Saturday, April 02, 2011

School Pride

I tend to be a critical thinker who is always looking for ways to make things better.  I believe that school systems like all organizations should continually evolve.  Sometimes though, it's just as important to sit back and think about what is working, so I'm going to take a moment and make a list of the amazing efforts currently in place at my school.

Sufficient Supplies: Our library, classroom libraries, and book room are filled with wonderful titles at every level.  We have two fully functioning computer labs, computer carts and computers in every classroom.  We have lots and lots of curriculum materials, informational books, and hands-on materials to teach lessons in a myriad of student-friendly ways.  All fourth and fifth grades have interactive white boards.  Our technology infrastructure allows us to utilize a wide variety of venues to strengthen student learning.

Amazing Playground:  We have a very large, grassy playground including a couple of wood-chip areas with play equipment. We also have a paved area for basketball, jumprope and other games.

Super Staff:  We have many, many committed teachers including classroom teachers, special educators, an art teacher, music teacher, physical education teacher, librarian, technology integration specialists, reading intervention teachers, guidance counselors, adaptive physical education teacher, occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, English language learners' facilitator, instrumental teachers, nurse, administrative assistants and a principal who collaborate to meet students' needs.

Caring Community:  The community supports our students and schools. Teachers receive a fair wage.  The PTO raises money and sponsors both educational and enrichment events for families and students.  There is a public schools foundation that also raises money for significant learning materials and enrichment events.  We have a school assembly almost every week to showcase student learning and foster the schools' core values.  Students regularly reach out to the larger community through public service work and fund raisers.

Professional Development:  Staff members are engaged in ongoing professional development throughout the year. New ideas are continually explored and implemented to better serve students.  This year's professional development includes social competency training, technology instruction and exploration, educational book groups, writing seminars, reading conferences, and response to intervention discussions and meetings.  One Wednesday a week is a short day for students leaving the late afternoon for teacher professional development.

Field Studies and Special Programs:  Each grade level plans a number of field studies and in-house special events to compliment curriculum units.

Communication:  Classroom teachers and/or students communicate regularly with parents.  Teachers report on student progress throughout the year including two parent conferences and two report cards.  The principal also regularly communicates with the community via a monthly school newsletter and as needed letters and eblasts.  The PTO also regularly communicates to families via the Internet, notices and a monthly community newsletter.

Signature Projects:  Grade levels have signature projects for which subjects are integrated under one umbrella theme and project type.  These projects foster student learning, pride and celebration.

Collaboration:  Teachers are given one 45-minute period a week to collaborate with colleagues using a PLC (professional learning community) model.  Teachers regularly collaborate outside of that time to plan grade level field studies, projects, and curriculum.

Summer Study:  Time is spent during the year planning summer professional development opportunities for teachers including the Wayland Literacy Institute which features a prominent U.S. educator.  Teachers are welcome to participate in these study sessions to build skill, and participate in the system's growth and development.

Before and After School Care:  Our school system offers families before and after school care at their child's school.  This is a fee based program with some scholarship money available.

Consistency:  Since our system provides teachers and students with an optimal environment for teaching and learning, there is little turnover.  Teachers and students usually stay from year to year.

Extracurricular Activities:  Our school community and school system offer students many options for athletic, artistic and other extracurricular activity and exploration.  Most of these activities are fee-based, but scholarships are often available to those in need.

Wow!  It's clear that our school community has a lot to be proud of.  Is there room for growth and change?  Certainly, optimal organizations (and professionals) continually assess, refine and develop.  I'm sure if you sit back and take the time to list what really works in your school community, you'll come up with a long list too.