Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone joins Justin Reich to discuss fighting intergenerational poverty for inner-city children, the approach Harlem Children’s Zone is taking, and how you have to address the entire context of the child, not just their academics.
Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone joins Justin Reich to discuss fighting intergenerational poverty for inner-city children, the approach Harlem Children’s Zone is taking, and how you have to address the entire context of the child, not just their academics.
About Our Guest: Geoffrey Canada
Having worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone® for more than 30 years, Geoffrey Canada is renowned around the world for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, and as a thought leader and passionate advocate for education reform.
From 1990 to 2014, Mr. Canada served as the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Harlem Children’s Zone, which The New York Times called “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time.” In 2011, Mr. Canada was named to the TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world and, in March 2014, was named one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders in the world. As of July 1, 2014, Mr. Canada stepped down as CEO, handing the reins to COO Anne Williams-Isom. He continues to serve as President of the HCZ and Promise Academy Boards, and a board member of the XQ Institute.
Additional Resources for Teachers and other Listeners
https://hcz.org/ - Learn more about the Harlem Children’s Zone
https://xqsuperschool.org/ - Learn more about the XQ Institute
https://youtu.be/vY2l2xfDBcE - Geoffrey Canada on TED
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Becoming a More Equitable Educator: Mindsets and Practices
Produced by Aimee Corrigan and Garrett Beazley
Edited by Kate Ellis
Recorded and Mixed by Garrett Beazley
Filmed by Daymian Meija
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Justin Reich: Children in poverty-impacted neighborhoods are at risk of entering kindergarten at a distinct disadvantage from kids in the middle class. They may have less access to books and reading and other learning opportunities, and they're more likely to suffer from poor nutrition and exposure to violence. What does it take to put young people at the start of their lives on an equal footing with children from wealthier families? Enter Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, a 100-block radius in upper Manhattan designed to offer children everything they need to succeed in life, right from birth. This includes exceptional schooling, but so much more.
Geoffrey Canada: People look at our work and they say, "Wow, you're dealing with health care, and mental health care, and wow, that's great." No, that's just the floor of what our kids need if they're going to overcome all of the challenges that poverty presents children in this country.
Justin Reich: From the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT, this is TeachLab, a podcast about the art and craft of teaching. I'm Justin Reich. Today, the educator and change leader Geoffrey Canada. Canada's the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, which has been hailed as one of the most ambitious social policy experiments of our time. He's also a board member of XQ, an organization trying to transform public high schools so that every child succeeds. In 2011, Time listed Canada as one of the most influential people in the world. In 2014, he was named one of Fortune's 50 greatest leaders in the world. I was excited to talk to Canada about what it takes to fight generational poverty and why high quality schools are essential to that urgent challenge.
Justin Reich: Geoff, somewhere today in Harlem, there is a newborn baby who's going to come home for the first time and start his or her life in the 100 blocks of the Harlem Children's Zone. Can you tell us the story of what that kid's life is going to look like moving forward and all the ways the Harlem Children's Zone is going to touch that kid's upbringing?
Geoffrey Canada: So here's one of the most exciting things I think about our work over the last 20 years. Probably about 85% of the children between zero and three have gone to what we call Baby College. So we have this massive outreach looking for pregnant moms, moms with very young children, and getting them to come to our Baby College, because the science on brain development, especially between zero to three, it's so profound, the impact this has on that child's life and life trajectory, that we felt like we had to bring the best thinking and the best practice around brain development to our families in Harlem. And so we get those parents, they come to our Saturday classes, and we try to make sure that they start their lives knowing as much as any middle class family in America.
Justin Reich: And what's some of the key content in Baby College? What are those parents learning to help those kids get off to a great start?
Geoffrey Canada: Yes. We're trying to help parents understand that no matter what their education background, whether they've finished high school or even finished elementary school, they can be great teachers in their child's life. That that child needs to hear rich language, not just, "Pick up the piece of paper," but, it's, "a white piece of paper on the floor." You're trying just to make sure that child is hearing constantly sort of these verbal cues about their environments. Because kids intuitively learn that way, that singing to your child is important, that our playing along with that play, with that back and forth serve and response that parents do with their child, is actually rewiring that brain for language which that child will need for the rest of their life.
