With declining enrollment and a teacher strike in Puget Sound, some schools are avoiding these issues, including the Impact Seattle Salish Sea Elementary charter school.
A complaint among teachers currently on strike concerns student-to-teacher ratios in the classroom, with some classrooms in the region reaching well over 25 students per teacher. At Salish Sea Elementary, they have two teachers in the classroom to allow each student to thrive and get the attention they need, said Alex Harwoods, a Seattle Sea Salish Elementary leader.
“We know our early elementary students really benefit from more individualized attention,” Harwoods said. “And having those two teachers in the room really makes it easier to provide ongoing small group support and things of that nature.”
Seattle Sea Salish Elementary’s goal is to develop the social-emotional skills of its young “scholars,” what Sea Salish calls its students, and to give them the skills that families say work well in their families. children.
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This increased focus on social and emotional development is important for faculty and staff because it emphasizes individual student development rather than simply meeting state mandated testing standards.
Another school goal that helps support staff by taking feedback directly from teachers and implementing it into their plans as an institution, including changing the timetable to better support the school as a whole .
“Working with the teachers on the schedule, we actually revamped this year’s schedule to increase planning and preparation time,” Harwoods said. “It’s something the teachers have been pushing for that they think would really help with sustainability.”
The system not only supports teachers, but also benefits students.
“It’s also good for children, isn’t it?” Harwoods continued. “If teachers have more time to plan and prepare, it will improve the daily experience for students. »
Other support systems for teachers include a shortened Friday schedule, which gives teachers time to plan their lessons as well as important mental health breaks during their work time. All of these improvements stem from the ability to work directly with faculty to plan curriculum and to be flexible and responsive to student needs.
“I think those are what make us really appealing, professional development, strong mentorship, opportunities to make decisions about things like scheduling, providing perks, like wellness Fridays, and then, very frankly, stepping into a school building that believes every child can succeed that is focused on joy, rigor, engaging teaching, is an attractive place for future educators,” Harwoods said.
These changes not only benefit teachers, but are also suitable to support students and ensure that they succeed in their studies.
For teacher Emily Lescombes, the freedom to have control over her lesson plans rather than relying on more structured, state-sanctioned learning has given her the freedom to focus on teaching strategies. that respond to students where they are.
“I try to make it as fun as possible. And I know with second graders they have to move around a lot,” Lescombs said. “So it would be unrealistic for me to do things without them saying anything or without them moving. So I tried to incorporate applause when standing up.
“In my past experience I was given a binder or box saying to teach this for the year, but no real advice on how to use it.” Lescombs continued. “Of course I could understand it professionally, but taking this time to try to figure out what I’m going to teach here at Impact, they’ve already done that for us, so I know exactly what I’m teaching over this week.
This allows scholars the opportunity to practice their critical thinking skills to decide what they want to focus on in their academic career, rather than just focusing on what is being taught to them. According to Lescombs, that is the real goal of the Impact Charter Schools system, to get students to think critically and find a passion for learning in whatever field they decide to pursue.
“If they like it, they can search for what’s more on the same topic, or find each other if they’re not interested in a topic, also knowing that it’s okay to like certain things and to dislike certain things because it’s just a human trait,” Lescombs said. “But in life, it’s important to be curious and keep trying, even if you fail.”