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Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America Paperback – January 20, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Many people in the United States believe that low-income children can no more be expected to do well in school than ballerinas can be counted on to excel in football, begins Washington Post education reporter Mathews (Escalante: The Best Teacher in America). He delves into the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and follows the enterprise's founders, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, from their days as young educators in the Teach for America program to heading one of the country's most controversial education programs running today. Luckily for many low-income children, Feinberg and Levin believed that with proper mentors, student incentives and unrestrained enthusiasm on the part of the teachers, some of the country's poorest children could surpass the expectations of most inner-city public schools. Mathews emphasizes Feinberg and Levin's personal stakes in the KIPP program, as they often found themselves becoming personally involved with the families of their students (in one case Feinberg took the TV away from a student's apartment because the student's mother insisted that she could not stop her child from watching it). Mathews innate ability to be at once observer and commentator makes this an insightful and enlightening book. (Jan.)
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"Mathews does a smart, respectable job here. Frankly elucidating the major struggles and roadblocks inherent in attempting to reform how underprivileged children are taught, he nonetheless leaves readers convinced of the truth in Levin’s idealistic statement on his Teach for America application: “an educator could change lives.” A grand example of humanitarianism in the classroom: Naysayers who believe there’s no hope for America’s inner-city schools haven’t met Feinberg and Levin."--Kirkus
“A vivid account of two young men who transform themselves from ‘terrible’ first-year teachers into visionaries.”–USA Today
"A lively account of the way two young guys with more passion than knowledge overcame bureaucratic and financial barriers, garnered knowledge from experienced teachers, and made those ideas and techniques core KIPP ideas. Mathews makes his book as entertaining as any novel by weaving personal and professional stories and by surrounding his two stars with interesting characters." ―World magazine
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This is that story. In Work Hard, Be Nice, a journalist tells the story of two Teach for America teachers, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, who were dissatisfied with the public schools in which they taught. They created a small program (not a school, but a program within a school) based on the methods of some of their mentors. Students had longer days, more homework, "thinking skills," class, etc. AS the program experienced overwhelming success, a program became a school, which became two schools, which became a charter, which became a nationally recognized name in charter schools.
As a teacher, I cannot reccomend this book highly enough. Not only does it tell a very inspiring story, but it also offers some great advice to teachers, as seeing KIPP's methods gives us clues on how to harness some of these methods in our schools. We see Feinberg, Levin, and the host of teachers who joined them, experiment with different methods of discipline, instruction and motivation and get to see what worked and did not.
I reccomend this book not only to teachers, but those concerned with the difference between how education is and how it can be. There is even a discussion towards the end of the book (after KIPP's story has been well told) about the merits and demerits of KIPP methods and whether such methods could work in any but a charter school. Thus, this book would appeal not only to teachers, but those concerned with education policy.
It may even restore some faith in the possibility of education!