(The letter below has been sent to all teachers confirmed to teach this summer. If you are a confirmed teacher and did not receive this e-mail, let your director know!)
Dear Breakthrough Teacher,
Work hard. Teach with joy. Accept nothing but excellence.
First things first. Breakthrough pushes bright students academically to put them on a path to college. Breakthrough does that with relentlessly rigorous academics and thoughtful, serious mentoring from committed high school and college students from great schools. In the most basic terms, you’re preparing your students to excel in the same great schools that you’re attending.
Why do our students need Breakthrough? Because study after study has shown that smarts and ambition don’t automatically equal educational success, that bright kids who don’t get the support they need in 7th grade (challenging classes, thoughtful extra-curriculars, and tutoring for trouble areas) aren’t going to qualify for the honors-track classes in 9th grade. We help students bridge that gap.
At the same time, it is a fact that young adolescents need older adolescents to mentor and guide them to be all that they can be. This is a part of their development. Your students this summer will listen to you, they will want to emulate your success, they will want to go to your fabulous high schools and colleges simply because you tell them that is where they belong. You may be the first person to ever articulate this to them. You probably will never truly learn how important you will become in their young lives, and in the development of their understanding of the world. Breakthrough is as much about mentoring young students to become leaders as it is about academic excellence and building skills so students may enter and thrive in the best schools in this country. When all is said and done, this is a program about relationships.
That is what we do, and why Breakthrough was founded (as Summerbridge) 30 years ago. It’s also why we’ve since grown to 34 sites in 29 cities. It’s actually very simple. Now for your part:
Work hard. Teach with joy. Accept nothing but excellence.
MORE INFO AFTER THE JUMP
Now, some brief and important items:
1. Breaking it Down: The Basics of Teaching
We understand that we’re asking you to spend the summer performing a job that is incredibly difficult even for the professionals who spend years in training and practice. That being the case, it is essential that you take advantage of every opportunity for training and professional development. You will have professional teachers on staff to support you, and you need to demand their time. They are busy, and you will need to advocate for yourself. They do have great knowledge, and they will be your lifeline this summer. Never ever feel like you’re reinventing the wheel. Lean on your mentors, returning teachers, directors, and me, here at National. The odds are that someone has already asked and answered that burning question that’s keeping you up at night.
To complement the consistent observations and trainings you will receive from your Mentors, Breakthrough has created Breaking it Down: The Basics of Teaching. This guidebook is just that: the basics. It will not replace your Orientation Week, the materials sent by your director, or the day-in, day-out support of your Mentor Teachers, but it will give you a good baseline understanding of the psychological and pedagogical needs of your students, as well as a lot of tools to help you get through the summer. You may have received this from your director already, but you can always download Breaking it Down from the “Teacher Resources” page of http://TeachBreakthroughs.org. Reading through this will be a big help as you approach your summer.
http://TeachBreakthroughs.org, the Breakthrough Teacher Blog, was started last summer to allow teachers from across the country to connect with each other, share their experiences, and stay engaged with the national network. If you check it out now, you can see that during the school year, the emphasis is on education policy issues. During the summer, however, TeachBreakthroughs is full of notes and dispatches from teachers across the country. While any Breakthrough teacher is able to send something to post whenever they like, I will be selecting a handful of dedicated featured bloggers to regularly share their thoughts and feelings. Be sure to check out the archives and the “Teacher Updates” category for last summer’s features. If you are interested in this opportunity, you can let me know on the Pre-Summer Teacher Survey. You can be sure to stay up on the comings and goings of the blog by subscribing to updates. Just click to http://tinyurl.com/459e4w, enter your e-mail address, and receive updates whenever something is posted. You can also subscribe in an RSS feed reader (like Google Reader) at your leisure.
3. Pre-Summer Teacher Survey
We are an organization that never rests, and one that is always trying to get better, faster, and stronger. To that end, we look to you all to let us know what we’re doing right and what we can do better. For the first time, we are piloting a “Pre-Summer Teacher Survey” that you will be asked to complete. We will be asking about your first impressions of Breakthrough, the application process, your plans and intentions, and about how you can stay involved with the network (including through the blog). It will be brief (maybe 15 minutes?), but we do ask that all of you complete it in a timely manner. You will receive an e-mail from Surveymonkey.com containing the next steps shortly. Please do take the time to share your feedback. The teachers to follow you will be thankful. There will be a corollary survey at the end of the summer, but you can worry about that later.
Finally, I want you to recognize that you are now a part of a national network, and your membership will last far beyond this summer. You can always count on Breakthrough as a friend and a resource. Know that we care about serving you, just as you are serving your students.
We measure our success on the strength of your experience, and the way that you translate that into real change as you move through your education and career. We are just at the start of a process to develop the tools that can ensure your success and leadership past your summer, and we look to you to let us know what you need.
You will hear from me and others here at Breakthrough as the summer goes on, and I ask that you take opportunities here and there to stop, step back, and reflect on what it is that we’re doing here. We’re changing lives, we’re laying the foundations for transforming communities, and we’re making Breakthroughs happen.
I am always a resource to you and your needs, and you should never hesitate to share your triumphs and challenges with me.
(SF-University ’03, SF-Day School ’04)