Geoffrey Canada: We try to make sure our parents know that they can't do negative things. You can't yell or curse or physically abuse a child, because it has a lasting impact on that brain, that we know is harmful to that child's development. So we're trying to give our parents all of the tips and tools. You know, one of the things, especially in African American families, parents were taught that good kids are quiet kids. Kids who don't talk back, kids who don't ask questions. Well, the science is all against that. We want kids who constantly question, who constantly want to express their ideas and their views to their parents, and so we're just trying to change some of these cultural traditions to ways that are going to be more beneficial to that child's growing up.
Justin Reich: So your kids graduate from Baby College and then how else does the Harlem Children's Zone engage these students as they go through school?
Geoffrey Canada: Well, we have a pre-K program, a four-hour, three and four year olds that starts at 8:00 in the morning and goes until 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening, and it's really designed to try to make up for some of the language acquisition deficits so many of our children face early on in life. You know, if you have a college education and your spouse has a college education, the kind of vocabulary you use, the kind of sentence structure, the kind of I think descriptions that you use are really quite different in its vividness and its richness from folks who don't have that background experience, and it impacts children in a very dramatic way when they just don't get as many words, and so I would go right from Baby College where we're working with parents around all of these kinds of good practices, into our four year old program, which we call Harlem Gems, which is really designed to make sure our children enter kindergarten prepared and on grade level.
Justin Reich: And then as kids go into schools, one of the features of the Harlem Children's Zone is that this kind of home support, this kind of reaching out to all the various needs of the kids is something that just continues through the next 12 years, as they're part of the Promise Academies that are in the Harlem Children's Zone. How do your schools and teachers think about meeting the needs of kids sort of in the classroom and beyond the classroom?
Geoffrey Canada: So here's one of the, I think, things about our work that most folks don't understand. So yes, we have this pipeline that starts with Baby College, goes to our Harlem Gem four year olds, and then we stay with kids throughout their elementary, middle, high school, and we get our kids into college and then through college. So we've got more than 950 kids in college right now, but only about 20% of those kids went to our charter schools. Most of our kids in the Harlem Children's Zone go to traditional public schools, and we work with them during the school day, after school, evenings, weekends, summertime, and we provide not only direct educational support, but we provide the arts, and the sports, and also the cultural supports that our kids need, engaging them in service in their community, teaching them about antiviolence strategies, trying to make sure that these kids grow up knowing that college is in their future.
Geoffrey Canada: So we believe in working with the whole child, and we find that so many places, people feel like they have to make a choice. "Do we focus on education or do we focus on the arts? Do we focus on making sure the kids are doing well in school, or are we thinking about creating great sports programs or civic programs for kids, nutrition, health, mental health?" We say you have to do all of that. Here's the rub. In middle class communities, in upper middle class communities, we do all of that for our children and we're still terrified that our kids might not make it into the right school, the right middle school, the right high school, the right college. In poor communities, we think those kids have to give up half of that stuff. They have to have poor mental health services. They have to have poor health services. So-so schools. Not really structured after school activities. No access to organized sports because they don't have money to pay for it, and we think they're going to be competitive with these other students. I mean, that simply does not compute.
Geoffrey Canada: We think you have to provide all of those services for kids, and it's not going to level the playing field completely, because still parents matter, and your parent having a college education has a huge advantage for children whose parents don't, but we think this is the minimum. This is the floor that poor children have to have, not the ceiling. People look at our work and they say, "Wow, you're dealing with health care, and mental health care, and wow, that's great." No, that's just the floor of what our kids need if they're going to overcome all of the challenges that poverty presents children in this country.
Justin Reich: Across your team, how do you think about the stakes of this work? What does equity mean for the different staff in the Harlem Children's Zone? Of all the different gaps that are out there, you're trying to close all of them. Are there some that seem sort of most important to you to be attentive to?
