As much as I miss the classroom, and as lucky as I was to work in exceptional schools, there are some things I don't miss. Teachers are often asked to spend their own money on supplies.(Although a local school board member recently claimed teachers NEVER spend their own money on their classroom supplies.) In many districts, teachers are asked to learn best practices or new methods of teaching on their own time and by using their own resources. While there is some money for professional development, many teachers receive little or no adequate training for much of their professional career.
It seems strange that our country would treat public school teachers so much differently than other professional careers. I'm not talking about "perks". We all know teachers get a lot of paid time off. We also know that business professionals get perks that teachers don't get. I'm not here to argue about how "good teachers have it." In many school districts, however, professional training and support is lacking. While most professions are given time and support for professional development, some districts require teachers to acquire those on their own time and at their own expense.
Recently, a charter school in New York began making strides to fix the problem poor teaching and learning. Success Academy, a charter school in Harlem, NY, rose to the top. Success Academy won both best charter school and one of the top schools in New York just three years after it opened. Now the founder of that school, Eva Moskowitz, has written a book, "Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School". Together with literacy specialist Arin Lavinia, Moskowitz shares how her school rose to the top.
The book shares some of the "secrets" to the Success Academy's success. It explains the school's reading program (THINK literacy) and writing program in detail. The book also shares interesting techniques that the school employs. They call their students "scholars". This isn't just a title they have given their students. They demand rigor in all teaching. Teaching happens at a fast and interesting pace. They fill classrooms with stacks of high-quality, rigorous books. Each of these things contribute to the success the school has experienced.
While the book details each of the techniques the school uses with their students, the majority of the book tells how Success Academy supports the adults- the teachers and the administrators. According to the book, teachers are given opportunities to grow every day on the job. Success Academy's message to teachers is that teachers should be supported like an athlete with a personal trainer. Teachers should feel "ripped off" if they don't have the support from administrators and other teacher leaders to get better.
Success Academy provides training to teachers not by sending them off to expensive professional development seminars, but by conducting fast and frequent reviews in the classroom. Teachers participate in study groups. In a study group, the teachers model lessons, practice lessons, and view lessons on video. These study groups take place during the school day while students are in special classes like science, art, or music or when school lets out early on Wednesdays. Even the principals spend time preparing lessons and units.They practice teaching the lessons in a leader study group before they coach their teachers through the lessons.
Success Academy has a goal to give their teachers time, training, and support. When teachers are provided adequate support, I believe they will not grow stagnant. They will continue to become better teachers, they will last longer in the field, and teacher morale will increase.
I was blessed to work in school's like who tried to give teachers time, training, and support. I had a principal at one school who spent a lot of time outside her office and inside our classrooms. I always knew she was there to support me, not to criticize me. I trained as a Reading Recovery teacher and wished that all teachers could experience the level of professional development that Reading Recovery teachers in my district received. In fact, after having adequate training, I WISHED I could go back and reteach the students I had taught before. I hope that law makers, school boards, administrators, parents, and teachers will study schools like Success Academy. I hope they will find the best practices and apply them to their schools so that all of our children can experience successful education.
I'm so excited to announce that I have the opportunity to give away one free copy of "Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in any School." by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia. Not only do you have a chance to win Eva Moskowitz's book, you can interact with her on twitter or on her facebook page!
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I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own