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What Matters Most in Piloting Urban Education Instruction

Kelsey Pardue  |  April 30, 2021
Having 98 schools that span nine states, National Heritage Academies (NHA) understands the importance of tailoring an instructional and emotional approach based on the environment.

Alvin Ward, Hamtramck Academy principal, shared, “It is imperative for the teaching and leadership style to incorporate strategies aimed at creating a school environment that is supportive, engaging, structured, and a place where students can be free from all negative environmental constraints.”

NHA leaders tackle the most immediate needs when delivering instruction in an urban setting.
  • Relationships matter. 
Ira Kleiman, Westfield Charter Academy principal, shared that to be an effective teacher or leader in an urban setting one must work to build positive relationships with students, believe that all students can learn at high levels, and have a strong desire/commitment to learn and grow in their role. “It requires perseverance, humor, humility, soliciting and taking feedback, and being a servant leader,” he said. 
  • Set expectations.

Kleiman advises teachers and leaders to not compromise expectations. “As my current mentor and DSQ, Aquan Grant says, ‘Don’t lower the bar. Provide supports so all students can meet or exceed it.’”

One NHA leader shared that urban leaders must be the owner of high expectations, the guardian of culture, and refuse to tolerate excuses, contrary behaviors, and low expectations. “As the leader, your expectations set the bar or the limit for your kids, team, and school. Educators and leaders in the urban space must understand where their students are coming from and what challenges they might be facing.”

  • Influence and inspire.

While at home, kids don’t necessarily hear how important it is for them to seek opportunities outside of the walls of secondary education. Deonna Washington, NHA director of school quality, shares that it’s important to give kids experiences so they understand there's a world outside of their environment.

  • Understand obstacles.

One NHA leader explained, “An effective school leader must be smarter and stronger than the obstacles students face. Knowing your kids and families, their passions, goals, challenges, and stories, is critical to serving as an educational leader in the community. The greatest levers within a school leader’s locus of control are expectations, hiring, coaching, instruction, and use of time. Time is a luxury many of our kids don’t have.”

  • Celebrate! 

In an urban setting, celebration is important as it inspires students to develop a sense of self-efficacy that they want to do well. “They want to do well for themselves, so celebrating them is crucial,” said Washington. “We have to celebrate wins across the board. Look at the progress, not just the outcome.”