Chapter 4 of A Year At Mission Hill gave me anxiety. As a teacher of ELLs (English-language learners), some of whom have significant special needs, I pictured myself trying to teach NYS and NYC Common Core curricula (test prep) to the group of special needs students profiled in this short chapter. One of my biggest challenges is trying to keep my cool in this climate of high stakes testing. The pressure to show progress – via test scores – of our SWDs (students with disabilities) and ELLs while simultaneously giving each student what he/she TRULY needs, both emotionally and academically, is very palpable. I spend most of each school day trying to loosen the knot in my stomach.
Mission Hill is a K-8 public school in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA (note: since filming, the school has relocated to Jamaica Plain). It is a full inclusion school, which means students with special learning and/or emotional needs are integrated into regular classrooms. As you will see, teachers and staff make it a priority to collaborate in investigating their students’ issues and in customizing action plans for them.
At the end of chapter 4, the narrator states, “Academics don’t exist in a vacuum. Yet a frequently held belief is that schools have to choose between children learning emotional literacy or learning to read a book. Schools like Mission Hill realize this is a false choice.”
After watching chapter 4 of A Year At Mission Hill, we urge you to write a letter to Bill Gates. How have corporate education reform policies impacted your ability to sufficiently teach emotional literacy to students with special needs? What toll has this taken on you as a teacher?
We look forward to reading your letters!
Katie Lapham, Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates