Having taught in 3 schools and attended 3 others (not including college or grad school), I’ve spent some time thinking about what my “ideal” school would look like. “Ideals” can be dangerous if they lead you to pine for what your current situation isn’t. On the other hand, imagining your ideal can be useful if it clarifies what’s important to you and gives you direction in asking questions in your current place. So here’s my list…
Trust and communication– Engages parents, students, teachers, and administrators in dialogue. School can’t be the community that I’d hope if parents simply drop their children off and pick them up. Parents should feel a responsibility to be involved in the life of a school. Equally important is the importance of teacher communication and dialogue with students. Administrators who trust teachers and communicate openly with them are also key.
Adequate funding– Finances sufficient to pay for building upkeep (although it wouldn’t need to be fancy) and staff. Support staff including counselor, nurse, learning specialist, and tech support.
Care for the world(s)– Invests in both the natural and digital worlds. I want curriculum adapted to students’ individual needs and learning styles using technology to accomplish this. Involvement in the digital world also gives students the opportunity to collaborate and learn about other citizens of the world. Care for the natural world in both the school’s design and in its day-to-day life is also important to me.
“Teachers” aren’t the only ones who teach– Expects that all adult employees (and let’s add students while we’re at it) will teach a class. Maybe it’d only be a one hour seminar once a semester, but I’m convinced that we can learn things from everyone at our schools. I think a lesson on dish washing would do some of our 6th graders good. All administrators should teach at least one class that meets all year long. Period. Almost invariably at schools where I’ve seen this done, administrators have greater empathy for teachers’ concerns.
Vision and flexibility- Narrates a story about itself and be prepared for the twists that story may hold in future. Everyone involved in the school should have a sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Accountability- Holds students accountable, but bases the accountability on skills, not grades or one-shot standardized testing. One of my colleagues noted that his daughter’s preschool checklist gives him more information about her performance than any grade card he’s ever seen.
Mentoring program- Gives new teachers (both new to the school and education in general) procedural mentors and lets them choose philosophical mentors from a list of current teachers who are interested in doing this work. The program would offer benefits (either time or pay based) to teachers who are chosen as mentors.
Time for planning and reflection– Builds in preparation and reflection time for all. I have one less planning period than I did last year. I really miss that extra 45 minutes. Even so, compared to many teachers, I have generous planning time, and compared to students, I have an abundance of planning time. Students, as well as teachers need time to reflect and plan in order to use the time in which they have most effectively.
Time for rest- Balances times of activity with time for rest. I miss kindergarten nap time. Don’t tell but sometimes during my 8th period planning time I turn off the lights, go back to our reading corner, and lay down for a few minutes. When I was in middle school, we often had time for meditation, rest, or reading.
Walking from home– Is close to my house. I’d like to be able walk to school from home. I currently live about 25 minutes from school. I find commuting stressful (more so on some days than others). I wish my home/community life was more integrated with my school life.
A chalkboard– Has at least one, since I like to kick it old school sometimes 🙂
That’s my list. I’m sure it will evolve as the years go by, but for now I feel strongly about everything that’s on it. What does your ideal school look like?