Here is the third part of Claremont Graduate School of Education’s Ethnographic Narrative Project.
What is Happening at My School Site?
In this section, the student teachers will answer four guiding questions:
1. What is it like to be on my campus – What is the physical description of the school and its people as well as the “feel” and “climate” of the campus?
2. What school policies and practices shape my school’s culture and/or identity?
3. What other influences (including district/state/federal policies) impact my school?
4. What kind of resources and support does my school have?
These are very important questions that every new teacher should consider, even if you’re a veteran teacher at a new school.
I thought, “How would I answer these questions?”
I’ve been teaching at my school for over 16 years now, so I should know the answers to these questions. Right?
I actually found it a bit difficult.
I like the idea of taking time to find out how the school itself contributes to the success or failure of the student.
Here are some specific questions that I would want to know if I was a new teacher at a school:
What kind of a reputation does the school have in the community? Is it a school that parents are proud to place a school bumper sticker on the back of their car? When people say, “Oh, your son goes to that school,” is it a good thing?
How about the teachers? Do they enjoy coming to work? Is teacher turn over high? Are the teachers nice? Do they get along with each other? Do they collaborate? Are the teachers provided with time to collaborate? Are they willing to help a new teacher?
Is there support for the administration by the teachers? Is the administration respected by the staff?
Is the administration being pressured to meet state and district guidelines or raise test scores? Does that pressure interfere with doing what’s best for the students?
Is it a school with a lot of discipline problems? Is there a clear set of rules for students? Are the rules enforced? What is the biggest discipline issue at the school?
Is there a high level of parent support? What kind of turn out does the school get at back to school night? Is the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) active and organized?
What kind of resources are available in the library or the technology lab?
I know there are many more questions that should be asked, but this is a good start.
When I first started teaching, I was just glad to have a job. The school was in a bad part of town. The administration was not that effective. It was not respected. There was very little parent support, and I learned the hard way that all of this made my job of reaching my students even more difficult. I learned that if the school climate is negative, then the student will have a negative image of school and education.
I work in a school now that has a high set of standards, an effective discipline policy, an active PTA, a well-respected administration, and a group of teachers who enjoy coming to work.
Is it perfect? No, but the school climate is positive, which has a big influence on the success of the students.
What is the climate of your school? Is it negative?
If it is, then I would encourage any new teachers to avoid falling into that negativity. Be the light. Stay away from those teachers who spend their time criticizing the administration or other teachers. You have the ability to change the climate of your school. Don’t stop trying to save the world. We need more teachers like you!
Stay tuned for my next installment of the CGU Ethnographic Narrative Project: What is Happening in my School’s Community?
Be the light!