The methods one principal used to create a safe learning environment for her students.
Opening a new school in Brownsville, “one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in all of New York City,” may seem like a crazy idea to many, but Lopez knew that she could make a difference in the futures of the children who would attend her school. This book shows how she turned her dream into reality. The author readily admits the countless obstacles she faced during the first year. “Kids screamed at the top of their lungs or walked out of rooms in the middle of class; it felt like an asylum rather than a school,” she writes. “Every single day there was a fight….When they set fire to the bathroom, by burning toilet paper, I didn’t think it could get any more insane.” Despite the many challenges, however, Lopez continued to fight for her school and eventually received nationwide recognition for her efforts. Throughout the book, she walks readers through the steps she took, each fraught with stress and anxiety. She believed in each scholar and insisted each teacher develop a strong relationship with every child; she enforced discipline, but her office door was always open to anyone who needed to talk; she demanded respect among all members of the school, children and adults; and she made sure she and her peers understood the scholars’ backgrounds and the dangers they faced the minute they stepped back onto the street outside the school. The personal stories of many of the students show that it wasn’t always sunshine and roses, as Lopez describes some of the bleakest moments at the school. For anyone in education who thinks a student is beyond learning, Lopez’s story will prove them wrong.
The narrative demonstrates a clear progression from a woman’s dream for a model school to that reality, which has made a huge impact in its neighborhood and across the country.