Learning The Art of Teacherly Love

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 12 2012

The Mastery Way of Excellence

My first experiences with my new school system have been nothing short of Excellent.  How could they be anything less?  It is, after all, Mastery Charter’s mantra; “Excellence.  No Excuses.”


As I dive head first, and whole-heartedly, into my new organization, I have begun to fall in love with the Mastery way of Life…  Contributing to an even firmer belief that I am here on purpose!


First, let’s talk about my first Master experience; Rewind all the back to March 4th when I thought I bombed my interview with my principal!  I left the room by explaining to him that I felt like I did not adequately answer his questions, and I had a lot of improving to do… Which is why I was incredibly surprised to receive the news that I had been given the position!
Fast forward to Day One of New Teacher Orientation:  My new boss picks me out at lunch and asks me how I’m doing.  I tell him the honest answer, “I’m coming fresh off of 6 weeks of Teach for America Institute, doing 12-14 hour days, eating awful Temple cafeteria food… I’m not feeling like I got enough of a break, or personal time off with the family, but… I am really excited to be here, and I’m loving every second.. I feel good about this, and incredibly nervous too.”  His answer, like his decision to hire me, also surprised me.  First of all, he had forgotten that I was even a TFA Corps member, because he “usually doesn’t hire them,” “they seem to be hit or miss,” but he continued to tell me that he feels he is a pretty good judge of character, and “you, Schwamburger, have the traits that I look for… It’s not always about content and teaching knowledge, it’s about the person, and I have a great feeling about you.”  Talk about a confidence boost!  But with that comes the acknowledgment that there are incredibly high standards and expectations for Mastery teachers and students, alike.


For example, The Mastery Core Values:

1. Student achievement above all.  2. We Serve.  3. Grit.  4. The High Road.  5. Joy and Humor! (my personal favorite!)  6. Straight Talk.  7. Open Doors.  8. Continuous Improvement.  9. One Team.


Throughout the week, every new colleague that I have met (especially those from my campus-Mann Elementary), all the Mastery central office coordinators, and the CEO and Founder (yes, I’ve met him! and he’s been there with us everyday!); we are all on the same page.  It is an incredible feeling to be surrounded by so many people with similar beliefs about education, similar big goals, and visible passion and drive.  Everyone is genuinely honest, happy to be a part of something that is making great strides in Philadelphia education, and so supportive and open to giving you whatever you need.  When they say “open doors,” it actually means everyone is here for you with their ears and hearts open, as well as their doors.  And “We serve” not only students and families, but Mastery is there to serve their teachers too!  (This became really evident looking at the benefits and retirement packages! Woah! Along with the classroom resources and we receive!)  And you might think that “Straight Talk” can come off as that East Coast bluntness that is often rude, but everyone is genuine and coming from a heart seeking “Continuous Improvement,” the honest feedback is given with love, and I truly feel like we are all “One Team.”


My Special Education administrator… WOW!  She is incredible.  Always smiling, willing to listen, and so kind.  I know she will be mentoring and coaching me constantly this year.  She will be by my side through it all, and I can’t complain, she’s a great role model.


Not only do I have my administrator, my principal, and my fellow teachers to pick me up when I fall flat on my face, but all Mastery new teachers have an Instructional Coach, too!  I found this greatly comforting seeing as how I have had some form of a coach for the past 20 years of my life (good ones, and not so good ones, thanks to that crazy sport of gymnastics).  My coach… she’s hilarious (There’s that “Joy and Humor” value!).  A former TFA corps member, and so knowledgable.  I foresee a great Coach-Teacher relationship in my future.


Mastery has high expectations, yes.  As do I.  But they practice what they preach.  They act on what they believe.  And from the top down, they embody each of the core values.  I like to think they are modeling for their teachers what they want us to do for our students.  The core values are not just things that look nice posted on our walls, but goals and ways of Mastery Life that we seek to embody.


To add even more to my love of Mastery… Mastery schools are covered with signs containing inspirational quotes from great leaders and thinkers; Ghandi, Maya Angelou, Vince Lombardi, Winston Churchill… I love quotes!  I can’t get enough of them!  I will probably appreciate having those visual reminders on those especially tough days… Thanks Mastery!  Always thinking, and seeking to inspire the students and their teachers!


I have no doubt my Mastery family will be “Mann-tastic!” :)



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Dare to Teach with Love… Never cease to Learn.

Greater Philadelphia
Elementary School
Special Education

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