In my 18 plus years in education while serving in three schools, I have come to notice what a great school looks like. I will be starting my fourth school this coming year and I looked hard at the culture of the school I will be working at. I have come up with my four things to look for in a school to see if it is innovative and positive. The school I will be working at this Fall had these four things that I believe make it a great place for learning. (Note: None of them are from a US News World and Report List … please throw that list away as soon as you see it!)
- Teacher attendance. I have come to find that a school with high teacher attendance rates is more likely positive in culture and innovative. If teachers are happy with where they work, they show up. If they are unhappy, they do not. Usually you can find this statistic on state school report cards.
- Teachers and Administration use social media and are very active on it. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen great leaders and teacher use social media. If you see a school full of teachers, departments, and administrators… especially administrators using social media, they get it. That school understands that technology is their friend and is the way of the future. It means they are engaging with their clients / students.
- The school has innovative classrooms and curriculum. Having classes like INCubatoredu and makerspaces will likely indicate that the school is looking for new ways of connecting authentic learning to their students and teachers. They tend to answer the “Why” in education which is highly important in this day and age.
- There’s a high level of trust. Teachers are given freedom to try and fail at new things in their classrooms. There is a lot of open and honest communication in meetings with all stakeholders. Parents and teachers work together in learning and understand that there are different ways to achieve learning. The school and community understands and accepts that learning is uncomfortable and it is necessary to struggle sometimes.
BONUS: No Late hiring practices. In addition to the four items listed above, I have found that schools with late hiring practices tend to be unorganized and in a constant state of what I call “scramble.” If you are looking to be employed at the school and are going through the hiring process from the months of February through early April, the school you are looking at is likely organized and has a better culture than one that is hiring post April into the summer months.
With a little research and observation, it is not hard to find out if your school is a great one. Whether you are a teacher looking for a job or curious about the schools in your neighborhood, take a look at these four factors to find out if you have a great school.
Keep disrupting education!