However, we are not a reflection of those statistics. Our school has the third highest API in the county (857) and compared to similar schools we have a perfect ranking of 10. And this is just the academic part of the picture. Our staff engages with students, parents, and community. We just finished our conference week. In the eighth grade we had 98% of parents attend and 94% of students. We are currently planning our graduation trip: whitewater rafting and three days of camping in the redwoods. Our parents will attend the trip also.
So I asked myself how this happens. What can we bottle up and offer to other schools? As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, “A School Without Bells”, we are a novelty. We do a lot of the common things in very uncommon ways.
In addition to never having bells in the 40-plus years of our existence, we have flexible scheduling. Our grade level teams in middle school are composed of a math/science teacher and a language arts/history teacher. We teach a block schedule and then swap homerooms. When there is an assembly, we flex our remaining time so that we still see both classes for an equal amount of minutes. It is not uncommon for one teacher to poke out of the classroom to ask, “Can I have five more minutes before we switch?”
Our students begin leadership training in fifth grade and are groomed for the roles of guiding the student body for the next three years of their attendance here. This leadership component is in addition to student body offices. Our leaders plan character assemblies, mentor other students, and lead fund-raising events.
Our discipline issues tend to be minor compared to other schools. We are a school where parents want to put their children. Many teachers also choose ours school for their own children. Once they are here, they stay. One of the biggest components of our success is the fact that we make decisions based not on programs but on principles. It is not uncommon to be as flexible in our approach to discipline and management as we are with our time schedule. We choose the best approach to fit the student.
So I asked my principal, Shelle Peterson, what she thought was the main reason for our success. I expected her to give a detailed and cognitive response from her administrative perspective. Instead she said one word: “people”.
I had hoped it would be something I could put in a bottle and sell, but that wasn’t the case. However, now that I have had time to think about her unexpected and succinct reply, I think it’s good news. The secret to success in a school isn’t dependent upon social factors, funding, resources, or facilities; it’s the people. And I have come to believe as I travel throughout the nation hosting workshops that there is no industry that treats its customers with such excellent services and selfless dedication as we teachers do. You are the genie in the bottle.