Lack of quality in schools is currently in the media spotlight. Parents are looking for schools they can trust. Many families are deciding to leave their neighborhood schools in search of a school that provides a challenging curriculum while simultaneously addressing the emotional, physical, and social needs of its student population. They are looking for a great school. There are many great schools, but not all of them use the same formula for success. A single recipe for greatness does not exist. However, the following characteristics will help contribute to the success of any school.
1. High expectations for the students and teachers An all inclusive climate of high expectations and quality (not quantity) is expected , and anything less is unacceptable. Having a passion for excellence is an impelling force that should be present each day. A great school has motivated teachers that consistently encourage their students do their best.
2. Dedicated teachers and administration The best teachers are lifelong learners. They continually participate in professional development opportunities, observe co-workers in their classrooms, attend grade level teacher meetings, and improve upon their digital literacy. Teachers collaborating across disciplines and grade levels is also beneficial. For example, a former 4th grade class of mine created family crests to coincide with their social studies unit covering Culture and Heritage. Principals/Heads of School must ensure that professional development is incorporated into the school's culture. A joint effort with teachers will provide improvement and expeditious learning for the entire student population. In addition, classroom environment (e.g. non-traditional arrangement of desks) also enhances collaboration. Research has shown that teachers are more effective, efficient, and happy when they have sufficient time to plan, problem solve and collaborate. Generally, teachers in the highest achieving countries are given significant time to work together to create a pervasive environment of high expectations.
3. Principal's/Head of School's presence The leader of a school should plan to be visible throughout the campus on a daily basis. Examples include (but are not limited to) greeting students as they arrive to school, unscheduled, brief classroom observations (noting student & teacher strengths, asking for clarification and making suggestions), participating in a game during recess, having lunch with students and staff, or covering playground duty for a teacher. This visibility fosters comfort and familiarity and will improve their relationships with the entire school community.
4. Prioritize To be a successful (great) school, the priorities need to be in order. The following components should be at the top of any school's list of priorities.
A school that is designed this way cultivates a sense of gratification and optimism and establishes a great school! What makes your school great?