Putting the ‘public’ back into public school

Today was the first day back for teachers at my school, and the beginning of eight days of faculty collaborative work and curriculum preparation before the students return.  At the beginning of the day the main activity at the first full faculty meeting was meant to reflect on the school’s essential question for the year, “What is our impact?”,  in relationship to our work as a school. The activity asked us to work in small groups and to come up with a statement for the following two prompts:

What is my impact?
What is the school’s impact?

The most striking part of the discussion that followed was how much sharing of best practices there is in our school. In addition to weekly collaborative meetings, and a focus on sharing our work with each other, we have an active teacher’s center that invites educators from outside the school, as well as other community members, to come into our school and classrooms to observe our practice. We, as a faculty, see our impact as carrying on an ongoing conversation about what good teaching and learning might look like.

Our practice is public.

At the faculty meeting I sat next to a kindergarten teacher who had been invited to attend the meeting by one of my colleagues. This past summer my colleague and her guest began the same principal training program I have been part of for the last year. This was an opportunity for this teacher to observe a principal, at a different school, start the year with his faculty. During the small group activity she commented on the public nature of the culture in our school. She described how before the meeting she had been introduced to two different department heads and each of them had right away invited her to attend their department meetings later in the morning. Each of them had asked her to stop by to observe and give feedback on how they ran the meetings.

She then shared how she had been a teacher at her school for 20+ years, and in that time had observed one of her colleagues teach only on one occasion.

As the new school year begins I encourage all educators to open their doors and make it a priority to schedule time to share best practices with each other. Invite community members into your classrooms and hallways to see the good work that you do with students everyday. Do not let your critics in the wider community wonder what you do with students. Show them.

Seek feedback, ask questions, begin conversations. Put the ‘public’ back into your public school this year and make an impact on the national discourse of what good schooling looks like.

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