The Mission Hill Public School in Boston
"Mission Hill, which has an attendance rate of 96% and has suspended none of its students, is a place where everyone wants to be every day and no one gets sent home"
A year ago, filmmakers Tom and Amy Valens set out in search of a community of educators who refused to let the current national obsession with reading and math distract them from the equally vital mission of helping students learn to think; and act, empathetically.
In August 2011, their search ended at the front door of the Mission Hill School, and in the classrooms of veteran educators Ayla Gavins, Jenerra Williams, and Kathy Klunis-D'Andrea.
A public elementary school in a low-income neighborhood in Boston, Mission Hill demonstrates what's possible when adults commit to meet the full range of needs, intellectually, socially, and emotionally that children bring to school each day. Mission Hill, which has an attendance rate of 96% and has suspended none of its students, is a place where everyone wants to be every day and no one gets sent home.
Recently, I had the honor to spend a few days at Mission Hill. I learned about its history from Ayla, Jenerra, and Kathy. I saw the school through the cinematic lens of Tom and Amy. And I discovered that their story has great relevance for us all; indeed, that it contains the core ingredients of a transformational learning environment, and outlines the core habits of mind young people will need if they are to become active, responsible, and compassionate citizens in a democracy.
See for yourself, and please urge your friends and family to do the same.
Sam Chaltain is a DC-based writer and education activist. He works with schools, school districts, and public and private sector companies to help them create healthy, high-functioning learning environments. Previously, Sam was the National Director of the Forum for Education & Democracy, an education advocacy organization, and the founding director of the Five Freedoms Project, a national program that helps K-12 educators create more democratic learning communities. Sam spent five years at the First Amendment Center as the co-director of the First Amendment Schools program. He came to the Center from the public school system of New York City, where he taught high school English and History.