The purpose of education is not to create an army of test-takers. The purpose of education is to help children flourish and fulfill their full potential. Our vision is to build a loving community and a creative educational environment where children can grow into creative, confident, critical thinkers; to become students who fall in love with learning, so they can lead great lives and pursue their own unique passions.
Education is when children learn...
Believe & Achieve helps students fill a "backpack of skills" with core content, social-emotional capabilities, and thinking tools to take with them wherever their learning continues.
Our Guiding Principles
Principle 1: We believe in our students.
Educational advocate Lisa Delpit writes that "the first step in returning to our sanity is to believe in our children." Research even shows that students are more likely to succeed when their teachers believe in them.
Principle 2: We create a safe environment built on trust, structure, and limits.
Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Children must know that they are safe before their brains are receptive to learning. When caring adults show love, build trust, and provide consistency through structure and limits, children can begin to embrace their own learning.
Principle 3: We build (trauma-informed) relationships.
Relationships are foundational for learning. And working with low-SES students demands that these relationships be trauma-informed. We provide professional development opportunities to all afterschool staff in positive discipline, restorative practices, and providing comfort to children who experience a high number of Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Principle 4: We teach with students' life experiences, interests, and strengths in mind.
It is impossible to teach a child whose universe of understanding is unknown to you. After building relationships with students, this knowledge of their lives, their experiences, their likes and dislikes, and their unique strengths can inform every aspect of the educational enrichment we provide. Strengths-based, culturally-relevant, and engaging educational opportunities empower students to embrace and direct their own education.
Principle 5: We gamify core content and encourage students to track their progress.
Why do Believe & Achieve students master core content like times-tables? Because we present learning opportunities as fun challenges and help students track their progress. One example is our Multiplication Ninjas project, in which students receive a new high-leveled "ninja belt" every time they master a set of times-tables. When students master all core times-tables, they are given their black belt and are presented with an award for becoming a "Multiplication Ninja."
Principle 6: We teach and model social-emotional skills like growth mindset, GRIT, and self-discipline.
Low-SES students often associate education with personal failure and view personal failure as a negative assessment of their own capabilities. Presenting these students with a new narrative in which learning is a process and intelligence is not a fixed attribute--but instead is one that can grow through effort and even failure--is essential for struggling students to embrace social-emotional skills that lead to success.
Principle 7: We help students of color develop the self-esteem needed to overcome systemic racism.
Students of color face rampant racism in their classrooms. These students must be given the ego-strength to recognize their own brilliance and overcome the negative effects of racism.
Principle 8: We provide the appropriate level of scaffolding.
Learning exists in the area between "too easy" and "too hard." Scaffolding is the best practice of presenting challenges to students that they are capable of accomplishing based on their current knowledge and capabilities, but which also stretch them--requiring effort and culminating in growth.
Principle 9: We teach with the brain in mind.
Would you hire a mechanic who doesn't know what goes on under the hood of your car?
Principle 10: We allow students to collaborate.
People learn together. Education does not exist outside of cultural context (Principle 4) and it doesn't happen in social isolation. Students need opportunities to collaboratively learn and grow.
Principle 11: We engage and support families/community.
Children do not learn and develop exclusively in schools. They learn and grow at home, in their neighborhoods, with their peers, within socio-political contexts, etc. The developmental psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, first presented an encompassing model to understand how we can support families and communities in ways that help children grow and learn.
Principle 12: We laugh together.
We once asked our friend and author, Jason Reynolds, how we can give hope to the children we work with. His answer: humor. Have fun and laugh together. We do.
Most Likely to Succeed