Geoffrey Canada: That's a great question, because people are going to be unsatisfied with my answer, which is no. They're all important. I mean, here's the one thing that I think we've learned, that all of these sorts of challenges folks face in their life really matter, and this is what I mean by that. So we were getting our kids through high school, and were getting them in college, but we had this huge obesity, sort of epic epidemic in our community. So we have kids who are becoming overweight at significant numbers and percentages, and we know, what does that do? It shortens your lifespan significantly. You're more likely to have heart attack, more likely to get cancer, more likely to have high blood pressure, more likely to have diabetes, more likely to ended up having parts of your body amputated, all because of poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
Geoffrey Canada: So here we're spending all of this time and energy trying to get our kids prepared for college so they could be successful, when we know if we don't deal with this health issue, 10 to 15 years of their life is going to be taken off because of these health reasons. So someone might say, "Well, how can you afford to do that?" And what we say, "How can you afford not to?" We want kids, if you really want equity, then we want our kids not only getting jobs and being able to take care of their family, but we want them to be as healthy as other folk growing up in this country.
Geoffrey Canada: And I'll give you a reason this has become so clear to me. At 67, I grew up in the South Bronx, and they have something that they call Old Timer's Day. They get a lot of the guys who grew up in the South Bronx ago, and the first Sunday in August, everybody goes to the playground, and we play those silly little games and it's really pathetic, stickball and other things, and most of us can't play anymore. Well, about five years ago I stopped going. There's nobody left alive that I grew up with.
Geoffrey Canada: The end result of poverty and what it does is not just lack of jobs and education, but you see huge numbers of poor folks dying at much earlier ages when you should be at the prime of your life, retirement age, things are going well. There's no one left around who was poor. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to have this full, comprehensive set of equitable outcomes that's not just around jobs and education and housing, but also around life expectancy, and them growing up in a community that values them for the long haul, not just their fourth grade reading scores, is something that we care about in the Zone.
Justin Reich: For the teachers in your school, both in the charter schools that you help to run and then the other schools in the Harlem Children's Zone, what do you see as their responsibilities related to all the kind of nonacademic goals you have? Or what role does the math teacher, the earth science teacher, the English teacher have in addressing all of the challenges that these kids have that impact their learning in those classrooms?
Geoffrey Canada: So here's one of, I think, the real challenges that our education system has failed to come to grips with. It is hard enough to teach a child who is two years behind academically the subject matter that you're there being paid to teach that child, let's say science or English language arts. If then I have to be a social worker and a nurse at the same time, maybe a housing specialist, because the child's a family is homeless, this is too much to ask of any educator. It's almost too much to ask them just to catch up the two years, much less to provide all of these other services and supports.
Geoffrey Canada: The failure of the education system is that we have not learned to partner with other institutions to help provide these services that all children need. I don't think the teacher can provide them. I don't think the school can provide them. I think the school has to be a place that brings in other resources so the student needs get met.
Geoffrey Canada: I'll give you a classic example of what really upsets me, and then this is one of the sad things going on in this country. There will be, within the next three or four weeks, some shooting in some school somewhere in America. This is now just part of what we've allowed to happen to our kids, and I think it's an outrage. After that happens, you will hear the leaders of that community come out and talk about how there will be counselors there for all of the students and all of the teachers, because we know how tragic incident was, and it's going to have an impact on these kids every day. In Chicago, in Detroit, in New York, in Minneapolis, there are kids who know folks who are being shot and killed, friends and peers, and they come to school and nothing happens. No one cares about their mental health. No one says, "Oh my goodness, this community is under shock." Maybe the kids go out and light some candles in someplace. That's the most response we have.
Geoffrey Canada: Why is it in some communities we think it's totally normal to provide kids with mental health supports if they've gone through trauma? With all we're learning about toxic stress and the trauma from advanced adverse childhood experiences, ACEs and all of that kind of stuff, why isn't this just normal, an everyday experience that we know all of our kids who suffer trauma need help and support, but it only happens in the more wealthy in the more affluent communities in this country? That's where schools have failed. We don't expect the schools to do it by themselves, but they have to figure out a way to partner with other folks to make sure these supports and services come into the schools where they're needed.
