Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How it's Being Done

I  was recently inspired by the American Federation of Teachers TEACH conference in Washington, DC.  There were so many talented teachers with creativity, knowledge and passion for their work.  It made me feel like educators could take ownership of the word, "reform."  Recently it seems that the word "reform" is used as a license to bully and punish teachers - to narrow the curriculum and tell them exactly how to teach regardless of what they know about their students.  However, there is research that reveals that true reform doesn't happen without kindness.  In her book, "How it's Being Done: Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools" Karin Chenoweth studied five schools that had high poverty, high diversity and had shown dramatic growth in academic achievement!  Yes - it happens.  One of the common denominators among all the schools was, "kindness."  She interviewed students - who all liked their schools and felt that teachers really cared, teachers - who all felt like there were standards for dealing with conflict and that they were a team, and administrators - who felt that it was very important to reinforce a culture of kindness.  Chenoweth states,  

In essence, the It's Being Done schools have an atmosphere of respect and caring that emanates from the teachers and principals.  As Ware Elementary teacher Lisa Akard said, "We're a kind school.  We really care about each other.  The teachers care about the children." That caring is reciprocated by the students.

So, I highly recommend Chenoweth's book for anyone who is interested in how to make a difference without losing their sanity.  Each school has to pave it's own path to success, but there are some things that are not negotiable - like kindness.

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