1. Quality administration and staff – It irritates me tremendously to see teachers and administrators that don’t want to be at school. Teaching is one of those jobs where if you don’t love it, you really need to stop. Lack of love for the job translates into the classroom. Students can sense a lack of enthusiasm from the teachers. The teachers that students love are always the teachers that love their jobs. That’s a fact. I also do not agree with passing over prospective teachers just because they don’t add enough points for NCLB1. Teachers need to be chosen based on their qualities and not their quantities (of certificates). If a teacher wants to be a teacher, they can always learn more about teaching. Experience and PD2 will take care of that. But if the teacher
doesn’t want to be there, well, no amount of experience or PD3 will fix that.
2. Open mindedness and fun environments – Schools should be open to new ideas. Just like any other profession, there are always new methods and great ideas being discovered. I’m lumping this with fun environments because I know a lot of “old school” teachers that feel that it’s not their job to entertain the students. That’s where the open mind comes in. Menville Flippen said, “If you capture kids’ hearts, you have their heads. If you don’t capture their hearts, you have no business messing with their heads.” I believe in that quote. And a fun learning environment is a great way to capture a child’s heart. But a fun environment requires an open mind. Be willing to be a kid again. Sure, a line needs to be drawn and discipline needs to be maintained, but fun does not equate to lack of discipline. Speaking of discipline…
3. A consistent and quality discipline/reward system – Students don’t respond to threats. They don’t respond to much of anything nowadays. However, the problem gets even worse if there’s not consistent discipline. When “favorites” are noticed within the student body, all the students find out and resent teachers and administrators for it. Threats without action lead to lack of respect. Rewards can also help. Privileges are great, such as dances, parties, etc.
NOTES on 2 and 3: I’ve seen a school system that requires uniforms and allows no fun activities whatsoever. I’ve seen a school system that allows kids to be kids and provides a fun learning environment with structured discipline systems. Guess which one has the higher test scores and happier students.4
4. Communication/collaboration – Yep. It’s an obvious one. And it’s very important. There must be communication between the administrators and teachers so that plans can be made to help the students learn. There must be communication between teachers and parents for the same reason. There must be access to information that is needed by the teachers, administrators, students, parents, etc. As a parent, I want to know how my child is doing. As a teacher, I want to know when important decisions are being made that might effect my teaching strategies. Also, as a teacher, I’d love to hear from the parents to know how they are working with their kids at home. And that brings us to:
5. A Plan for Parent involvement – Those two school systems I mentioned before are also different in this aspect. One practically doesn’t care if the parents are involved or not. The other has home visits and plenty of reasons for getting the parents involved in the learning process along with open communication lines between staff and parents.5 The home visit system works. The open line of communication works. The parent activities work. Most of the kids I teach still have the “old school” respect for their teachers, and I know this is because of parent involvement.
6. Politic Free – I know. It’s an impossible dream. The “back room” conversations in the teacher’s lounge will always take place. People will always be hired because of who they know. But truly, does this help our students with their education? Can gossip increase the educational environment? Does the son of “so-and-so” make the best teacher just because he’s the son of “so-and-so”? Not really. Of course, in some instances, he may be just fine. But decisions based on politics are never truly decisions based on the needs of the students. Students should always come first. Period.
((The preceding was written in response to a discussion question in a class I was taking. I liked writing it so decided to share it.))