Maintaining and sustaining a successful schools system takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of time. When I think of what it takes to maintain and sustain a successful school, I believe it takes four separate groups working collaboratively with each other. I like to use the analogy of a table-top with four legs. The legs to the table are vitally important to sustain the weight of the table top. These table legs are teachers, parents, curriculum, and administration. The table-top represents the students.
To be a strong leg in the united effort, I believe that teachers need to possess two traits. Teachers need to extremely talented in their content area and genuinely love students. Hiring highly qualified teachers within their content is a must if you want to insure rigorous instruction. Teachers need to be passionate about their craft. If they are passionate, they will burn the mid-night oil and turn the pages of resource materials to present the best instructional unit or lesson plan. Secondly, these types of teachers must have an intrinsic quality to connect with their students and build meaningful relationship with them. Just like our teachers need to have regular validation from their principal, students need to "feel the love" and see the "buy-in" from their teachers. Whether a teacher gives a pat on the back or says a positive word of affirmation, a teacher must realize the magical power of connecting with students. James Garner once said that "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship."
The second group is parents. Parental involvement is so important to the success of a school system. During the school day, teachers see students for 1/3 of the students’ day. The remaining ratio is in the hands of the parents and/or caregivers. Because there is an unequal ratio, parents need to communicate with teachers, and teachers need to communicate with parents. There needs to be a continuous dialog with both parties. Too often, academic and social issues can be intercepted or resolved with constant communication with the parent and the teacher. Not only is parent-to-school involvement important but also parents valuing the importance of education. Students need to see that their parents valuing learning and achieving. The teacher constantly professes the important of learning and getting an education. But it is not completely effective if that profession is not maintained in the home.
Answering the questions of what the students will learn and how the students will learn are important to successfully educate all students. There lies the “C” word, curriculum. To have a curriculum that is rigorous and relative is so important for the teacher, student, and parent. With high stake’s testing and accountability, the curriculum has to have intense, aggressive, and rigorous units, lessons, activities, and projects. Students have to be pushed to their fullest potential. Students also need to see how the content relates to them and relates to the world. Whether it is math, science, history, or English, students must see that the academic content does have meaning to them and applies to their every lives.
The last leg is the administration team. This membership should include principals, assistant principals, counselors, lead teachers, department heads, and/or student ambassadors. These members serve as the command post for making decisions in the best interest of the students. It is important that this leg is equally represented to voice the concerns of the school. Ultimately, their decisions must always return to the main questions. What’s in the best interest of the student?
The strength of the table, student achievement, relies solely on the legs Student learning must be the focal point for any school system. Teachers, parents, the curriculum and the administrative team have crucial rolls to play. Each roll has its own set of responsibilities and obligations. Yet they work together to maintain and sustain student learning.