Justin Reich: Are there other schools in the country that you feel like have done a great job adopting some of these lessons, adopting parts of these models? Are there places that you're looking to and going, "Oh, we've got to keep track of what's happening in that neighborhood or in that school, because they're doing some things that we could really learn from"?
Geoffrey Canada: I have seen places around the country that I'm really excited about. In fact, I'll be going out to Minneapolis. They have a North Side Achievement Zone out there. They're really working to make sure you bring these comprehensive supports in school. I was in Salt Lake City, Utah two weeks ago and was watching the work that the United Way is doing out there with their schools, where they're bringing in these supports and services to schools. They're just a number. You have the community in schools movement across this country where they're really trying to bring services and supports into schools, so I think that we're making some progress, but it has been haphazard. It has not been fully supported either with the resources necessary to scale this or to bring in the quality that we need to bring into these schools.
Geoffrey Canada: So we've got some good examples, but we don't need 50. We need 1,000 of these really great examples happening around this country, and we've got to start a movement to really bring in these more comprehensive supports into school, which is not, by the way, suggesting that that's the answer to kids failing academic subject areas. And I just want to be clear about that. Some people think, "Well, the kids are failing in this school, so what they need is comprehensive supports." But if there's not quality teaching and instruction going on in that school, you can bring all the quality support you want. It's not going to improve the academic outcomes. This is that we have to do both of those. We have to focus on the quality teaching, but at the same time bring in comprehensive support for kids who need them.
Justin Reich: And that's this notion that it's not about getting one or two new things right. It's really trying to get everything right. It's trying to sort of wake up every day and be like, kids are complex people. They have lots of different needs. They have academic, social, civic, we have all these goals for them and we need to be working on each of them in order for our students to thrive.
Justin Reich: In terms of that academic support, so I was looking at the Harlem Children's Zone website, and looking at some job descriptions for some people that you're hiring, and I wanted to read one of them to you and just have you sort of reflect on, what in this job description do you think is sort of cuing people about what Harlem Children's Zone thinks good teaching and learning is? Because it seemed like a great opportunity to me.
Justin Reich: So, "We're seeking a cosmetology teaching artist with expertise and an understanding of how to adapt a cosmetology curriculum to an afterschool setting. The ideal candidate will be able to teach students to present, they'll expose students to available technologies and programming through a designed curriculum, through a series of projects designed by students. The cosmetology teaching artist must be able to motivate and maintain the interest of students while setting a positive example, and take a sincere, active and appropriate interest in the wellbeing and success of all students."
Justin Reich: What are some of the words or sort of cues in there that tell us something about what you all think good teaching and learning looks like?
Geoffrey Canada: Well, I think there's this real focus on meeting student needs, right? That you have to understand that these students are your number one sort of customer, and they have their own needs. And hearing this, I'm thinking, I don't know this for a fact because I haven't spoken to the staff about this particular job, but I'm saying I'm almost sure our students said, we asked the kids, "What do you want to be? What are you interested in?" I'm sure a number of students says cosmetology, probably without knowing an awful lot about it, but they've heard about it, and so finding someone who could bring this to life for them, not saying, "Well, therefore you're going to go and become a professional in this arena," but, "Here's an area that you care about." There's probably all kinds of vocabulary and science and all kinds of good stuff kids are going to learn after school about that. Some may very well take it as a career trajectory and continue moving on with that.
Geoffrey Canada: But the key is finding someone who is passionate, not only about the knowledge, but passionate about children, and passionate about the children's wants and desires being key to how they're going to approach this class. And I think that's what great, great teaching and instruction really is. You are passionate, but you're passionate about bringing that knowledge forward, but doing so in a way that's helping kids make sense out of their universe, which is what I think a great education is all about.
