Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spending part of the Day at KIPP NYC College Prep

One of the best forms of professional development is to seek out those that are doing the work exceptionally well and watch them in action.  This morning, I had the chance to do just that while visiting the KIPP NYC College Prep.
As expected, the intentionality of everything was readily apparent.  From the academic and social vocabulary decaled to the edges of the steps, to the KIPP profile sheet that accompanies every college application, real thought seems to go into all that they do.  True to their motto Ancora Imparo (I am still learning), they also believe that there is always improvement to be had.
So many things about KIPP resonated with me, among them:
  • A KIPP-to-College mini-course focused on preparing students for the realities of college life.  Today’s group discussion prompt was very real and brought me back to my own freshman year:
You and a group of freshman hall mates go to a party together and commit to coming home together.  Some in the group do not drink.  When you arrive at the party, an upperclassman tells them: in order to enter, you must do a shot.  What do you do?
  • Rarely (outside of BVP) have I met physical education teachers so enthusiastic about their program.  Their excitement was most palpable when they talked about the regular physical fitness exams that their students take three times per year.
  • Deans, counselors, and college advisors are all focused on ensuring that the school mission and goals are met.  From presence in the hallways to a masterful mediation between two “rivals,” the team executed with excellence.
  • Perhaps most importantly, academic engagement in classrooms was very real.  While I only was able to visit a few classes, the level of discourse in the rooms that I sat in on was very high. Overall there was a feeling of: teachers who love what they do leading to students who love being in school leading to teachers loving what they do.  There’s a recipe here that needs to be replicated!
With our high school opening in a but a few short months, I must confess that I covet KIPP being at scale.  As a large, fully-enrolled high school with more than 800 students, there are so many supports that can be afforded.  That said, the team reminded me (and one another) that it wasn’t always that way.  In describing the early years -- moving from building to building and working 12+ hour days -- many founders I spoke with appreciated where they had been but talked about how much more manageable the work is today.  With that in mind, I am thrilled to know that our founding high school team is coming together this weekend to get planning early!
Ultimately though, my visit today to KIPP was really personal for me.  Carlos Capellan, the Assistant Principal for Culture, was my host for the visit.  “Cap” in every way embodied everything that I want to be: connected, respected, loving, and loved (plus he’s tall and handsome).  He and I go back to my beginning in public education – he was one of my students during my first year as an eighth grade social studies teacher with Teach for America.  From that lens, know that all that is written above is through of lens of pride and joy.

Note: Carlos will be married on June 21, 2014.  I am honored to be asked to read at his wedding, though sad that I will miss the second annual BVP 5K.  (Okay, maybe relieved is more appropriate than sad…)

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