I guess it isn’t my school anymore, but it was until a couple of days ago. If you haven’t been following along, I’m staying home this year to work on The Science Penguin. I learned some very important lessons about what makes a school successful and I want to share.
The last day of work, we had breakfast together as a staff. People leaving the campus were recognized and asked to make a short speech. During my speech I realized just how lucky I was to be at Tobias. I NEVER dreaded going to work. Were there challenges? Absolutely. Am I a morning person that loves being up before 6 am? Absolutely not. But there wasn’t a single day that I didn’t want to go to school. That was not true everywhere I’ve been.
Please forgive my use of present and past tense in this list. It’s hard for me to remember that I’m no longer part of the faculty.
These are the things I enjoyed about my school. If you are unhappy with the school you are at, maybe you need some of the things on this list.
1. Teachers that work together help students.
While at Tobias, we collaborated as a staff. That doesn’t mean we were robots doing the exact same thing. We worked to come up with good ideas and implemented them in a way that worked for our classes. We had buy-in for some very important things.
-Grow Your Garden: optional PD on Monday afternoons led by teacher-leaders on campus
-Vertical Teams: groups of teachers from different grade levels that met monthly to increase student achievement
-PBIS: I’ll be honest…I don’t think that PBIS is the end all be all of behavior support. However, we all bought in and the students did well because of it.
– PLC: Both years, I was on strong teams that worked together to ensure student success.
2. We are in it for the kids.
The teachers I worked with are amazing. From life skills teachers to kinder teachers to fifth grade teachers, everyone shines and works miracles on a daily basis. Sometimes the growth is hard to see, but it’s always there. Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and picnics on a beautiful afternoon, but because we all believe in what we do, it works.
As a campus, we engage students through actively opening their minds to new information. Learning is fun. Even if it’s tedious, we somehow turn it into a fun challenge.
3. Trust the teachers.
I always felt like I was trusted to make appropriate curriculum, instruction, and assessment choices for my students. There were no scripted programs. Some assessments were mandatory, like most places, but the way we taught TEKS was up to us.
4. A good principal makes the difference.
I’ve seen the good and the bad. I’ve been so impressed with my principal’s leadership. Students respect her and listen to everything she says. She listened to our needs and did everything in her power to support us. When I was overwhelmed and overbooked, she stepped in to take over some things for me. Even though I would leave the campus, she encouraged my growth. She told me that the best thing I could do at this point in my teaching career was teach other teachers. It was a very affirming moment.
Being in a happy place makes the difference. Don’t you think?