Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

What Does a Good School Look Like?

Publication Date: 2010-01-03

Critics argue that all I and people of my ilk do is complain. They call us naysayers. So here's a growing list of what so many of us take for granted, the little pieces that add up to making a good school.

In this spirit, The Alliance for Childhood is making available a beautiful poster titled Childhood. It has a poem listing children's rights, ending with
The spirit of childhood calls for protection and nurture
It is an essential part of every human being
and needs to be kept alive.

There is a sidebar titled The Essentials of Healthy Childhood. They will send this poster to anyone who makes a donation. Be generous. These are people who are standing up for children's need to play.

Alliance for Childhood
PO Box 444
College Park, MD 20741
Voice and Fax: 301-779-1033
e-mail: info@allianceforchildhood.org

A good school. . .

1. is clean, with no broken windows, peeling paint, or other signs of neglect; 2. is a place where children want to be; 3. is a place where the staff want to be;

4. has good teacher-to-student numbers;

5. offers variety and flexibility in learning plans; not all students do the same things at the same time.

6. has a certified librarian;

7. has certified art, music, and P. E. teachers;

8. has 32 books per student in the library;

9. offers students free access to the library;

10. encourages students to choose what they want to read, with no points or prizes attached;

11. serves locally-prepared food;

12. sits in a pollution-free environment;

13. has every student checked for lead poisoning;

14. has clean and adequate lavatories and helps students take responsibility for keeping them that way;

15. offers students free access to those lavatories;

16. provides adequate teaching materials so teachers don't have to pay for chalk, paper, etc. out of their own pockets;

17. offers multiple copies of books on parenting, teaching, and learning;

18. provides community workshops on parenting, teaching, and learning;

19. celebrates students who experience their successes and failures not as reward and punishment but as information;

20. provides regular recess and takes short breaks every hour;

21. celebrates kindergarten as a children's garden;

22. is headed by a principal who invites primary graders to share riddles;

23. is headed by a principal who regularly reads aloud to students;

24. celebrates teachers who make public testimony that they love their work;

25. requires no homework;

26. puts children's work on display;

27. provides free coffee (real coffee; not instant) in the faculty room;

28. maintains a climate of trust, cooperation, and celebration;

29. offers varied approaches to instruction and evaluation;

30. partners with community social, medical and dental services;

31. has time to share stories, songs, and riddles every day;

32. posts signs that welcome visitors and volunteers;

33. explores the community;

34. searches out the talents and skills of parents and other community members;

35. fosters expressions of kindness and respect;

36. plants seeds of helpfulness;

37. plans projects, such as gardens, that encourage students to be part of a community;

38. asks students what they like and don't like about school;

39. solicits student suggestions for making the school a better place;

40. helps students see situations from another's point of view;

41. is headed by a principal who invites staff to be part of the solution;

42. does not have an honor roll, but a code that honors all children;

43. is a place where teachers and administrators care about the individual needs of each student, and they are not looked at as a number;

44. has proper heating/cooling, and is free from harmful pollutants;

45. has a principal who honors and seeks to inspire teachers;

46. is a place where students and teachers have choices;

47. is a places that understand students are more than data;

48. celebrates teachers who view themselves as professionals and model the joy of inquiry through their own on-going learning;

49. displays student work that reflects joy, understanding and individuality as opposed to work with is largely uniform and may appear mass produced;

50. recognizes the important role that approximation plays in learning and honors learning as a process;

51. has halls and classrooms filled with children's laughter and voices, rather than straight lines and silence;

52. has playgrounds and gardens, both inside and out, that are designed by children and their parents;

53. is a place where everyone is a learner-teachers, parents, administrators and instructional assistants as well as children...a place of wonderment and awe and positive energy;

54. is a place where every child has a coat in the cold and a warm place to sleep at night . . . and his family have coats, too;

55. teaches children in wholes, in contexts, and not in isolated bits;

56. honors children's emotional lives as well as their intellectual lives;

57. has brave teachers who talk about hard things -- death and dying; divorce; September 11th, etc. -- with children;

58. has teachers who know how to honor diversity: some people think x, some people think y, others think z, and you will figure out how you think about this as you grow up, and form your own ideas;

59. is a place where a sense of community is always being built, between Principal and Staff, between Faculty and all students, and where everyone knows everyone else by first name;

Here is where YOUR ideas are needed.

99. Starts each day with an invocation:
May Happiness pursue you,
And catch you often.
And teachers, too
100. has as its motto
Always to shine,
to shine everywhere,
to the very deeps of the last days,
to shineĆ¢€"
and to hell with everything else!
--Vladimir Mayakovsky (trans. Max Hayward and George Reavey)

This is a list in progress. Contributions are welcome. Notice that there is an attempt to be specific.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.