Stories and insights on excellent education.
A Day in the Life of Daniel Santos, followed on May 9, 2017.
Daniel Santos joined Success Academy in July 2016 as a Teacher Resident and was promoted to a Lead Teacher role within several months. He is currently a second grade teacher in the Bronx. At 25% of Bronx public schools, not even 1 in 10 students reads, writes, and does math on grade level. But at Mr. Santos’ school, 92% of scholars have these skills. Success Academy is changing this trajectory for the 14,000 students we serve across New York City.
Daniel is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton, where he majored in English. Outside of Success, he enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time with his family and friends.
Scholars won’t arrive for over an hour, but I leave my apartment early so that I can take my time getting prepared for the day. I don’t like to feel stressed or behind the ball before we even start school. Who needs coffee when you have a classroom full of kids?
To be honest, I felt overwhelmed when I first started. There were a million things I had to do each morning, but then I discovered that creating routines makes my life so much easier. Time management is a huge part of being successful here, and I learned that my colleagues and school leaders are here to help me get better at all of it.
The best part of my job is the children, building relationships with them and seeing how they grow from September to now. Getting a random hug from a kid lets you know you're doing something right. When my second grade scholars arrive, the day gets good.
When I was a Teacher Resident, my Lead Teacher told me she wanted me to prepare the math lesson for the next day, so that evening I went over everything. But, my lesson just went so badly. I had this perfect vision of how it would unfold and it didn’t work out that way. My Lead Teacher gave me in-the-moment feedback to get on track. At the end of the day when the kids left, we talked more about what went well – there wasn’t much – and about what I needed to do for the next day to improve. Everyone here embraces the idea that the only way you get better is by learning from mistakes.
Flexibility is key. In my first few months as a Teacher Resident, I taught in 3 different classrooms helping the Lead Teachers. You are going to do a lot more than what you are hired for because your team needs it and your kids need it. You need to just be open to try new things.
Sometimes you need to take a break from instruction to address behavior. Whenever possible, I try to do this one on one with my kids, so they really understand that it is important to be respectful of everyone in the room.
My kids take a lot of great classes — chess, science, art — and that was one of the things that drew me to Success. We mean it when we tell parents we focus on the whole child. Today, they have music.
I use my free period to meet with my colleagues to talk about the lessons from early today and what went well, what we need to focus on. As a team, we rely on data that documents our kids’ proficiencies in math and reading to ensure all our scholars are moving forward.
Lunch is quick, just leftovers from dinner last night. I take a few minutes to listen to some music and catch up on emails before I head outside with my kids.
Just like math or science, recess is a critical part of our day. It’s a great opportunity to get a little fresh air, exercise, and watch the kids socialize. Plus, I get to practice my hula hoop skills!
Instruction here is incredibly individualized and student-focused. Often I work with a small group of students who need help building up a specific skill. Someone who will do well here is someone who is self-reflective. Somebody who, when something goes wrong or when kids are not getting something steps back and says okay, “What did I do that was not effective?” or “What could I do differently?”
We read. A lot. My role is to help foster my scholars’ love of reading. Throughout the day, we do read alouds, independent reading, book shopping in our classroom library, guided reading, and reading workshops. It sounds like a lot because it is, but luckily I love to read. I'm a huge nerd in that way.
Building relationships with parents is critical and I like to grab a quick moment at dismissal to let them know how their kids did that day. We ask a lot from our parents — like getting here on time, ensuring homework is done, and returning our phone calls — because their investment is directly related to their scholar’s success.
At the end of my day, I do some reflection on what happened and, of course, some more prep for tomorrow like printing and studying scholar work to figure out what moves we need to make the next day.
On Fridays or after a really long day, my colleagues and I will go around the corner and just hang out over coffee or a beer. Our grade team has a really strong relationship with one another, which I think is essential. This is a tough job, but hands down, the best thing I’ve ever done.