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The Dream School You Didn't Think Existed

Watch the video and see for yourself: Boston's Mission Hill School isn't just creating students, it's shaping people.

By Sam Chaltain

Sam Chaltain is a veteran educator and two-time father who writes about how people learn at

May 29, 2012

A year ago, filmmakers Tom and Amy Valens set out in search of a community of educators who refused to let the current national obsession with reading and math distract them from the equally vital mission of helping students learn to think -- and act -- empathetically.

In August 2011, their search ended at the front door of the Mission Hill School, and in the classrooms of veteran educators Ayla Gavins, Jenerra Williams, and Kathy Klunis-D'Andrea.

A public elementary school in a low-income neighborhood in Boston, Mission Hill demonstrates what's possible when adults commit to meet the full range of needs -- intellectually, socially, and emotionally -- that children bring to school each day.  Mission Hill, which has an attendance rate of 96% and has suspended none of its students, is a place where everyone wants to be every day - and no one gets sent home.

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Recently, I had the honor to spend a few days at Mission Hill. I learned about its history from Ayla, Jenerra, and Kathy. I saw the school through the cinematic lens of Tom and Amy. And I discovered that their story has great relevance for us all -- indeed, that it contains the core ingredients of a transformational learning environment, and outlines the core habits of mind young people will need if they are to become active, responsible, and compassionate citizens in a democracy.

See for yourself, and please urge your friends and family to do the same.