My vision for Webster Hill School is an extension of my teaching philosophy. I believe that all students can achieve at high levels when we find a pathway into children’s thinking. If we are not careful, we fall into the trap of only valuing the traditional views of what makes a successful student. Children can be “intelligent” in a number of ways and we need to recognize, value, and utilize those diverse characteristics to help children reach their full potential. This is accomplished by teaching children through multiple modalities and allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in both traditional and nontraditional ways. I believe in valuing a child’s artistic, musical, mathematical, linguistic, technological, interpersonal, intrapersonal, verbal, and kinesthetic expression. This way, all children feel “smart” and have a path to success.
I believe that no classroom can thrive without first building a “classroom community”. This starts with the building of relationships and the understanding of the diversity that exists within each classroom. “Diversity” includes culture but it extends far beyond our ethnicity and cultural background. It’s about gender, learning style, physical characteristics, religion, values, family dynamics, and beliefs. Building a classroom community involves understanding, respecting, valuing, and celebrating those differences. The greater the community, the more learning is enhanced.
My vision also includes student leadership and student independence. I strongly value classroom routines and class jobs (responsibilities) that help a classroom run and function efficiently. Children will rise or fall to meet our expectations so if we set the bar high, they achieve at high levels. When a substitute teacher tells me, “Wow! The classroom almost ran itself!” I know the teacher has successfully established roles and responsibilities for his/her students.
I often worry that today’s children have too much adult intervention and support. We jump in too quickly to solve their problems and organize too much of their adult-facilitated time. I believe that children need to learn to solve problems and learn how to struggle, think, plan, and sometimes fail. As a teacher, my job was to “notice” problems and then allow the students to come up with the solutions. I gave them class time to brainstorm solutions and try them out (even when I knew the idea would fail). We would come back to the table and review, revise and try again. It’s okay for kids to struggle.
Finally, my vision for Webster Hill is to have a building that is constantly in “reflective mode”. Nothing will ever be good enough and we will never reach the finish line. The attainment of excellence is an ever moving target. We must constantly reflect on our practice and always ask if there is a more effective or more efficient way of achieving our goals. That means we may make mistakes. I am okay with that. As long as we make sound decisions that have the best interest of children and families at heart, I support risk-taking and thinking a bit divergently.
If you asked me to sum up my vision in one word, I believe I could. It would be “relationships”. The relationships I build with staff, students, parents, and the community are critical to reaching every child. The relationships the staff build with each other, you, and the students are equally important. Finally, we need to focus on the relationships between children. This doesn’t happen without a conscious effort on our part. This needs to be taught, reinforced, recognized, and valued every day. If we don’t teach the “whole child”, we have not done our job. Scores on standardized tests are important to newspapers and online rating sites. They are important to people who like to rank and compare schools. We use these assessments, too, as one piece of a very large and complex puzzle. The true measure of a school goes well beyond a score and cannot be easily measured. You can’t effectively assign a number and you shouldn’t try.
When you believe in your heart that you send your child each day to a place that cares about your child, understands him/her, works to meet his/her full potential, and is willing to work with you as an ally, we’ve succeeded and my vision has been realized.