Some Techniques to Keep the Conversation Going

  • Get a diverse student committee to rewrite the Nine Common Principles of Essential Schools in their own words. Then circulate it among the teachers for their reactions.
  • Train people in the consensus method of decision-making, where a decision is arrived at only when everyone agrees to help implement something. This proves useful for major decisions from contract negotiations to school vision statements.
  • At a faculty meeting, introduce one Essential School principle; then ask each teacher to write down its meaning on an index card without using any of the words in the CES version. Collect the cards and make them into a list to send every teacher, showing how many ways each principle can take shape.
  • After faculty members have been introduced to the Nine Common Principles, ask department meetings to come up with a list of ways they already carry them out.
  • Ask each department to elect a respected representative–not necessarily an Essential School proponent–to a faculty committee who will be paid or given release time to reflect weekly on the issues that face the school and report back to their departments. Add a few “at-large” members who may nominate themselves for election by the full faculty.
  • If teachers tend to eat in department offices, institute a faculty lunchroom, to get members of different departments talking together more regularly. Lengthening the lunch hour helps, too.
  • If your school has a video lab or photography class, videotape 5-minute interviews with anyone who is trying new things alone or in teams. Put them all on one tape, make copies, and present them at meetings of other faculty groups.
  • Praise and publicize teachers who are taking risks by departing from time-worn procedures. Write personal notes to acknowledge their efforts, and send a copy to the central office files.