Slowing down in summer

20180601_073647.jpgAs a teacher, I used to look forward to summer vacation. As a principal, summer is precious work time. While I have a few weeks of vacation that I take here and there, I work for most of the summer. There’s a lot to do: supervising summer school, planning for the following year, hiring teachers.

There’s also a magic to summer school. While long-term planning for the year is intense, things also slow down. I have a tiny staff of 5 teachers and 3 support staff, and I get to work closely with them in a way that would be impossible during the school year with a much larger staff of 40 people.

The best part about summer school: some of the boys who struggled the most during the school year have transformed into fantastic students. Continue reading

I like you just the way you are

20170222_120237.jpgA friend was recently telling me about his experience when he was a child in the 5th grade.  “I used to get in trouble before the 5th grade.  But my 5th grade teacher, she liked me.  It was like, she never expected me to do anything bad.  So I didn’t.”

I recently saw the excellent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor about Fred Rogers and his children’s television program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  One of the extraordinary things about Mr. Rogers was his obvious, unconditional love of children.  Like millions of others, I watched his program as a young child and I remember him saying, “I like you just the way you are.”

I realized what an unusual idea it is to be “liked” just the way one is.   Continue reading

Graduating the boys

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My school, the High School of Language and Innovation, is a school for newcomer immigrant English Language Learners that was founded in 2011. We had our first graduating class in 2015. This week, we graduated our fourth class, the class of 2018.

As I listened to the students’ speeches at graduation, I was struck by how many of the students had experienced our intended vision for the school: “We learned to work together as a team in order to learn English,” “We got to make friends with people from diverse cultures.”

However, even as I enjoyed the graduation, something was on my mind: 90% of our girls graduated. 51% of our boys graduated.

Continue reading

You are truly Welcome

20180623_075134.jpgMy school is a school for newcomer immigrant English Language Learners.  With recent events at the Mexican border, I have been thinking about the parents of my students and their journeys in coming to the United States with their children.  This past week, I had the opportunity to speak with the father of Marcos. * Marcos is a student from Peru who came to the U.S. when he was in the 9th grade.

This past week, Marcos won an award for graduating seniors from the Bronx United Federation of Teachers.  Marcos and 30 other students each won a laptop, a wireless printer and a backpack full of supplies, all to set them up for success in their first year of college.  At the awards ceremony, I sat next to Marcos’s father and learned more about him. Continue reading

Contained Curiosity

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After-school drumming class.

A month ago, our school transformed at lunchtime.  Our noisy, boisterous cafeteria became almost quiet.  Half of the tables were empty.

It was the beginning of Ramadan and a large number of our students were fasting.  Some fasting students still chose to go to the cafeteria.  Many more stayed in classrooms supervised by teachers, away from the smell of food, playing chess, using computers, doing homework, or just sitting and chatting with one another.

About 40% of our students are Muslim.  Continue reading

Why do you want to work in this school?

20180608_064202.jpgMy school is in the process of interviewing prospective teachers for the next school year.  Last week I wrote about a question we ask prospective teachers about feedback.

There is another important question we ask at the end of each interview:

“Why do you want to work in this school?”

This question tells us a lot about a teacher’s commitment to teaching our population of newcomer English Language Learners, as well as how much they’ve researched our school and what they like about it.

I’ve recently been considering my answer to this question.  Why do I want to work in my school?  Continue reading