Can schools be proactive rather than reactive?

Jun 15, 2012 by

Over my years of working as a Speech Language Pathologist, I’ve worked in many schools. Every school has it’s own set pluses and minuses. Wouldn’t it be great to create a school with only pluses. For that to happen, schools would have to get into the mind set of being proactive rather than reactive.
Here is my list of the positive and proactive ideas I’ve seen implemented in school systems that seem to work well. Some of these are simple, some take some effort and some are no longer possible in the public schools because of the changes taking place in education. What’s on your list?

A consistent leveled discipline plan, one that is followed by the whole school. Walking into any classroom and knowing what the expectations are makes it easy for professionals other than the teacher to employ discipline on an even plane. Better yet, the students learn expectations and consequences. It’s amazing the problems that don’t come up when this type of program is in place.

A strong and consistent teacher developed curriculum. Years before state wide testing or common core I worked in a school system that used teacher curriculum committees to develop curriculum. That school had the best curriculum hands down. The superintendent was committed to keeping curriculum committee and did for years. The curriculum was tweaked on a regular basis as needed, books were updated and supplemented when necessary. Parents could learn and follow the curriculum from child to child. Parents and children knew what special trips and areas of study to look forward to in every grade. Another school had one person developing curriculum and the differences were tragic.

Teachers working together by grade or subject, following the curriculum and teaching from the same materials. If a school has a lose curriculum and no time for teachers to meet one first grade teacher may teach a strong phonics program and the other first teacher likes a whole language approach, imagine the different skill sets those first graders have when entering second grade and who knows what the second grade teachers likes to teach.

Schools that give a lot of attention to phonics and rote type activities, such as memorizing times tables and poems. These schools have students that are more flexible with their language and math skills. They not only read better they answer quicker.

A consistent schedule not only daily but year after year.

A schedule that provided ample time for children with special needs to be seen that didn’t single them out. In one school system the middle school schedule include an hour daily that functioned like a study hall. Students could do almost anything during that hour except homework. Some activities the children participated in included scheduling time for special education services, asking teachers or assistants for help, working on group and individual projects, research, finishing up class work, extra gym, art, music, and free reading.

School’s that valued teacher’s knowledge, expertise and experience was considered when solving educational problems. These schools usually save money and solve problems quicker. Some school systems will introduce some trendy new approach because they think it will fix a problem. Trendy new approaches are usually chosen by one person, often cost a lot of money to implement and almost always fail or fizzle out. If schools need a new approach to say reading or math. Do some hard research and find out what is working in other places.

Want to save money? Ask the teachers. Tax payers would never vote for overrides if they realized the waste that goes on in a school. Teachers are in the trenches, they see it all and can usually come up with very creative solutions.

Schools that keep inventory seem to look cleaner and the materials last longer.

Schools that allowed long recesses and lunch times do seem to have kids that focus better and are more energetic. In most schools, kids get 15 minutes to shove in their food, are consistently yelled at to get going and then get to run around on the playground for 15 minutes. Kind need to run around. Schools also need to provide basic equipment on the playground. It’s amazing what kids can do with a ball or a jump rope.

Schools that valued art, music and foreign language. These are the first items on the chopping block come budget time. I’ve worked in schools that work hard to save these programs and the children are clearly better for the experiences. Schools that maintain some fun and different activities have a different overall vibe in the school. Not to mention art, music and foreign language all make the brain work in different and creative ways.

Schools that are smaller are just more successful. Not small like 12 kids in a class but small like only 500 kids or less in a school. This just makes sense, easier to manage. In mega schools kids get lost

Schools where children were encouraged to do things for others and their community. One school I worked in actually went overboard with this but that school was much better off than the school who encouraged nothing.

Schools where teachers and other professionals were encouraged to learn from each other. Time is given to share new ideas, express concerns and obtain support.

Schools that don’t feel they need to reinvent the wheel just to show how great they are. Do some research, see how it’s done successfully in other schools, tweak it if necessary and adopt it as your own.

Hopefully as I continue my career working in schools I can continue to add to my positive list of ideas. Unfortunately, a lot of negative ideas also seem to work their way in. Imagine if principals, superintendents, other administrators and school boards could share their ideas on a regular basis, what works and what doesn’t in the management of schools. Consultants would be out of business and there would be no market for poorly constructed materials.
No one is going to be able to build or operate the perfect school. We are not perfect people or perfect educators. Wouldn’t it be fantastic though if schools and school administration could implement pro-active ideas for improving their school rather than having to be reactive all the time?

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What are some of the great ideas or procedures you’ve seen implemented in schools?

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