A School Administrator From Newark Goes Home With The Goal Of Making Classrooms Happy And Inviting

A School Administrator From Newark Goes Home With The Goal Of Making Classrooms Happy And Inviting

Islah Tauheed is continuing her family’s history with her eagerly awaited return to Newark schools.

The recent hire of the Newark native as vice principal of Avon Avenue Elementary School comes from a long line of teachers and supporters of the city’s public school system. Her career began at the now-closed Miller Street School, where her grandmother had attended in her early years. Tauheed’s mother worked as a special education teacher in the city for thirty years, while her grandmother went on to work in the school cafeteria.

As the head of the school, Tauheed is now concentrated on making the work atmosphere happy for employees and hospitable for recently arrived immigrant pupils. Additionally, she is giving K–3 students’ small-group literacy training top priority.

Tauheed was an English language arts teacher at P.S. 567 Linden Tree Elementary School in the Bronx when we last spoke with her. She left for Newark last summer and came back after twelve years. In a recent interview with Chalkbeat Newark, she said, “I thrived as an educator in New York City, but for every amazing thing I did, there was a voice in the back of my mind that said, ‘I wish I was doing this for my own community.'”

She collaborates closely with Kinyetta Bird, the Avon Elementary school’s first-year principal, in her new position. Being able to collaborate with someone with whom Tauheed closely identifies has particular significance for her, she says.

“Even in these brief few months, being a young Black woman leader and having her mentorship has been life-changing,” Tauheed stated of Bird. Feeling understood, validated, and affirmed boosts your confidence. We frequently discuss the need of representation for kids, but leaders also need to understand it.

Though I’ve been a school leader for three years, this is my first year in Newark. This year, a significant development at our school is the arrival of recently arrived students. For this group, which has historically been predominately African American, African, and Caribbean, there is a demographic transition. Our goal as a leadership team is to hire more employees that speak Spanish. Our committee on climate and culture developed a helpful strategy to help families feel less alone. Additionally, we’ve switched to a more inclusive model in which our ESL teachers provide support to new students beyond pull-out services. Our teachers are assisting our new pupils in arithmetic as well as other subject areas.

This year, we’re also making a less obvious effort to instill a culture of happy persistence at our school. This work needs to feel sustainable in light of the expectations placed on schooling. The COVID-19 pandemic and violent incidents have caused significant losses for our community. We made it a goal to strike a balance between having high standards for academic performance and showing mercy to the personnel, realizing that change is difficult. In our school, staff and student welfare are prioritized. For instance, on Wednesdays, when my principal hosts wellness events, our physical education instructor leads staff members in morning yoga. Students benefit from the staff’s concern for them.

In what ways is your team assisting younger pupils in improving their literacy abilities and reading levels?

My little students are occupied! We use daily small group practice with an emphasis on phonics and phonemic awareness to help the development and maintenance of those core reading abilities. I have 14 years of experience teaching early elementary school, so I know how difficult it can be for a classroom teacher to handle small groups on their own, especially with all the additional responsibilities.

To support my classroom instructors, I collaborate closely with my literacy coach, academic interventionists, resource teachers, and wonderful paraprofessionals. Every day, they help with small group instruction and push in during the reading block. Every day, three adults at the very least oversee small group work in my kindergarten through third grade courses. Everyone pitches in!

I claim that all of my instructors are action researchers and that teaching reading is rocket science. In order to be sensitive to students’ needs and modify training accordingly, we invest a great deal of effort in data analysis and progress tracking. There has been progress, particularly in the second grade, where 93% of the pupils now read at a higher level. It’s a lot of work, but it’s labor of love, and my team’s enthusiastic participation makes me incredibly pleased and appreciative.

When you’re not working, how do you look after yourself?

Finding a work-life balance has been a constant struggle for me since I started my studies, but The Nap Ministry has really helped me to see sleep as a revolution.

I look for comfortable places to rest as part of my sleep. Being in nature is incredibly calming for me, yet living in an urban area has challenges. Even on my busiest days, though, I’ll take a trip to a park and enjoy the fresh air as I sit by the river.

To many, this may seem like additional work, but I also enjoy to cook! Nonetheless, I like assembling meals. For me, cooking is a creative release. I always try to try new recipes and I have a subscription to NYT Cooking. Finally, I love to travel, as everyone who knows me well can attest. Take an aircraft to see me!

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