I was fortunate to be able to spend Thursday and Friday hanging around the school. Here's what I saw:
- Lots of smiles.
- Loud classrooms
- A principal's office that looked more like grand central with equal numbers of staff and students talking and working, coming and going
- Teachers who discussed personal issues with students
- A brief power outage that didn't paralyze learning despite them being a 1:1 school
- A lack of emphasis on technology
- Students occasionally off task
- Students excited to talk with adults
None of these things are particularly amazing and are all things you could find in many, if not all schools in North America. I didn't see one thing that couldn't be done almost anywhere. The teachers are good teachers but they aren't doing anything I haven't seen before. So what's the big deal?
There are many more observations and insights that one would make beyond the few I've listed but I'm not sure that any additions would tell us that "one thing". It's obvious that leadership plays a significant role and that grows culture over time which is undeniably palpable. While many will continue to deconstruct and analyze how, and if this type of place is replicable, Good teaching and caring adults can lead to a really wonderful place which Science Leadership Academy truly is. But maybe SLA isn't so unique after all? Maybe there are more schools and classrooms like this but we just aren't telling anyone? The level of connectedness among staff doesn't hurt their image but indeed follows closely with one of their guiding principles: Learning can – and must – be networked. But behind that networked learning lurks teachers who know how to teach just like many of the teachers you work with or you already are.
I didn't see any one thing that blew me away at SLA . They just seem to embody the things we think schools should be.