(this is my 200th post! yay me!)
Over the years, various conversations have been held with different people about the things we’d love to see in a school that “has it’s act together”. My perfect school would include the following:
Physical Structure: I once worked in a building with a rotunda. Each of the six classrooms in my particular space had large windows that faced into the rotunda on one side of the room and equally large windows on the street side of each room. Anyone walking into the rotunda could see into each room. Light streamed from high above in the windowed dome. It took a while to get used to being on display all day, but one I learned to ignore people standing around in the “sitting room” that was in the rotunda area, I learned to love that space.
Teachers and Administrators: This same building had a principal with an Ed.D who had never taught a k-12 class in his life. He was the best principal I’ve ever worked for in my life. Why? Because he had no idea what we needed or desired, and had no problem asking us what we needed or desired. His strength lied in determining our strengths and exploiting them. So, in a couple of years with him, he’s had assembled a group of teachers who worked together like a well oiled machine, each one of us knowing our content area well, having the skills to lead or support where needed, and knowing just the right time to step in to save the day without having to be called. I want that in my perfect school.
Time frames: A colleague and I once sat down and mapped out a year long school schedule. Each session was 6 weeks long with 2 weeks off in between. we started with winter holiday to create this schedule as that is the one 2 week period most schools acknowledge without question. It worked. Each teacher would work 200 days out of 365 and each student 185 days. During the 2 week breaks, enrichment/remedial/tutorial sessions are available for students with teachers who choose to work those sessions. Sort of summer school split up during the school year. I’d love to see that happen.
The notion of a 6-7 hour day, though tiring as it is, is really not enough time in any given day for a teacher. An alternative to the 5 day week would be a 10 hour/4 day week for teachers with a 7 hour day for students, giving teachers time for PD, planning, collaborating, etc. without having to worry about a lot of before school/after school, take it all home with you concerns. Plus, 3 whole days to rest. We should get our lives back that way, right?
Student Population: In order to provide a nurturing environment for learning, no more than 300 students should be in a building. So in a k-6 building for instance, 2 classes per grade with no more than 20 – 25 students per class would be perfect.
Curriculum: There was a time in the vast history of education when teachers could simply teach their content area without having to sweat the data details. Yes, data is important at the classroom level, but above that, it stops being about the student and more about the teacher. With that in mind, curriculum will be structured for a student centered classroom where data collected is used to help students improve their learning. Beyond that, accountability for teachers can be determined in a more teacher centered way. (I never worry about these things personally, I’ve been working hard for 13 years to be just competent enough to avoid dismissal. just kidding)
Classrooms: Some chairs, some tables, some beanbags. A little color. Not too much over stimulation tho. Appropriate amount of technology. Enough of that crap for now.
Well, that’s it I think. The perfect, non existence school. What do you think?