A School and Its Culture

Before I get too far into this reflection thing, I thought it might be a good idea to give a brief overview of my school.*  Every school operates within its own culture, and quite honestly, school culture is easily one of the biggest predictors in terms of educational success – the sum of the school community is much larger than its individual parts.  For instance, if you have a school community that values the ongoing professional development of their individual teachers, then teachers (like students) will rise to the highest standards and continue to try new things in the classroom, adapt to changes, integrate the best practices, etc.  But if you don’t have a school culture that promotes this kind of lifelong learning, while individual teachers may pursue such learning on their own, certainly fewer will do so than if the larger school community endorses this kind of thing through the use of positive peer pressure.  Luckily, I think my school does a pretty good job of offering teachers the freedom and opportunity to grow and perfect their craft, and I’ll talk more about this in future post.

So here is a brief overview of my school.  My school is located in Montgomery, Alabama.  We are one of several larger private, Christian schools in the area.  Our school includes grades K4-12, and in all, we educate approximately 950 or so students a year on a single campus.  The school prides itself on providing a well-rounded, Christ-centered education, focused on academics, athletics, and the arts.  Most of the students come from solid middle to upper-middle class backgrounds.  Tuition is around $10,000 or so, and while many parents make great sacrifices to send their children to our school, we have a relatively small population of students on tuition assistance.  One-hundred percent of our students go on to some form of higher education, with most attending 4-year colleges immediately after graduation.  The majority choose to attend one of the big state schools – Auburn or Alabama- but a few will range further afield.  Class sizes, in the upper school, range from as small as 10 or 12 students to as much as 20 or 21.  Students can take college prep or advanced coursework, we offer a good range of electives across the disciplines, and students are heavily involved in extracurricular activities.

I tell you this because I realize that the problems that I face teaching in my school are not the problems a teacher faces in some other type of school.  I may have 3 separate preps, but I have small classes, which means I can provide more one-on-one guidance, more in-depth writing assignments.  If I worked in a large public school with 6 periods a day of at least 20 students, I may only have a single prep, but I would never be able to do as much essay writing as a I currently do.  The sheer volume of assignments would be much different and much more overwhelming.  Having recognized that the problems I face are different from the problems another teacher faces, I think we can all learn from one another.  Assignments can be adapted to accommodate different class sizes or differences in individual ability.  So hopefully the ideas that come out of this blog will be helpful for teachers in a variety of schools and across the disciplines.  Tweaking will be necessary, of course.  Then again, adaptation is just one of those necessary components of good teaching.

*For a more in-depth look at my school, I’ve linked the school’s website here.


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