I recently read Candace Hurley’s post, “Finding My Place at Bank Street,” about her experiences as a student in our Progressive Leadership Program, and found myself saying, “Yes! She’s really captured what’s unique about this place.” Like Candace, it took me a long time to find my way here. Sometimes a winding path is the right one—at least it was for me.
My perspective on Bank Street is as a former preschool teacher, school social worker, policy analyst, professor at another school, and current director of the Straus Center for Young Children & Families, a research center housed in the Graduate School. I was content as a professor at my other school—in a position I never dreamed I would be able to have. I had just been granted tenure and had some fantastic colleagues. More importantly, our family was settled, and we loved the city where we lived.
One day, an email appeared in my inbox. It was from Rima Shore, a now-retired Bank Street faculty member who I had never met but whose book, Rethinking the Brain, I had read when I was getting a master’s degree (that I never had imagined I would be capable of getting). She told me about the Straus Center and asked if I would be interested in applying to be its director. “No,” I thought. “Everything’s going fine for us, why would I mess with that?” But I had always had an inkling that Bank Street was a unique place.
Way back when, I had also read Lesley Koplow’s Unsmiling Faces: How Preschools Can Heal, which completely changed how I thought about teaching, and my mom had also given me her old Child Development Associate (CDA) modules, which were developed at Bank Street. (The CDA credential was a pathway for many, including my mom, to become Head Start teachers). Those modules were the best applied child development resource I had been exposed to. So, I responded to Rima with some questions, which led to a back and forth with her.
Long story short, the folks at Bank Street made a persuasive argument that it was worth taking a leap of faith. What I’ve found here are faculty colleagues who care deeply about the art and science of teaching—the whats, hows, and whys. They are skilled practitioners because they’re expert, reflective learners. Inquiry is built into how we do things, and we are always learning together.
Critically important, all aspects of Bank Street—its children’s programs, work with schools and districts, and graduate programs—are striving for justice. Of course, this is an imperfect work in progress, for we have 530 years of colonization to undo, but I’ve never been in a place that is so committed to creating schools, districts, and policy systems that are deeply nurturing to children, families, and educators.
While it has been more than 20 years since I read Rima’s and Lesley’s books, I now count myself lucky to work at a school that I wish I could’ve attended back then.