My first day on the job, I drove to work to a school that didn’t exist yet. I pulled into the building on Kent Avenue in Brooklyn, and about an hour later, the kids had arrived. Every second since, we have been creating a culture and a vision—we are showing kids what their future is going to be. You are going to go to college. You are going to work really hard and read a ton. You will have platinum teachers and be given their cell-phone numbers, and they will be behind you every step of the way.
I teach a literature and history class, and this year, I became the school’s interim principal. A lot of our teachers came out of Teach For America and are in their twenties. Lack of experience is a completely legitimate concern, but I do think that most of the great things going on in education are new. Fifteen years ago, there was a ton we didn’t know about how to run the best schools possible.
Our slogan at Achievement First is “Whatever it takes.” We work twelve-hour days, and everybody on staff understands that they have a lot to learn. I think the kids really connect with us. When I was in seventh grade, I remember trying to get as far away as possible from the chaperones at our dance. When we held a dance last year, the students just kept pulling teachers onto the dance floor. And one of us was D.J.-ing.