Today and tomorrow I am working in Logan School in rural New Mexico. What a wonderful place to spend time! I am fortunate that my work brings me to such a wide variety of schools all over the United States – and sometimes even to international destinations. I visit at least 20 schools each year: public, private, parochial, rural, urban, and suburban. And one thing is always consistent: every school is a reflection of the heart of its community.
What do educational “experts” look for when they first enter a new school? How do they gauge the health of the community and learning environment? For me, the first things I notice are:
- Are the students smiling when they are in school?
- Do the adults greet their students?
- Are the activities meaningful and interesting for both the teacher and his or her students?
- Is there GROWTH in student achievement and skill development?
- Is there a display of student work, and if so, does it exemplify the joy of learning?
My good friend and colleague Richard Cash, Ed.D often comments that students have to feel safe, secure and valued if they are going to develop a growth mindset for learning. I completely agree and there is research to prove it. We have tremendous challenges as educators but it all boils down to what my mom, a 40-year Chicago Public School teacher would remind me, “Katie, teaching is always an act of love and social justice.”