Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Recommendation: Work Hard. Be Nice.

Image from
Book: Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America 
Author: Jay Mathews
Copyright: 2009
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Type: Teacher Reads - to inspire educators of all kind
Where to get it: Your local library, Powells or Amazon (you can get used or new)
More information on the book and the KIPP:
I read this book over a year ago, but it has had a lasting affect on my views towards children that come from low-income and disadvantaged living situations. Today, there is much talk about the "achievement gap." Sadly, students of color and/or that come from low-income areas often perform less than their counterparts. This is a controversial issue but it is one that must be dealt with so that all students can have equal opportunities to learn and be successful. Jay Mathews describes how Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin took a stab at this issue by creating their own unique charter schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Creating these charter schools came with challenges and struggles, but they have positively touched many lives as a result. These schools provide underserved communities with education that prepares students for college. According to the KIPP website, more than 83 percent of the KIPP students have gone to college; students that may have not had opportunity without such good quality education.

This book helped me understand the problems that these students face and what it takes on the educator's side to solve this massive injustice. Depending on your area in the education field, you will take away various aspects from this book. A principal may read this book and see an overall way to improve his/her school. A teacher or teacher candidate, like me, may be learn how to communicate and motivate struggling students.

This story in the book made an impression on me, "Kenneth McGregor, at his previous school, had been like many bright children. He had been considered a problem, not an asset. He sensed the fear and hostility and reacted negatively, exacerbating the cycle of bad behavior... He got by on little work, which led him to lose respect for the routine of going to school each day, which made him misbehave more" (p.245). Sound like anyone you know? Unfortunately, I have met many Kenneth's in my day.

However, when given the opportunity to grow, these types of students blossom. They become bright and vivid, just as they should and deserve to be: "It took Kenneth some time to grow accustomed to his change of circumstances at KIPP. Eventually he realized that the hard work he was getting at KIPP was not another annoying school chore but a sign of respect. These people, as irksome as they were with their demands and tough talk, cared about him, just as his mother did when she tied him up with all the rules" (p. 245). Yes, when students are respected, cared for and have boundaries -- they shine. There may be stormy days but these students internalize that they have a purpose. This my hope for all children.

I encourage anyone in the education field to read this book and those concerned about America's students.

Happy Reading!

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