Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Great School

On Wednesday I went to observe a school in Brooklyn set up by TFA. The school is in Sunset Park (oh so close to my apartment). The visit was really eye opening.

The reason that I chose to look at this school (versus the others on the "City wide school visit" list) was because it has a strong bilingual and ESL program. The school is located in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood and according to the principal, 60% of the kids are ELL (English Language Learner) though basically all of them are because they come from Spanish speaking households. It was so weird to see a school that has so much focus on ESL (they have pull-out, self contained, bilingual and dual language) coming from my school where ESL is only noticed when the principal gets an email telling me I have a meeting to attend or the AP sees that I have interim assessments to give my students.

One of the major things that I observed at the school was the supportive administration. The teacher who gave us a tour of the school (also a first year TFA corps member) could not stop gushing about how wonderful her principal and AP are. I met them both and they were very friendly and positive. The principal talked about getting the teachers together as a team to make the school successful.

I got to the school a bit before 8:30. I noticed that all of the kids were already in the classrooms working quietly (unheard of at my school). I was a bit confused as I thought I was early so I was wondering how they got in the building so quickly. As I found out, they actually arrived at 8:00 for the 37.5 minutes. It was amazing to see the school actually using the extra time to benefit the students. In every room they were actually working. Just peeking in the windows I saw guided reading, students working in groups at desks, manipulatives, etc. At my school everyone is so tired by the end of the day (not really an excuse, but . . .) that the after school time is just a time filler. If it takes 20 minutes to walk half the kids downstairs and the other half up, all the better. But this post is not about my school . . .

Seeing this school made me want to teach on a school like this that has a large ELL population (and of course a great administration). There are so many opportunities to have a self contained class. I really love ESL kids, too. I love the idea of speaking more than one language. I think it is so important and to be valued.

(Ideally next year I could get a position teaching a self contained lower elementary ESL class. That would be the best of both worlds. TFA is not all about switching schools before the two years though so I highly doubt that that is even a small possibility).

The other thing that I noticed (and this may be silly) is how QUIET the school was. Not only were there not any loud outbursts coming from classrooms, but there were NO kids in the halls. I don't think I even saw a kid go to the restroom with a pass. (This as compared to my school where it is common to see a pack of 4-5 boys sprinting back and forth through the halls). What I did see in the halls were a lot of small groups working with reading intervention teachers. Yes, ideally they should be working in rooms at tables but this was amazing because one, it was quiet enough for them to be able to do this and two, because they actually have quality work going on with kids being pulled out of class.

Overall, I think seeing the school made me regretful about what my school could be if only . . . I also really wish that I had had more time to talk with the pull out teachers individually so I could get a sense of their set up, what they teach the kids, best practices for pull out, etc. Maybe I can schedule a specific time to speak with them later.

No comments: