It’s winter vacation for many students this week; it’s a nice break for all of us. In my house we spent the first day cleaning and organizing some of the areas that needed a deep clean. We have a nice working list of all of the things that need to get accomplished this week thanks to the whiteboard in one of the pod classrooms.
Internally, as we create brochures for the upcoming school year, and reflect on the whirlwind of a year, we have spent time discussing the traits of a successful pod. So I thought I would write about that; please feel free to comment, give feedback and disagree with me in the comments below.
First, I think a successful microschool has a shared vision. The pod operates like its own company. A successful company makes decisions ensuring that the mission is reinforced. Same with the pod. It’s helpful when the parents and teachers communicate about a shared goal, and frequently check-in to ensure that the learning connects to the shared vision.
Second, communication. The reason relationships survive or fail is often due to communication. Many parents have reported that they have never received so much information as to what their child is learning, how their child is learning, and individual feedback. There are some parents who have so much trust in their teacher (and so much going on in their own lives) that they don’t even read everything! (But I don’t think this is the majority). The weekly overviews, and photos, and bi-weekly individual updates have kept parents informed and have offered opportunities to provide support at home.
Third, and this is what SchoolHouse has built itself on (so maybe it should have been first) is the teacher. The SchoolHouse teachers are amazing! I have spent my entire life in schools (first as a student then as an educator) visiting schools, working with teachers. This year I’ve been amazing at the talent and depth of our teachers- we have the best roster of teachers.
Finally the community both of the parents and of the teachers. In weekly emails to teachers we often ask them questions. Sometimes they are simple questions about favorite snacks, or favorite books to use in the classroom. One week I asked teachers about their favorite childhood school experience and out of that came the idea for the first Book Bowl in mid March where a dozen pods have already signed up! There are two levels K-3 and 3-5 (third grade can decide where to be). It’s exciting that this idea came from the teachers! There is also an inter-pod Book Club occurring, along with Community Circles, Pod Spirit Weeks and the teacher-led grade level meetings. Even though the micro-schools are stand alone, we have worked to provide connected experiences.
It isn’t teacher appreciation week yet (mark your calendars for May 3rd!), but nevertheless take the opportunity to thank your teachers, and thank your pod hosts (who probably do more than you realize).