PS 119 The Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School participated in Next Jump’s Academy for Teachers. Below are some of their thoughts and takeaways from this event. You can read the original post on the school’s blog, maintained by Joan L. Giardina, Instructional Coach: Next Jump with Joy!
“When the student is ready, the dazzling teacher appears, and sometimes from unexpected places! My school, PS 119 The Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School, has recently had the fascinating opportunity to get to know and learn from a tech company called Next Jump. They’re a thriving, happy company with nearly 0% turnover, and are looking to “adopt” a NYC public school to provide resources and support aimed at building a school culture that fosters physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health (known as “PEMS”). It’s a practice they put into deeply committed play in their own organization. Teams from the four schools being considered for adoption visited their offices recently, and saw firsthand some of the rituals and practices that make up their culture, including an on-site gym for employees, lots of free healthy communal meals, “Talking Partners” who daily “meet, vent, [then get back to] work,” and Situational Workshops where employees get advice on how to handle sticky situations from experienced colleagues. Next Jump is committed to the idea of taking care of ourselves so we can take care of each other, and make a better world. Even if we are not the school selected for support, adopting many of these practices would answer a host of urgent needs at PS 119 The Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School, in the Bronx.
Don’t get me wrong-I love my school. How lucky I am to be a coach in such a strong neighborhood school, treasured by its community, led by an experienced, collaborative, truly awesome faculty. It’s a big, sprawling multi-site campus, but we really do unite to provide the best for our children. Though the staff and Bronx neighborhood have undergone the same seismic shifts as the rest of New York City over the decades, one thing has been constant: our long-standing tradition of excellence continues to be deeply responsive to the needs of this ever-changing, diverse community. And it’s a happy, safe place for children: growing up at P.S. 119 is marked by an array of joyful milestones and celebrations. In the words of our mission statement, we believe all children are special.
But, like any large organization with such a heady mission, we have a few serious stress fractures. Our teachers-many of whom are also parents-work so hard, and typically put themselves last. They’re exhausted, sometimes cranky, and often neglect their health. Direct, productive collegial communication can take a hit at times. There’s never enough time for professional planning and growth during the day. The children do not have all their health needs optimally met, either. We don’t have the staff to ensure they play outside every day. A few after school groups such as our basketball team are fabulous at beginning to address this, but we don’t have the funds for an after school program. Though we provide popular workshops during the day, our parents need even more guidance in making sure the kids eat well, sleep enough, exercise and play outside of school, and in supporting their kids’ academic growth. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or funds for an Adult Education program. Although we have a comprehensive positive behavior program in place, many of our students could benefit from more interpersonal skills and conflict resolution education and practice, but we lack the time and funds for classes and activities to address this. Even with our carefully chosen and planned instruction and extensive academic intervention, fewer than half our students-50% of whom are second language learners-meet state standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. We need more intervention, but we don’t have the time and funds for adequate tutoring.
As we brainstormed and prioritized our strengths and needs at the Next Jump offices, our essential need became crystal clear. The support from Next Jump, the one bit of culture that would most powerfully address just about all of these significant stress fractures, is the creation of an after school program based in PEMS for all. We would love NJ’s help with the founding of a kind of community campus with classes for teachers, parents and children, addressing the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of our beloved learning community. The guidance in networking, fundraising, structuring, and mentoring such an initiative would nurture our already strong school culture powerfully. We are grateful for the insights we are gaining, and will surely implement many whether or not we are “adopted.” As they say at Next Jump, a better me plus a better you means a better us, and together we can make a better world. And isn’t that what schools are all about?”