"Mommy Talk" is series of interviews between ESSENCE's own ChicBusyMom and everyday mothers doing extraordinary things. Meet Yasmeen Sampson, a school administrator and mother of two working to teach perserverance to all of the children in her life.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What do you do for a living?
YASMEEN SAMPSON: I am a school administrator. My current title is Chief Innovation Officer of a PK-8 school in Newark, NJ, which means I work alongside the School Principal to move the school to achieve high academic gains for students. On a daily basis, I observe and coach teachers, analyze student data, oversee discipline, meet with parents, plan innovative ways to approach transformation—oh and LOVE on students! While the work can be taxing, it’s beyond rewarding.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What made you go into education?
SAMPSON: When I graduated college, the job market was not on my side. At the time, I thought I wanted to work in the corporate world. A friend assisted me in obtaining a job with the New Jersey Parole Board. So, I ended up working at a prison. During this time, I worked with inmates to ensure that they had proper notification regarding their parole hearings. It was tragic to witness countless young men, mostly minority, having their potential ruined and wasting their lives in a jail cell. I quit after a year and applied to teach in Newark.
CHIC BUSY MOM:
How many children do you have?
SAMPSON: I have two sons; Shane is 5 and Avery is 3 years old.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What’s the biggest misconception that you’d like to dispel about the city of Newark?
SAMPSON: In terms of what I do as an educator, I find the biggest misconception in Newark to be that the parents "don’t care.” I am confident that I have heard this claim hundreds of times over the years. I think (unfortunately) it is easy to look at the children’s circumstances with a sort-of righteous judgment that the parents do not care, when looking from the outside in and with no connection to the parents’ perspective and/or struggles. We definitely do continue to struggle with parental involvement and students who enter school with very little foundational skills.
With all of our legitimate concerns, it is still not a matter of parents caring. What I find to more apparent is a clear, unconditional love that all parents have for their children. In too many cases, however, the parents are not equipped with the know-how of what that love can look like to better prepare a distressed generation for success. And so there continues to be mistrust between schools and parents that stifles students’ growth.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is the one thing you want most for the children who live there?
SAMPSON: Perseverance. With perseverance comes drive and fight and belief in self and better choices and endless possibilities. I try to drill efficacy into every conversation I have in school and with all children (even my own) because hard work matters. The truth is Newark is filled with students who come from two family homes, single family homes, foster homes, working families, welfare dependent families, success stories and dire tragedies. So, no matter what the circumstance, perseverance and efficacy works for all! If we can get all Newark students to have high expectations for themselves, and internalize what it means to persevere and work hard to meet those personal goals, we would have more success stories and less tragedies.
CHIC BUSY MOM: For parents who live in the city of Newark and want to have their children excel in education, can you provide three new programs that you’d like to spread the word about?
SAMPSON: I am going to say, get very familiar with the Common Core State Standards. The standards that all public schools in New Jersey are charged with meeting are rigorous. NJ will be moving from the New Jersey Assessment for Skills and Knowledge to the national PARC assessment next school year. I recommend reviewing the sample test items to get an understanding of what the expectation will be. In terms of math, briefly, the students are gaining a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and are being asked to explain their thinking (beyond just the correct answer).
The standards focus on fewer concepts within a year, so that students can gain that deep understanding. As you review math homework with your child, ask them; Why? Are you sure? How do you know? These questions will help to challenge their thinking and ensure that they can provide evidence of how they arrived a particular answer and why their answer is really correct.
Although, there are several anchor standards. In English Language Arts, we are focused on complex text and finding evidence. Here I say, PLEASE read with your children every day and ask them questions about the text. The best way to meet and exceed the challenge of the CCSS in ELA is be a fluent reader through practice.
Most schools have really invested in curricular and programming that will support the rigor of CCSS and parents are always encouraged to come in to learn more about what their child is learning so that they can support the new learning at home.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What challenges have you faced having two children and being a working mom?
SAMPSON: I used to think I would have difficulty making both children feel equally loved, but that is not actually as much of challenge as I expected, especially now that they are a little older. The biggest challenge I have is what I call “mommy guilt” from working late. My sons are both in school now, and registered for before and after care, due to my husband working in NYC and me and my late hours. I sometimes feel like my students get more of me than my children do. By the time we get home, we are usually all pretty exhausted.
CHIC BUSY MOM: Give us two mommy secrets/tips you can share?
SAMPSON: I have a preschooler and Kindergartner and at this age making a big deal about things gets them easily excited. So once I put effort in making the simple things sound awesome, I began to realize children really do not need much to make them genuinely happy. Video tape everything — the time flies and you’ll wonder where it went. Pictures are great, but videos offer so much more. Roll the tape at normal moments too! Not just events and holidays.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What do you do for ‘me time’ and ‘we time’?
SAMPSON: I have amazing girlfriends and we usually find time to get together over wine and “catch up.” It is important to keep women you trust close by. My closest friends help me thrive as a mom, wife and professional. However, when I need to just escape and have complete “me time,” I absolutely book spa days! The “we time” has gotten simpler over the years. We catch up on our DVR shows missed over the weeks with a drink or go out to city for a nice dinner. An honest woman told me early in my marriage, “Don’t forget about you.” I think that is so paramount. I learned that I can’t be all things to all people, but not without trying to do so and failing. Consequently, the idea that there is a commonality in women who try to be Superwoman, is how my good friend and I started My Time (currently in development w/ a scheduled launch for 2014), a company that will provide concierge services for women, in an effort to alleviate the things that keep us from enjoying the beauty of life.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is the last beauty product your bought?
SAMPSON: I bought an eye shadow compact from Nordstrom with directions for a “smoky eye.” I wear basic make up; gloss, mascara and occasional liner and blush. The smoky eye is for my date nights!
CHIC BUSY MOM: If you were a song, what would you be?
SAMPSON: I just did this exercise with 8th grade girls. We had a lot of fun finding our personal theme song. For me, my life is best summed up in “Life and Favor” by John P Kee and New Life, because God has been so good to me. This song is likely a theme song for many, it says; “You don’t know my story, You don’t know the things that I’ve come through…In all God has been faithful to me, He promised he would never leave me, My story proves that God can use me”
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is your guilty pleasure?
SAMPSON: Being lazy. I love lying in the bed under the covers and watching TV until I fall asleep. Actually, it helps if I can achieve this midday! So, I guess my guilty pleasure would be taking naps.
CHIC BUSY MOM: What are the top 5 things on your bucket list?
CHIC BUSY MOM: What is the one piece of advice you would impart on a mother sharing a similar journey?
SAMPSON: Be forgiving of yourself and get help! There is no usefulness in feeling guilty; many of us have to work. We are founding MY Time for that very reason. However, even if you choose not to elicit help from an organization, ask friends and relatives to pitch with babysitting and errands to keep yourself energized.