On Tuesday, June 16, Next Jump visited PS 119. PS 119 is a K-5th grade elementary school in the South Bronx. Our team visited the school before and they also participated in our Academy for Teachers earlier in the month.
Here we were greeted by an auditorium full of parents, students and teachers. Talha introduced Next Jump to the crowd and Peter and Sarah gave a presentation on creating healthy cultures at work and at school.
Then, we divided into groups:
- Chris Weibel, one of our senior engineers, took grades 4-5 to a computer class
- Sarah, Peter, and Christen (co-founder of She’s The First) took Pre K-3rd graders to the gym for games and a movement class.
- Iulian and our team of interns took the parents to a break out session of what’s working/what’s not.
The feedback we received was great and the engagement of all present—parents, teachers, and students—was extraordinary. We left PS 119 energized and armed with a lot more knowledge about the public school system in general and about P.S. 119 in particular.
The next day, our interns got together into a Pros/Cons session for both schools with Priya commenting “I feel everyone we met was interested in bettering themselves and improving their respective communities.”
Here’s a more extensive note from one of our interns, Michelle Lee:
“When we first entered the auditorium, we learned that our audience was composed of parents who were there for the Next Jump presentation, but also parents that were rained out of a Father’s Day activity for 1st graders. Although this was the case and caused for slight disorganization, we saw engagement and attentiveness from all parents right off the bat, just by the way they were reacting to the principal’s introduction of Next Jump and our presentation (for example, when Sarah prompted the audience by asking “Raise your hand if…”, there was no hesitation to participate).
Our key takeaways:
- The kids were super excited for both activities, which was maybe to be expected, but it was great to see.
- During the breakout session, every parent would rave about the amazing faculty, BUT…
- The Common Theme: though maybe not said outright, it seems as though there is a lack of trust from parent to parent (especially for new parents who join the neighborhood), and also between parents and teachers.
- This is caused by cultural differences and language barriers, and the PTA needs support
- What They Want/Need: a potential afterschool program for the students and parents:
- For students, in the form of an enrichment program where they could do homework but also be exposed to art, music, physical ed, etc. in a safe space
- For parents, a way to get to know each other and work on gaining trust (maybe could have parent TP’s?)
- For both, finding a way to address the language barrier (through ESL classes, etc.)
- One teacher I spoke to, who also happens to be a parent, holds workshops for her student’s parents where she provides them with all the resources they need to help their kids in that class. I thought this was a great example of a strong connection between teachers and parents where the teacher can make her job easier while also giving the parents the ability to help their kids in the classroom and thus build a stronger bond with their kid as well.
- There were some rudimentary programs in place that have traces of NxJ philosophy in them: for example, Parent Corps, which is basically a series of workshops and classes to give parents the skills they need to use in the workplace but also with their kids – however, only ~10 parents in attendance (due to lack of resources but maybe also lack of awareness of the program and even time on the parents’ part). Regardless, it’s promising to see that they have some sort of a foundation that we could build upon.
- During the breakout session, the parents were very engaged; of course, there were some that were more outspoken than others, but everyone was at the least very invested in the conversation at hand. I could see that the parents love to talk, obviously and especially when it comes to the education and safety of their kids – we noted that even the breakout session was a great way to have parents vent and give feedback, and PS 119 saw the benefit of this and talked about having sessions like this every once in a while.
- In summary: Strong community exists, but could be stronger. The school is where this community could really grow, especially though an afterschool program for the kids and the parents. By having a stronger community, the parents and the school could be better equipped to address and actually fix problems.
Last, but not least, below is a note we wanted to share from the principal of PS 119, Lydia Tyner. Overall, these were two amazing days for all involved and we wanted to share our experience with you. These schools welcome us with open arms. They are need of such help and we are humbled at the opportunity to help them.
Thank you for your visit today. I appreciated the way you worked with our students and I was especially moved by the natural collaboration by the guest instructors and PS 119 faculty. I trusted you with our students and that says something beyond words. About twenty teachers came to the overview and they remained after the parents and students left for their activities ready to do the “what’s working, what’s not” session with me. I declined for lack of preparation and fear, which I shared with them and I am tossing around how I could do something of this in the ten days remaining before my retirement.
The parents were the stars. They are ready to move to another level. I kept thinking–good to great. They are ready to contribute to making things much better. I think this partnership could take us from good to great and that’s what the Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School craves. I will be leaving soon, but my commitment to the school is for life. I hope you will consider the magic of our third date and choose us. We will make you proud.”
To get more information about how PS 119 felt about our visit, read the blog post below, published by Joan L. Giardina, Instructional Coach: