A focus on student learning: Schools with the strongest cultures organize themselves around their most important responsibility: helping students learn. It starts with high expectations for students.
Grace Alli, Hillcrest, fourth-year English teacher, on helping students learn
[0:07:23] -- I think that before maybe there might have been a lot of isolation in my profession where if something wasn't working, well who do I ask? Where do I turn to? And now, in our, in our school it's, it's very easy, I have a multiple, it's who can I not ask? I, I can talk to anybody, my supervisor, my director, my fellow colleague and we have the vocabulary because of all the professional development, to go about talking about it.
[0:08:55] …For example I'm currently undertaking Shakespeare in my class for the first time that I've been here at Hillcrest. And um, going about doing that it can be very daunting to a teacher -- any level. However, I can -- in terms of thinking about ways to teach it and, and ah, what I'm going to do with it, I was able to reach out to not only my assistant principal but also my director and then also other colleagues to find out my kids, what would be the best way to approach it? We are currently working on cultural um, au-authentic literacy. So, being able to have the kids do text writing. So, if you come into my classroom you're going to see yeah, we're reading the play out loud but also the kids are annotating while they're doing it. They have Post-It Notes, they have questions, we have this discussion that's going on and that's something that I was struggling with but because I was able to talk to my AP very freely without judgment um, I'm with my director and with my other fellow English colleagues and it's built into my day through professional development, that helps a lot.
Pedro Cubero, Director of the Public Service and Law community and a bilingual social studies teacher
[0:20:32] PEDRO CUBERO: My name is Pedro Cubero and um, I also was a student at this school and I've been teaching for nine years.
[0:20:32] So, that's definitely a big culture shift um, in, in our school in which we openly talk about what we did in our classrooms. Um, because there's nothing to hide and everybody's ah, classroom is like a laboratory.
[0:22:50] PEDRO: … We noticed that what we struggle with as a department is teaching cause and effect. And that um, many of us have tried different things and, and they're not working.
[0:23:14] PEDRO: Mr. Scanlon is the AP. So he went in to um, Shirley Cohen's class, she's a teacher um, in pre-med and she was using a particular strategy in which she um, would -- she had a couple of scenarios and then she had some of the causes and kids had to match them up or then -- or kids had to write or fill in some blanks and then start -- kids started seeing that this happens, well then this is the effect.
And, and we are never taught that… we just teach it like okay, um, there were problems in France and that led to the Revolution. But kids would get it on the spot.
[0:20:32] …the culture of sharing the lesson without fear um, and discussing what we're struggling with um, is very important. And how it's changed the way we teach.
Real instructional leadership: School leaders who create strong instructional cultures…embrace their roles as instructional leaders and help teachers reach their full potential in the classroom… regular feedback on their performance…helping teachers improve their skills—by offering useful advice and taking an active role in professional development.
Jose I. Rios, Assistant Principal, Hillcrest, 9th year – Math, on professional development
[0:38:10] I'm the coach and that's one aspect of my job that I, I do not take lightly. I'm there to provide feedback, coaching to try and improve instruction, move it forward. Of course, telling teachers what they're doing well, that's, that's part of the coach's job as well. But it's a continuous improvement cycle and this is I think where the survey comes in. Is that ah, this school has made tremendous strides in -- on the feedback side. … we're getting teachers to a point where they know much more, their development is increased. Their professional development ah, opportunities have increased. Ah, their feedback opportunities from the AP have increased. Their feedback opportunities from their colleagues have increased. …And I think any, any teacher in the school would at least tell you that this is a dramatic change for us. Um, isolation has decreased and, and transparency and feedback have increased. And the quality of the feedback has gotten better.”
Principal Steven Duch, on real instructional leadership
[0:29:05] STEVE DUTCH: And I also see that we've created an environment in which teaching is not that isolating any longer. When, when I was a beginning teacher or even when I first came here as principal, what I did see was that many teachers worked in isolation and there was very, very little opportunity for sharing of best practices or best ideas or even ways to be able to, to support, to support each other. And under the small learning community model that we created, there is that opportunity for teachers to have voice and for teachers to have opportunity to compare, to compare ideas and to work collaboratively. And for teachers that are, are newer to the profession, this is something that ah, is now going to be a lifelong pattern for them because they really have not known of a system in any other way. But for our more senior teachers, this has been a gradual way of really looking at teaching in a different way and I can say … even our most senior teachers have really made ah, significant change in, in their willingness and ability to share ideas and, and be reflective on the type of work that they're doing in their classrooms as well.”
Alexandra Mair, seventh-year science teacher, on feedback and instructional leadership
[0:36:25] “I mean it used to be you were this one teacher in a room for the entire year by yourself and you got observed like once or twice and it determined whether your -- you know you were going to get -- come back the next year or if you were satisfactory teacher. And now we get like these little points, like these little -- these, these chances to, to make improvements. And so, it's nice to see somebody else's perspective of what you're doing as well. Um, because when, when you're teaching in front of the class maybe somebody else would see something that you don't, you don't even think you're doing. Um, and just to have that pointed out and noted and then you can, you can you know use that constructive criticism. Um, so I think it's, it's definitely helpful, it definitely makes for, for better teaching you know?”