Justin Reich: When you're visiting schools in the Harlem Children's Zone, what are some of the things that you're looking for in classrooms that are indicative to you that teachers are really meeting the needs of individual students? What are the things that sort of distinguish the classrooms where you walk in and go, "Okay, I'm pretty sure that there's some pretty powerful learning that's happening in here"?
Geoffrey Canada: It's interesting, because I would love to say that all subjects being taught in schools are equally exciting, but that is simply not true, right? There's some kids who are really excited about math and some kids who really don't like math, and the same for science, and the arts, and other things. A great teacher brings excitement to an area for all students. I know a lot of kids tell me, "No, I'm not good at math." A great math teacher will convince you that you actually are good at math, that you actually can understand very complicated information.
Geoffrey Canada: So when I walk into a classroom, the first thing I'm looking at is student engagement. Are the students engaged or are they sleeping? Are they paying attention? Is it the first kids in the front row are really into it, and then as you go further to the back, you see less and less interest? And you're looking at how this teacher responds to students. Do they call only on the kids whose hand shoots up immediately when the teacher asks a question, or are they looking to see which kids are figuring things out and giving those kids an opportunity to say, "Oh yeah, I think I understand," and get that hand up, and call on a kid who doesn't get to speak that often.
Geoffrey Canada: I really love when I find kids who are answering questions, are getting the questions partially right, but not being afraid. When the teacher says, "Well, part of that's right, but here's another one. Keep thinking about this," and it doesn't shut down the response of kids. You know, so many times you're taught that it's an all or none. "I'm right or I'm wrong." And if you're wrong, you feel deflated. You probably don't want to raise your hand again. How teachers engage students so that they realize that this is an iterative process, we're both learning. We're both trying to figure things out, and it's okay to be wrong. That's not like a demerit all of a sudden, or you fail. That's part of learning, to me, is what great teaching looks like, and when I see that kid who struggled and didn't get it all right, but their hand is up again because, "Okay, I think I got it this time," that's when you know that teacher is a master teacher and that's a great class.
Justin Reich: When part of what you're seeing is kids sort of leaning into that struggle, knowing that it's safe to make mistakes and knowing that the teacher is being attentive to what they're saying and helping them say, "Okay, here's some of the thinking that you're doing that's like how a mathematician thinks," or "like how a historian thinks," and, "here's some of the thinking that you're doing that we want to cultivate and build on and change and grow," and helping people see those pieces.
Geoffrey Canada: You know, so much of classroom instruction, we forget kids are supposed to be learning. To be learning, it means they don't know, right? And if you're punished if you don't know, if you feel bad because you don't know, then it's going to really inhibit learning. And I think that folks who really embrace this, that this is a learning environment, and most of learning is admitting, "I don't know something and I'm trying to get better at it," that's what we really want to see young people doing. When you think learning is simply, "I know the answer and I'm regurgitating it to the teacher so I look so smart," that works for some folks. It doesn't work for most of the kids who come from struggling backgrounds who need that constant feedback that says, "Great, keep trying. It's okay that you didn't get it the first time. Don't give up."
Justin Reich: You know, it's funny, we've just started classes here at MIT the last couple weeks, and we have kids from all kinds of backgrounds, but I was telling them a story from my own college experience where I was taking a class, and about three classes into it, I went to the professor and said, "I really think I don't understand maybe every third word that you're saying. I'm really struggling here." And he just said, "That is so great. I'm so glad you're here. If you knew all of this stuff, we wouldn't need you to take this class, but stick with it and we're going to get it together." So I've been telling my undergraduates at MIT a similar kind of message, of sticking with it and keep putting your hand up, and keep jumping in as you understand things or as you don't.
Justin Reich: What does professional learning for teachers in Harlem schools or in the Harlem Children's Zone or in the afterschool programs look like as people are entering the profession, as they're sticking with the profession? What are some of the themes that you all come back to year after year in helping teachers become better teachers?
