A few years ago, I wrote a post, What qualities make for an ideal school or classroom? Lots of educational authors have written on this topic because they’re intrigued by the idea of what good schools look and feel like. Is it a relative question or does it have a discrete and verifiable answer? How would we know if we were in the presence of a great school? In addition to my post, I have included other sources that have explored different perspectives on the topic. By referencing them I am not endorsing any specific point of view. In fact, while some are interesting and innovative others present a vision or approach that is not as interesting.
- Education World
- Diana Ravitch
- Edutopia: from students’ voices
- Huffington Post: Jim McGuire
- The Telegraph
- The Guardian
- Los Angeles Times
Regardless of our experience with school, we all have some notion of what qualities go into making school an ideal place to learn. My image of good schools is closely tied to what teachers are saying and doing. As I read about this topic, there are a set of ideas that I keep coming back to or that resonate with me.
- Teachers appreciate that each child is a unique person
- Teachers actively seek ways to reach all children, teaching to the whole child
- Teachers strive to build a collaborative environment in which conversations flow in all directions
- Teachers are learners and grow professionally throughout their careers
- Teachers see themselves as helping students learn to “connect the dots” between important ideas
- Teachers work at making the learning environment a joyful place to be
- Teachers set high expectations but provide the scaffold for all students to reach their goals
- Teachers don’t just tell, they help students see themselves as “meaning makers”
- Teachers share the teaching with students and learn with them side-by-side
- Teachers help students move from dependence to independence
- Teachers create an environment that is safe for all learners
- Teachers use assessments as evidence for learning and windows into whether their teaching is effective
- Teachers model a collaborative culture by the way they interact with one another
Some people would agree with this set of ideas, while others would disagree with a subset of them. If you accept the premise that good schools are defined by the quality of their teachers, then this is certainly a beginning list of what good schools would look and feel like if we were in their presence.
Is this a particularly important idea to pursue? I think it is if we want to lead our schools from mediocre to good and finally to great. We need a vision and a blueprint for how to make the vision come alive. At the core, we have to work with teachers, helping them become the best professionals they can be.