This semester in all my education classes we talk mostly about the issues in schools, what is wrong with reform. Sometimes these discussion can be a tad depressing, especially for hopeful future teachers. This realism is very necessary for education students, lack of experience needs to be balanced out with realistic goals. For myself I know that I am too idealistic and that how I think things will be will greatly differ from how they actually turn out in a classroom. Looking at the education system with a more authentic leans helps one distinguish the good from the bad. It also makes the good seem like such a big win.
This week I got to see an education win. On Tuesday I went to Orange Charter school for a project for class. The school and the teachers were amazing. It was the most welcoming place, with such a friendly environment. The principal was really excited about us being there to observe and was so willing to help us in any way. The teachers were enthusiastic and shared their wisdom with us freely. I felt like I was home. I got to interview the guidance counselor and she described the school as one big family, everyone knows each other. This family dynamic was clear as soon as we walked in the door. The teachers really knew all of the students, and even the principal knew everyone by name. One interaction that made this clear was when the principal was giving us a tour little first grades chanted to him playfully they were not in trouble on the top of their longs, this banter shows one way how wonderful this community is.
Why is this school able to be so warm and in my opinion how a school should be while others struggle? In this case the size of the school and its charter help it flourish. The school is only 250 students. The grade size is only 30. The guidance counselor explained that the smaller size allowed for no student to falls through the cracks. The idea of charter schools is a debated topic, do they make education more unfair? I do not know the answer to this, all I can say is this charter school is doing the job they are supposed to do. This school still faces the same struggles as other schools. We discussed testing with the guidance counselor as well. I asked if they experience issues with high pressure testing, she explained all schools do. This school would get their charter taken away if they did not get high enough test scores. The test cannot be ignored because the school would cease to exist.
The most hope inspiring thing about this school was despite the constrictions put on it, this still continues to be a great school. I think this is part of the secret with education, learn how to navigate and work with the system the way that it is. Test still have to happen and are important but studying for them can be done in a creative way. The project my group is working on with Orange Charter is to create an EOG field day to help 7th and 8th graders prepare for their test. It is important to remember with realism and flaws there is still great hope.