what they wanted!

9. KIPP is not without criticism from educational experts.

The author, Jay Mathews, does not go through the entire book praising everything about the KIPP program, and he does have an interesting chapter on outside criticism that KIPP does face.

Some critics have referred to KIPP as
: Kids in Prison Program (referring to their 9.5 hour school days). Yet, Mr. Mathews also points out that kids were still voluntarily calling their teachers asking for help with homework in the evenings!

What I feel is that no school or educational philosophy will every be without some criticism. This school and the philosophy obviously works for many children who might otherwise not have a chance to succeed in a more traditional educational setting. Is that a bad thing?

10. Work hard. Be Nice.

(What a simple way to approach one's profession!)

Beyond this very simple idea which became the slogan for KIPP, the philosophy they embodied included other simple ideas:

There are no shortcuts. (Rafe Esquith's signature slogan)

Assign yourself. (i.e. take responsibility for your actions)
If there is a problem, we look for a solution.
If there is a better way, we find it.
If a teammate needs help, we give it.
If we need help, we ask.

In the end, I think what I admired most about the teachers profiled in this book was their very simple "can-do" spirit.

There was nothing better for them than trying out something that might help kids learn. And if it didn't work, they would try something else.
They were just two educators, and they believed that good teaching can make a big difference and that all children will learn if they receive the time and encouragement and love they deserve.

Hopefully all of us out there share that same general attitude and view of our profession!

Have a great rest of your week everyone! And let me know if there are other inspirational books out there that you would recommend to me - or others who read this post. Leave your comments below.

Resources for Teaching in London

Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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