I was recently given the opportunity to read the book Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work In Any School written by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia. Eva and Arin are the founders of the Success Academies, charter schools located in New York that have been featured in the documentary films Waiting for Superman and The Lottery. The Success Academies have accomplished what pretty much no one else has done in the area of education reform. The students of Success Academies, who are chosen by lottery from mostly low-income neighborhoods, have outscored their public school counterparts every single year on standardized tests. In fact, they don’t just pass the tests, they usually score in the top percentiles. In Mission Possible, Moskowitz and Lavinia explain what makes the Success Academies so, well, successful.
One of the main differences between a public school and the Success Academies is their focus. While public schools focus on students and their achievements, Success Academies focus on supporting teachers. The Success Academies believe that inspired, educated, and well-trained teachers are at the core of a successful education. Teachers in Success Academies are given daily feedback, weekly in-services and the encouragement they need to become great teachers. While teacher morale is low in public schools, the Success Academy turns away hundreds of teacher applicants every year. Teachers are flocking to teach at the academies because they value and respect them as professionals.
Why is it that teachers are flocking to teach in schools that value them as professionals? And why in this country do we treat teachers so differently than we do other professionals? I have a law degree and while I get a lot of ribbing about being a lawyer, most people highly respect my degree. My husband is a high school teacher. While most people he meets seem to respect him, the words and actions of the public and our government leave us doubting if there is any respect at all for his profession.
Teachers are treated differently than other professionals because everyone, at some point in their lives, went to school and interacted with a teacher. Going to court is not a normal daily occurrence so what a practicing lawyer does on a daily basis is somewhat of a mystery. In fact, I would guess that the closest people come to a lawyer is watching TV. Unlike an esteemed lawyer or judge, everyone has seen first hand what a teacher does. We’ve had good teachers and bad teachers and we know the difference between the two. Certainly, if we taught, we’d be one of the good ones! Teaching seems to be a stress-free, undemanding job. Teachers go in around 8:00 AM, teach well behaved kids for a few hours, have lunch, teach some more, and go home at 3:00 PM. And they only do it for 9 months a year!
The experience for the teacher, of course, is the total opposite. Prior to starting the day, the teacher has prepared lesson plans so that he can teach the material effectively. He teaches the same subject material to thirty or more different students at varying degrees of understanding. In the midst of the lesson he must not only address questions about the material, but also handle disciplinary issues. He must act as counselor, confidant, record keeper, banker, secretary and yes, I’ll say it, baby-sitter. The day begins well before the first bell at 8:00 AM and ends long after. For many teachers, after school, evening, weekend, and even summer commitments are also part of the job.
The reason teachers are given so little respect by our society is because of the vast chasm between what society thinks a teacher does and what a teacher actually does. Anyone who can add thinks he can teach, but it has become so much more than that. Some days it is one teacher standing up to the students, parents, and administration with little support from anyone. It is a vicious cycle that desperately needs to be broken, which is exactly what the Success Academies are doing by encouraging and training great teachers.
Are you interested in education reform? You can touch base with Eva Moskowitz, a founder of Success Academies, on her Facebook page or via Twitter. Eva has also generously offered a copy of her book Mission Possible to one Growing Up Gabel reader! Just enter in the Rafflecopter below!
This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are 100% my own!