Geoffrey Canada: So this is such a fascinating area because I tell people, and I honestly believe this, that teaching, when you're teaching for a living, it's one of the most complicated and difficult jobs that you can do. I mean, there are these sort of unknowns. There's not a teacher who walks in that classroom in the morning who knows what they're going to face, right? Because you've got a bunch of kids who've had a bunch of different experiences, some good, some bad, some of that's going to be helpful, some that's going to be unhelpful. And that's every single day you go to work. And what we have done is essentially trained teachers to a minimum threshold, put them in those classrooms, and say, "We'll see you in two months. We'll do an in service training. Hope everything goes well."
Justin Reich: That's what the educational system in general has done. We give people a minimum BA and we send them in there and say, "You know, there will be a lecture on project based learning a month from now. Good luck."
Geoffrey Canada: Look, I started my career teaching. I was all excited. In high school, I went to my class. The principal said, "You know, Geoff, go get 'em." I didn't see the person again for six months, and there I was not even knowing if I was doing a good job, right? Because there was no one there. I tell folk, if I'm correct, that teaching is as complicated and as difficult as I think it is, and no other profession ... You wouldn't do this in law. You would never get your first year law student and give them the toughest case and say, "Go to court. Figure it out. Do the best you can do, and then come see me afterwards." You would never, ever go and be a medical doctor and just like, "Yeah, I know you don't know it all, but just go in there, try and figure it out." In education, that's what we've done and we've done it poorly.
Geoffrey Canada: So when you say, "What's the difference?" Once a week we're meeting with our teachers, and we're going over the best practice. We're going in, we're using video, so people can actually ... Because you think you're doing something you're not doing, right? We're all subject to believing, "Oh yeah, I had the whole class engaged." Meanwhile people are like, "No, you saw those four kids over there." And when you say to the person, "No, no, no, it wasn't true." The video doesn't lie. You actually get the chance to say, "Oh, really. They really weren't paying attention. Isn't that true?" So it's a way of us just helping folks grow in this business. So much of teaching, the critique of teaching, people feel like is negative. "You're saying I'm not very good or I did that wrong."
Geoffrey Canada: What we're trying to say to folks, this is a lifelong sort of effort of learning. There is no doctor who thinks, "I finally got it all. I don't need to learn one more thing," right? "I've mastered all of medicine." I mean, this is foolish. Every day, every week there's new science coming out that folks have to know. So it is in education, and we're trying to make sure on a regular basis we're showing and exposing our teachers to the best, but we're also going to other places. We're going to look for folks who are doing it better than us. Let's go check it out and see what they're doing. And you come back with your team, you say, "Okay, what did we learn from that experience?"
Geoffrey Canada: Look, folks, there's no a sort of a real educational advantage to pretending you know it all or you can do it all. It's just simply not true. All of us have to continue to learn, and there's somebody out there who can help all of us figure out how to do it better. We're trying to make sure we're giving our teachers as much support on a regular weekly basis, but also exposing them to folks who are doing something really different, and getting even better results. We think that that's going to be the way our practice is going to go for as long as we run schools.
Justin Reich: In the Harlem Children's Zone, what does the next level of work for you all look like? As you think about the sort of organizational institutional challenges of the next few years, what are the things that you're trying to get better at? What are the things that you're trying to refine? What are the challenges that you've encountered that just are harder than even you expected, or things that are more important that have surprised you?
Geoffrey Canada: You know, folks are really becoming more comfortable with this cradle to career perspective on youth development and educational supports. We're now sort of looking at, "How do we improve our college retention, our college graduation?" But also, "How do we then connect those kids to the labor market?" Because here's again, you keep thinking, "Okay, we figured this out." You come home with a college degree, it's good, but there's no parent ... I've got three kids who are going through college. There's none of us who thought, "Oh yeah, you came through with your college degree. It's good." We all continue to help our kids get connected to the labor market. We call our friends, our colleagues, folks we know. "Do you know of any jobs?" Our kids have nobody to help with that at all. They don't have people who will write the references for them, who will make a call for them. So we started thinking more and more about, "How do we connect kids to the labor market in a real way, so that we finish this pipeline without kids having a successful job and earning a decent living?" So that's one area.
