The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How to Improve a school

on June 17, 2020

When I became a school principal after working as a teacher for many years I was delighted by my new job. But I soon discovered that a principal could be overwhelmed by school problems that were hard to solve.

Early today I read an article in a magazine that described the teaching of grit used in many schools today because the teachers believe it helps students to learn. Although I was impressed by their description of the work I was not persuaded that grit was the best treatment for all students.. As a teacher I taught students without ever using grit, and I was even more sucessfel than I had ben before

Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted all students to learn well and be proud of there learning. When I began teaching I taught only early grades, and my goal was to have children learn reading, writing, and all other basic skills. But most important for me was having students know they were learning and should be proud of there success. 

 Later, when I became a school principle, the range of my responsibilities was varied, but I want to explain today only the most important ones. My main job was to make sure that all classrooms would have no more than 25 students with good behavior. But when behavior was a problem in classrooms, I had to work with teachers who knew the students well, because I didn’t know them at all. So instead of keeping all students of the same grade together in the same classroom every year – which is what most schools do —we moved those students having problems into more promising classrooms for the following year. Our decisions for placing students were based on what we knew abought there previous school problems and there current learning.  Near the end of every school year I met separately with all teachers so they could help me decide where to place each student the next school year.  

In the years that our school was large placing students in the right classrooms required a lot of time and careful planning. And we were not always successful. As a result we had to move some students again in the middle of a school year. But when the school had fewer students than usual our work became much easier. We built small, well organized classrooms that we thought would be easier to manage than those in previous years, and they were. The results of our planning turned out to be morebetter student learning and behavior than we had seen in earlier years, and it made all of us feel successful.

Our hard work helped almost all students to learn better, behave, and be proud of there performance. In my opinion a principal working with teachers regularly can improve any school. I think all large schools should consider doing what we did, and they will end up in good shape .


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