What Do Essential School Teachers Want Most?

What matters most to teachers in an Essential school? Asked to reflect on how to improve the conditions and effectiveness of their daily work, the faculty of one of “Horace’s schools” came up with four common concerns:

Knowing students well. To improve the quality of their teaching and assessment, teachers wanted a smaller number of students overall. To achieve this they favored team teaching of integrated subjects, as well as longer schedule blocks, more time with the same students over several years, and a sustained advisory relationship over time.

Support for curriculum development. Though they liked the freedom to design their own curriculum, teachers wanted more time to do it ahead of time. They might charge curriculum subgroups with that task, they said, with the aim of assembling a made-to-order shared curriculum library.

Communication, collaboration, leadership. Working together better in fewer, more focused meetings was important to teachers, and they asked school leaders to balance school-wide participation in decisionmaking to reflect this. At the same time, they wanted more support and guidance in the arts of dialogue, collaboration, teaching and learning, and advisement. And they pushed for a meaningful part for both teachers and students in school governance.

Structures and schedules to support their goals. Everything in the school should contribute to making the above goals happen, teachers said, while acknowledging that some adjustments work at cross purposes to others. When in doubt, simplify, they suggested, keeping the top priority as more sustained time with fewer students.