Jamaal Henry: The Power of Culture

by KIPP Houston on Aug 26, 2015

in Teacher Tips

We’ve now sent our first two founding classes’ home for the summer, taken a quick breather, and began to ask ourselves the critical questions, “How well did we do and can we do it better, and smarter?” One thing that I’ve realized after having the responsibility to set up a college-bound culture of high expectations is that it’s not simple, and you can’t do it alone. At KIPP Northeast College Preparatory, we believe our students will go to and through college if they are exhibit GREAT character values - Gratitude, Responsibility, Excellence, Ambition and Tenacity. Each decision that we make is anchored in the belief that 100% of our students will be college-bound and college-ready by teaching them to apply each of these values to their academic and personal lives.


We build an environment of thankfulness by creating lessons during advisory to help students build positive relationships with their peers and teachers. As students go off to college, they will need strong interrelationship skills to complete group projects, as well as to connect with counselors, advisors, and professors for their support.  We create opportunities throughout the year for students and teachers to shout out each other as a way of saying that I appreciate you for what you do in public meetings, in classes, as well as mail boxes set up in their advisories, making the community feel appreciated and connected.


College is all about responsibility. It is the first time in students’ lives can’t easily call mom or dad when something is not going well. In college, time management is essential. We give students independent work times and projects, requiring prioritization of time. Beyond being responsible for school work, our Northeast Gators must also be responsible for their own actions and choices, building self-control and independence.


Our students are constantly given opportunities to discuss their grades and how to make them better. They are taught to do what it takes to get into the most competitive colleges. At our campus, students track their GPAs and behavior and then align them to the colleges of their choice. They then create an action plan to reach the required level of excellence for these colleges, holding themselves accountable to reach that bar.


We tell our students they have to set and articulate goals! They post them around the classroom and on their locker walls. Our students track their progress by revisiting these goals daily or weekly, allowing them to stay focused.


It is important that our students understand and analyze the background of a problem and then have the persistence to find the best solution in the most difficult situations. Whether they are unsuccessful on an exam or have an argument with a friend, we push them to think of their approach to the situation. Once they assess it, don’t let go!

These values anchor our classrooms, school, and community, driving us towards the ultimate goal for each of our students—college acceptance, success, and completion.