If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Denver Catches the Build a School Spirit

NPR is in the middle of an extended series on innovative schools from around the country. Friday's story about a school in Denver that shut its doors for a year in order to create an entirely new culture at the school contained the following line:

For teachers, there is nothing more exciting than being able to start over and build a school on your own without having somebody just hand it to you.

Besides being flattered by the subtle nod to this blog, I think the quote makes a hugely important point. At a time when there is so much talk in the education world about attracting and keeping great teachers, a lot of it comes down to this idea. If you want smart creative people to go into teaching and stay there, you need to give them the opportunity to be smart and creative in their work. They need to have an important role in designing curriculum and building the culture of the school. If they do not, they won't feel nearly the same attachment to the place, and no matter how strong their altruistic belief in the importance of their profession, they will eventually burn out and move on to something more engaging to their intellect.

For me, the great attraction of private schools over public schools has always been the freedom to create curriculum. Many of the classes I have taught have been entirely or partially of my own design, an opportunity I will have again this summer as I prepare for my new school in the fall. While I would certainly keep teaching if someone took that creativity out of my hands, my enthusiasm for it would fade just that little bit.

In addition to fueling my own enthusiasm, that creative freedom makes me much more able to respond to the needs of my students. I can see what is working and what is not, and make adjustments as the year goes along. It is much more personalized for them, as well as for me. Each lesson is something that has been created by me just for my students. It makes the classroom a much more personal place, something that can only benefit the education that takes place there.

No comments: