Students: Uno, dos, tres [clapping]…
Narrator: At the Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan playing hand games is part of an effort to teach language skills. Since 1960 Bank Street has been making classroom learning meaningful by connecting it with student-centered real-world experiences.
Costa-Garro: There's been a study by anthropologists and linguists trying to find how we can connect what is natural in language development with school. So what I'm trying to get the teachers to see that these hand games can be integrated into the curriculum.
Video: [students counting in foreign language along with hand game]
Snyder: In the graduate school, we've stood for something that's different in the world of teacher education. And as opposed to starting with, "Here's the content. Now open up your head and we'll just pour this in and we'll test you to see if you have it. It's a very different starting point to say, "Let's get an experience that you're really interested in that's going to open your own head." And that takes a real talented teacher.
Teacher: So how did you figure that out, Emanuel?
Emanuel: On my fingers.
Teacher: You counted with your fingers? Show me.
Narrator: Bank Street thinks talented teachers are developed by connecting with kids.
Teacher: What's that for?
Narrator: So they created laboratory schools within their teaching facility. The Family Center serves the Pre-K set.
Boy: We need all the pieces to make a building.
Teacher 3: We need all the pieces?
Narrator: And in the K-8 School for Children, student teachers work every day with master teachers by their side.
Teacher: So the first question is whether or not there's a beginning of the story?
Boy: The beginning was when the frogs were on the thing, or when the weasel was there...
Teacher: The weasel?
Boy: Like there's a weasel at the very, very beginning. That's when...
Teacher: Did I already skip the weasel?
Snyder: Really it's about engaging kids in experiences so that they say, "Hm, I wonder why that happened?" And then in the midst of answering that question, that's a real question based upon their real experience, they learn how to read, write, do arithmetic as well as how to think critically and to do research and to get along with others.
Teacher: Does anyone have something different that your group said?
Snyder: We try to do the same thing with our graduate students. The experiences we engage them in are teaching kids. And so they teach kids all day, and then they come and we say, "Okay. What happened? Why do you think that happened? What do you need to know to make that go better tomorrow?"
Teacher: All right, how do you think that went?
Student Teacher: I think that it actually went really well. I mean, we kind of had time constraints, but a lot of people wanted to contribute to the discussion, so.
Narrator: To prepare new teachers for work in challenging urban environments, Bank Street partners with schools like PS65, an under-resourced elementary school in the Bronx, that's now thriving with Bank Street graduate Tashon McKeithen at the helm.
McKeithan: One thing that I learned from my time at Bank Street is really just the relationships that you build with students, and the social/emotional aspect is really important. I think once you make those connections, everything sort of falls into place.
Liverpool: What shape is this one right here?
Girl: A circle.
Liverpool: A circle!
Narrator: Second year Bank Street student, Steve Liverpool landed a job teaching pre-kindergarten at PS65.
Liverpool: Out of these two objects, which one is a circle?
Narrator: While flying solo for the most part, and learning on the job, he relies on Bank Street faculty for continuing support.
Liverpool: Can you show me which one's a circle? Oh, does that look like a circle, Natasha? But that's close. A circle is round. Okay, thank you, Miss Betsy. Natasha looked a little deeper than what the actual object appears. What's on it! Very good. Mr. Liverpool was looking just at the content, totally.
I was so caught up and Miss Betsy, she knew where I was going, and totally just honed in on what she was saying, and I was like, "Oh, yeah, there it is, too." We want them to see outside of the box. Not just a regular a circle is a circle. It can be more than that.
What color is that, boys and girls?
I had each child take a turn to show me which of the objects was a circle. And then afterwards we broke, and went around the room, just walking with a partner to look for circles.
Brown-Franklyn: Okay, so they'll begin to see circles in everything that they do.
We want to support our students, so we stay with them for a year, and I work with them weekly in their classrooms. So I come and I meet with them, I observe what they're doing. I help them to think further and deeper around their work with kids. And I'm their cheerleader.
So we could really do a lot with that when we come back into the classroom. We can think about how we can go from circles to other shapes.
My role is to think, "Okay, so what are we doing next week? What are we doing next month? How is this related?" And so they go, "Oh, okay. Yeah, maybe we should connect the circles to the pumpkins to the apples, because we're going to go on an apple trip and we're still doing circles."
Liverpool: Anybody else needs help with their milk?
Brown-Franklyn: I think Bank Street realized that if you want to place teachers in urban education, you have to do more than just educate them theoretically. You have to give them practical support. There's really no other way, I think, to be successful at keeping people in schools like these.
Teacher: So let's see if we can help each other balance.
Narrator: Bank Street encourages teachers to put their personal stamp on their classroom. For recent graduate, Kiera Morton, that means teaching first graders yoga.
Morton: Fly like a butterfly.
Class: Fly like a butterfly.
Morton: Sting like a bee.
Class: Sting like a bee.
Morton: One of my favorite courses was Music and Movement, obviously. I really felt that it was that class that I was able to start thinking, "Hey, I can actually do yoga in the classroom with my kids."
Sit nice and tall. Bring your hands on your belly. Breathe in.
Teacher: Trying to build a lesson plan around reading, but I have to motivate them to do this, and I also have to get them to start thinking about it. So you're going to take the stickies that are on the table, those Post-Its. And you are now going to go on a gallery walk out in the hall.
Narrator: At Bank Street, learning is a process of constructing meaning from personal experience. For new teachers and their future students, it is a demanding enterprise that goes beyond teaching to the test.
Snyder: It takes a great deal of confidence in yourself as a teacher, and a great deal of faith in children, that they're capable of learning what's on the test, when you're not telling them what the answer is on the test. Fortunately, we now have 90 years of history that says if you have a really talented teacher, a really expertly prepared and supported teacher, then the kids do better.
Liverpool: Okay, everyone can see Mr. Liverpool?
Liverpool: Yes, and I can see you, too.
Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to edutopia.org.