Early Birds: In Conversation with Teachers Ashley Barnett and Joanna Mobley
Harlem Academy has an extended school day running from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm, which allows flexibility to accommodate working parents and ensures students have a safe place to maximize their learning each day. We recently sat down with the two passionate teachers responsible for opening Harlem Academy bright and early every school day.
You both arrive at the school before 7:00 am every morning. What does HA look like that early?
Mobley: I like to get here when it’s calm, and I can ease into the day. I appreciate the opportunity to greet students and chat with each of them. I open the door, shake their hands with a greeting, and check in about anything they have going on.
Barnett: I’m here at 6:30 am and I love it. It’s really early for most people, but for me, the mornings are a chance to greet all the parents and develop a personal connection with the families of students I teach. Hopefully, we get those handshakes right before Ms. Mobley gets them in middle school!
What makes Harlem Academy a unique place to teach?
Barnett: The ability to have autonomy in my teaching is very appealing. At Harlem Academy, we are given guidelines for teaching, but we have freedom to interpret curriculum. Instead of teaching to a test, I can focus on helping my students grow into better learners. That’s what I love about HA.
Mobley: I love the school pillars and how they are reinforced in and out of the classroom. It’s so important for a school to stress character development in addition to academic development. Everyone who works at Harlem Academy wants the best for our students and works hard to prepare them for success in the future. This doesn’t end at graduation. I like that HA continues to help our alumni thrive, because I have always done this informally with my students. After a student graduates, I still consider them my student. I truly care about what is happening in their lives.
What is your favorite thing to teach?
Barnett: Reading! I am a bookworm through and through. I want to instill the love of reading in my students so it never feels like a chore. I have worked on making sure that they like nonfiction, which sometimes intimidates younger readers. My students come to love the genre because we help them find great books and they see it as an opportunity to learn something new about the world.
Mobley: Obviously, the middle school math teacher loves teaching math, but the unit that is the most fun for everyone is probability. It allows you to dive into a new kind of problem solving and explore why things are more or less likely to occur. The students really respond to the real world applications in this unit.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Mobley: I approach every day with the idea that I need to figure out how each student is going to best learn the material. I have an initial plan and 2-3 back-ups, because each student has a different way they learn. I’m also very dedicated to supporting them outside of class. I tell students I am on call for them, just send me an email. If I am awake, I will answer it. And they know I wake up early!
Barnett: As a teacher, it is my responsibility to guide them on how to maneuver in this world, to question things that are not right, and solve the issues that affect them. I also believe that children should enjoy school. Children should come to school ready and eager to learn and leave feeling the same way. My mission is to create and nurture a caring and positive environment for my children.