As usual, I was drinking my coffee and reading one morning when I came across this line by Rachel Adams, the parent of a child with Down syndrome:
"All children have the right to an education that enables them to develop, to the best of their ability, skills to interpret and interact critically with their environment. And no child's education should be foreclosed by low expectations about his capacity to learn."
I hope my expectations for Ellie are high. I hope my expectations for my students are high.
Education, as you know, is something near and dear to my heart. I want to teach at the highest level. I want Ellie to have teachers who teach at the highest level. I want to constantly improve my craft, just as I want my child to constantly learn more and learn to think more critically.
Naturally, when provided the opportunity to read and give away a copy of Mission Possible, I jumped at the chance. The book's subtitle "How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work at Any School," is an apt summary of the book. Focusing on improving teacher efficiency, teaching literacy, and providing rigorous lessons at a fast pace, the authors share the ways in which Success Academy Charter Schools in New York have prepared students for high-level learning and thinking. Specifically, Success Academies tend to work with students in urban areas, students without a lot of money, and students who are English Language Learners.
The schools have gotten results, and they do so by "focusing on the grown-ups." I agree with the premise that teacher stagnation does a disservice to students. If teachers are not teaching at the highest level and growing, students will learn from their example and settle for less. Conversely, adults who are constantly learning will provide positive examples to students.
While I've heard many times that teachers in this country aren't always treated as professionals (by media, etc.) I suppose I am lucky. I live in a very well-educated metro area. I have always been treated as a professional by people in my life. Perhaps living in an area that values education results in being surrounded by individuals who appreciate educators?
I believe that applying some of the principles in the book will make me a better educator and help me hone my teaching craft. High expectations, leading quality conversations, high-level writing models, and teaching my students how to dig into meaning in texts are important skills in education.
There was one line I should disclose to my readers, in which the authors state that to slow down learning is to "treat students as if they are intellectually impaired." For those who parent or teach students with intellectual disabilities, this line can sting. I believe it was written at face value, knowing that students with ID take longer to learn than their peers. Yet I hope people do not read this line as "treating students poorly." Yes, our kids take more time, but should still be held to rigorous expectations.
What do you think? Should we teach faster? Work adults harder? Make kids write more? Change the system? How do we achieve social justice in education?
One lucky reader will receive a copy of Mission Possible. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling me what you think about education in America. Please make sure I have a way to get in touch with you so I can mail your book. I'll take entries until August 8, and announce the winner shortly thereafter.
Fine print: Open to US residents over 18 only. I'm not responsible for computer malfunctions, El Derecho, the US Postal Service, or really much of anything at all. Entries close August 8, 2012 at 11:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Winner will be selected by random.org (or drawn from a hat, or something equally random.)
One entry per person. I was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.