I wrote two more pieces for Gotham Schools on starting Harvest in the past week. With both, I really wanted to capture the real sense of humility we have for our work.
The first, “Harvest Collegiate: A Small School Where Nothing’s New,” talks about the many schools from which Harvest draws inspiration:
When I meet educators from across the country and tell them about my new school, they ask one question more than any other: “What is new and innovative about Harvest?” I am increasingly comfortable and proud of the following answer: absolutely nothing.
Or, perhaps, Isaac Newton’s line is most apt: “If [we] have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
At Harvest Collegiate High School, we are taking the best elements of many other schools. We are a traditional school, but our tradition is one of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Ted Sizer, and Deborah Meier, educators with a decidedly nontraditional outlook. We are taking the lessons our staff learned while working at wonderful schools in New York City and elsewhere — including East Side Community High School, Humanities Prep, The Met, Bronx Lab School, the Academy for Young Writers, and The Facing History School — as well as inspiration from other members of the Coalition of Essential Schools, particularly Urban Academy, the Parker School, and Wildwood School.
The second, “An Embarrassment of Riches” which has got a ton of comments already, talks about many of the unearned structural advantages Harvest has over other schools:
The Harvest Collegiate High School that I helped to open in September is the result of an inspirational plan written by a brilliant principal, deep and thoughtful work and planning by a team of passionate and experienced educators, and the incredible courses imagined by our teachers. Our school can be proud about these accomplishments.
But Harvest is also equipped with a number of advantages, some born of current school politics and others of luck, that will give us a huge leg up on other schools in New York City.
First, we have our founding staff. While immense time and thought was put into recruitment and interviewing, Harvest had something going for it that few schools do: the opportunity to start something new. Our staff shares a wonderful mix of experienced teachers looking to implement the lessons of decades of teaching and school design with novice teachers with unbridled enthusiasm and visions for what is possible. Without exception, every teacher we have is a rock star in the classroom, or well on his or her way to being one. We have expertise in curriculum development, assessment design, and pedagogy in every discipline. We have former department chairs, professional developers, and published authors. We are also incredibly diverse in terms of age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and home background — in fact, we’re the most diverse of any staff I’ve been part of.
Please read and let me know what you think of them over at Gotham Schools.