What I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Teaching at Newark’s KIPP Rise Academy

This is a guest post by Mark Joseph, a sixth-grade math teacher at KIPP Rise Academy in Newark, where he has taught for ten years. It was first published at Education Post.

I am currently in my 12th year of teaching. I spent my first two years in The Bronx at P.S. 211 and have spent these past 10 years in Newark at Rise Academy. What follows is a series of recommendations to myself—the first, what I thought teaching to be before I started teaching at Rise, and the second, what I realized teaching actually was after doing it for 10 years in Newark. I really wish I knew the second set of recommendations before I started. Still, I’m really glad I know them now.

JULY OF 2009. (HYPOTHETICALLY.)

Good luck, Mark. Year 1 at Rise. Wow.

You’re going to teach so many kids.

Here are some tips for the road ahead (in no particular order):

  1. The sooner the kids fall in love with you, the better.
  2. If kids make mistakes, the most important thing you can do is give them prescribed consequences.
  3. Don’t smile until Thanksgiving.
  4. You are in control. Remember, you are the adult and they are the kids.
  5. There is never a good reason for kids not to meet your expectation. No excuses.
  6. Kids should respect you because you are the teacher.
  7. If kids aren’t invested — that’s on them.
  8. Admitting that you don’t know something is a sign of weakness.
  9. You don’t need the help of other teachers to be amazing.
  10. Silence is a great indication that kids are thinking / learning.
  11. Ask for permission.
  12. Nothing is more important than respect.

Just think about how much you will know after years at Rise.

Or how many lives you will shape.

Or how much kindness you will share with others.

I can only imagine.

P.S. Your kids will change the world one day.

SCHOOL YEAR OF 2018-2019. (ACTUALLY.)

You’re lucky, Mark. Year 10 at Rise. Wow.

You’ve been taught by so many kids.

Here are some tips for the road ahead (in no particular order):

  1. The sooner you fall in love with the kids, the better.
  2. If kids make mistakes, the most important thing you can do is have shared conversations with them.
  3. Smile a lot, my dude. Like, as much as you can.
  4. Shared control is best. It’s OK to be a kid yourself sometimes. Also, kids are humans too.
  5. There are plenty of good reasons for kids not to meet your expectation. Context matters.
  6. You should earn the respect of kids by your actions and your relationships.
  7. If kids aren’t invested — that’s on you.
  8. Admitting that you don’t know something is a sign of strength.
  9. You can only be amazing through the help of other teachers.
  10. Discussions are great indications that kids are thinking/learning.
  11. Ask for forgiveness.
  12. Nothing is more important than respect. Well, except love. Love is the highest level.

Just think about how much you still don’t know after (almost) 10 years at Rise.

Or how many lives have shaped yours.

Or how much kindness you’ve received from others.

It’s unimaginable.

P.S. Your kids already do.

What do you think?

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