I’m sensing an “education” theme on this blog as we’re in this back-to-school season. Today’s post fits right into the mix. If you’re an educator, school administrator, even a homeschool teacher like me, you’ll want to comment below to enter this giveaway and read “Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School.”
A couple of disclaimers: anything I say against America’s public schools is NOT at all meant to insult anyone who teaches there. I have the utmost respect for my teacher friends and know they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got — I could never accomplish all they do. The other disclaimer is that this is a compensated blog post, but all the opinions are my own and I’m glad I had the chance to read this book. I think you will be, too.
In a nutshell, the book is about how Eva Moskowitz created an amazing charter school system in NYC by addressing the problems of low teacher morale and underachieving students. And as the subtitle indicates, what worked there can work in any school — even our homeschool!
One problem I’ve heard my teacher friends share is that they often reach points of stagnation, where they feel that they’re unable to accomplish their job at the level they wish to because of limits placed on them by school administrators. And a lot of them are leaving the profession because they can’t fulfill the dream they had of changing children’s lives — which is usually one of the big motivators for deciding to become an educator to begin with.
Hearing first-hand accounts of this is one of the reasons we’ve opted to homeschool. Though our kids never went to public schools, aside from Eli attending a public-funded pre-K program, we found the same issues at the private school they went to for several years. I taught art at that school for a year, and also found myself frustrated by the lack of adequate supplies, having to buy things out-of-pocket to give the kids the art experience I wanted them to have, and facing an administrator whose focus was on profit, not supporting her staff.
It’s all just left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and a not-high opinion of school institutions in general.
That’s not to say I have a low opinion of teachers — quite the contrary — I think they are totally unsung heroes. I don’t begin to know why our country treats teaching with less respect than it does other professions. In other cultures, teachers are greatly respected for the important work they do. Here, it’s almost seen as a glorified babysitting job. Parents today never seem to want to acknowledge their or their child’s problems that contribute to negativity in our schools. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve become such a self-centered society, or what. But I know that teachers are up against some pretty serious obstacles in the path to successfully educating this nation’s children.
Mission Possible begins by discussing some of these problems, then shares the solutions they’ve found, and the impressive results. Kids in these Success Academies are called “scholars”, their teachers “professors”. They aren’t called first or second grade; their class name is the year that they will graduate — not from high school, but from college! They believe in making school a rigorous, fast-track experience, but one that is also magical, fun-filled and inspiring. There’s an hour and a half devoted daily to reading and also to writing — three full hours dedicated to developing these skills. What impressed me is that so little of that time is spent in teaching; most of it is encouraging kids to read and write creatively on their own — a process that I know we homeschooling moms also embrace.
They introduce complex science lessons in kindergarten, and encourage child-led discussions of what they’re learning. The overall mission is to raise the bar, increase the rigor, and they’ve found a method where the kids are actually inspired to reach these higher levels instead of being discouraged to even try.
That is one aspect that really hit home with me as a homeschooling mom. I, too, have caved into temptation to make things easier instead of setting the bar even higher. In my quest to make our homeschooling fun, I’ll admit — sometimes I’ve made things easier than they should be for my kids. We’ve had the problem of too many workbooks, and confusing repetition with rigor. This book helped me see that they are NOT the same and offers real solutions for how to make school challenging, yet always inspiring.
Click the link above for more information about this book, and if you’d like to win a copy, just leave a comment below and I’ll choose a name by random drawing one week from today, Friday, August 17th. You can also learn more by following Eva Moskowitz on Facebook and Twitter:
Kari Apted is a writer and speaker residing in Georgia with her husband, three sons, and an ever-changing menagerie of pets. She writes a humorous weekly parenting column for The Covington News and freelances for various publications.more»