Geoffrey Canada: We're also spending a lot more time talking to other communities around the country that's interested in doing this work. I think the evidence is becoming clearer and clearer that place matters, that there are some places that have so many challenges that kids have to overcome, on that it makes it almost impossible for them to reach their full potential. It doesn't mean some kids don't get out and go on with their life. It just means most kids in those places don't reach their full potential, and we've got to change that, and we think this approach of working in a place and trying to provide comprehensive supports to kids, as well as their families, as well as the neighborhoods and communities they live in is one of the keys if we're going to really reverse generational poverty in this country.
Justin Reich: Well, we started talking about Baby College and then we've made it all the way to entering the labor market. So we've got this sort of full, you call it cradle to college, but now maybe it's sort of cradle of workforce, cradle to civics approach. If there are teachers and school leaders who are listening to this, maybe these are the people that you're talking to as you're visiting other places and saying, "Our community hasn't started much of this, but this is really our direction we should go." Do you have thoughts about what's the right sort of first step that a teacher or a school leader can take towards this journey? What's the right place to start this work?
Geoffrey Canada: I mean, this is again, it's a terrific question. When I began teaching, there just weren't a lot of places that you could go to see folks who have actually done it right and say, "Wow, let's go check this out and see what they've actually done." There obviously wasn't a lot written about it. There were some folks who were writing about it, but mostly they were writing about the challenges, right? Jonathan Kozol and some of the others, really saying, "Hey, there's something going on and it's really different in these places and in these other places." Now there are folks who have actively gone out and actually tackle these issues with some success. It's not just the work that we've done here at the Harlem Children's Zone or the other charter school networks, or KIPP Academy, Achievement First, some of those places, but there's a lot of writing right now that's going on that you can go online and find out some of what matters.
Geoffrey Canada: If folks are interested, XQ has just a whole library of supports for folks who are interested in high school, that you can just go online, find access to this stuff, find the best thinking in the country in one place. You began to see more and more inflammation online about great teaching. Some of this stuff at Khan Academy and others are like, "Hey, let's just make this available." So today I will say to teachers and administrators, there's no excuse not to know what's going on. Back in the old days, we would have to at least wait for the magazine to come out or go to the library and research something, and try ... Now, just pick up your phone and search for the best practice out there, and you will find tons of information that will help you become a better educator.
Geoffrey Canada: And I think that the most important thing to know is that none of us have this thing perfectly. None of us have it all figured out. We're still in the early science of trying to figure out how to scale educational success for poor children, right? That's still part of the science we're working on. We're a lot better than we used to be, but we still got a long way to go, and so all of us need to constantly be thinking about, "How do I improve my practice? Who else is doing it better? Where can I go see something? Where's there a video or something on YouTube, or someone who's teaching this subject area that might be doing it better than me?" If we do that, our practice will absolutely improve.
Justin Reich: I couldn't agree more. Geoffrey, this has been a fabulous conversation. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
Geoffrey Canada: It's absolutely been my pleasure and thank you for hosting me.
Justin Reich: That was Jeffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone and a board member of XQ, which is dedicated to transforming public high schools so that every child succeeds. Canada is the author of two books, Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America, and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.
Justin Reich: You've been listening to TeachLab from the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT. I'm Justin Reich. You can learn more about Geoffrey Canada, the Harlem Children's Zone, and XQ Resources at our website, teachlabpodcast.com. That's teachlabpodcast.com. There you'll find lots of stuff including links to our upcoming free online course on edX called Becoming a More Equitable Educator. We hope you will join us. You can also check out our YouTube channel, Teaching Systems Lab, where you'll find the full video interview from this episode and even more video content from our online courses. All of our work is licensed under Creative Commons and we encourage you to use it and share.
Justin Reich: This episode was produced by Amy Corrigan and Garrett Beazley. It was edited by Kate Ellis, recorded and mixed by Garrett Beazley, and filmed by Damien Mejia. Thanks for listening.