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Lessons for inside and outside the classroom


American Indian Public Charter School II in Oakland might be closing, despite its high achieving students. School administrators were found to have improperly used millions of dollars in school funds – and recently, its charter designation was revoked. 

It is unclear how this decision will affect the unique approach that has come to characterize classrooms in American Indian public schools, classrooms like David Chiu’s, where he insists that his students dream bigger than the classroom.

Chiu is a seventh grade teacher at the American Indian Charter School II. Right now he is reading notes from the Affirmation Jar, a big glass bowl where students put notes about things they appreciate about one another.

Chiu read one of these notes out loud to the class: “I wanted to say that I think Chun-yung was very brave to raise her hand and speak in English I know it must be hard for her and she is improving.”

Chiu uses these daily affirmations in order to teach the students confidence as well as appreciation for one another.

“I feel it is really critical to take some time to affirm that even thought they might not be performing well, they are still valuable as human begins,” says Chiu.

Not only does Chiu teach the enjoyment of learning, he also strongly believes that in order for his students to succeed in life, they have to do well not only in academics but also be sympathetic and kind to everyone that they come in contact with.

“So that’s a big part of my heart I think – academics is important but a huge part is just their literally personal development as people,” he says.

So Chiu has some of his students take on projects outside the classroom: one is writing a book; another is trying to create a wind turbine that uses solar and water; one student is even trying to crack the code on cancer

Chiu is one teacher who’s “just trying to bring it closer to them whatever it is – their dreams – to be something they could access today, giving them skill sets, helping them see themselves as potential world changers for the world.”

Moriah McKnight is a student reporter at Mills College in Oakland.