What is a "Good School"?
Tom Anselm | Teaching.monster.com
”My kids go to a good school.”
What parent doesn’t want to be able to say this about the bricks and mortar location where they entrust their offspring for 7 hours a day, 180 days a year, again and again.
And for that matter, what teacher worth his or her salt doesn’t want to be able to say with some conviction, “Yeah, I work in a good school.”
This word “good” when used in the context of quality holds so much meaning. It brings us to the question of this article. “What is a Good School?”
I have been in this game in various capacities since the early 1970’s. I’ve had the great good fortune to have taught in institutions for developmentally disabled people, in a juvenile court learning environment and most recently in the traditional public education experience. I seen a lot, heard a lot, and have lived to tell about it. But the observations to follow are not exclusively my own. Nor do I claim to have any expertise in this field. Everyone who’s ever worked in a school or been to a school (and that pretty much covers most of us) has their own idea of what makes up a good school.
So, in no particular order, here is what I have come to believe.
A Good School has clear and positive leadership.
In any organization having a truly great leader is a rare treat. Education is no exception. In our world, it’s the principal and her assistants whose job it is to set the tone and direction for any school year. Almost without exception, they were once toiling in the classroom, and for one reason or another, they’ve gotten their papers and credentials and moved into the front office. The good ones share a few common traits. First and foremost, they are fair and honest with their staff. Nothing ruins a building’s climate like a boss who can’t be trusted. They also need to never forget where they came from, especially when expecting the teachers to take on one more “new and innovative program that is taking the country by storm”.
The absolutely positively must be visible. In the halls, at lunch, at the concerts, games and dances. The guy who hides behind his secretary is the guy who has lost his school.
I’ve had bosses for whom I’d run through the gym divider, and others for whom I wouldn’t cross the parking lot. Believe me, it’s a lot easier on those days when you just don’t feel like rolling out of the sack to make the push if you work for the likes of the former.
There are the unofficial leaders in a good school as well. We see them in the coach who makes about 37 cents per hour, but will stay behind to help the kid who just can’t get that jump shot down. We find her in the quiet, unassuming sponsor of the club to help girls learn how to be a woman, or the cheerleading moderator, or the art teacher who leads the school in a fund raising drive to provide water to villages in war-torn Africa. We find them in the new teacher whose enthusiasm is as contagious as pink eye in a kindergarten classroom, or the veteran who is able to impart a sense of calm to a harried department chair. These are the people who embody the quote from a novel called “The Little Prince”: What is essential is invisible to the eye.
A Good School must have these leaders, formal and informal.
They together produce the positive culture of an organization whose sole reason for existence is to build new generations.