- High School
Last week, on the first day of inservice, I asked teachers to get into small groups. I told them that I was running out of adjectives, or that the adjectives I use are becoming too commonplace and too fuzzy, and that I needed new ways to describe the school. So I told them to write down positive descriptors for the school, things that they would say to others about what they value about the school, and then to bolster those descriptors with solid examples.
Okay, so I knew the descriptions would be skewed positively, because that is what I had asked for. I did not expect to end up in tears because what they described resonated so completely not only with what I would hope but also with my own experience of THS. I have divided these comments and examples into six categories and present them here in no particular order, in the teachers’ own words. See if they resonate with you as well.
Supportive Community: Teachers are supportive of each other, of students, of parents. We are very kind to each other - we are just kind. Students are kind and accepting, the school is supportive of staff development and welfare. There is great respect for students and teachers, and student well-being is a top priority. Success is celebrated in different forms. There is a “people above policy” atmosphere. It is comfortable and safe. Teachers have a close relationship with parents. Amazing PTA. Strong personal relationships with students. Strong school culture in general, with staff and parent parties and activities. One teacher said, “It’s a lovely little community.”
Flexible/Forward-Thinking/Dynamic: Teachers innovate new programs and curriculum. We moved easily into VC@T and hybrid learning. There is an open and curious approach to AI and other technology. THS is always evolving, updating, at the cusp of new things. It’s a community of learners with good Professional Development. Curious teachers willing to learn new things, flexible to circumstances or needs, innovative and creative. A reflective feedback culture and growth mindset. Daring to try new things, self-driven and collaborative teachers. Relentlessly anticipating the education of the future and “future proofing” students with skills they will need.
Experiential/Engaging/Fun: Examples included the Renaissance Faire, LipSync, Fun Fair, Black Dolphin, SEA Courses, films, STEAM Week, Arts Interim, Seaweed Farms, International Trips. Incorporating class lessons into the Foundry, Media-Tech, the Marine Science Center, and the boat. Students love to come to school, and there is a joyful atmosphere. Curated environment at The Grove. Positive education, good working environment. Pride. Interdisciplinary classes and activities. Teachers teach from the heart. There is a positive flow.
Welcoming/Inclusive/Accepting: Learning Extension including Full Steam Ahead for math and LEAP for Literacy, Learning Support, TCI (The Children’s Institute). Students learn to accept each other and themselves. Not “one size fits all.”
Student-Centered,fostering student voice/choice/agency: Encourages critical thinking (even if uncomfortable). Examples included Passion Projects, Independent Study Modules, Capstone Events, Full Steam Ahead Projects, student portfolios, Middle School Decisions-Decisions Program, student thinking routines. Teachers adapt to different students. Great student-teacher ratios. Grouping students by ability/interest rather than grade level. Focus on finding and supporting students’ talents.
Community Action/Sustainability: Social Impact and Sustainability Program (SISP), the Marine Science Center, social action projects in The Foundry, Global Issues Conference in the Fifth Grade. “Purpose-driven” projects with real world applications. Project Hope. The Global Project Development class including Meraki Giving and S.O.L.E. Social Entrepreneur class at the High School. We have empathetic, community-driven students.
The five Harbour School Values are listed in the stairwell of The Grove, but for those who don’t remember them they are: The Learning Experience Comes First, Lifeworthy Learning, Redefining Rigor, Invested in the Individual, and Community-Oriented. Perhaps it should be no surprise that those values are so clearly reflected in the teachers’ responses.
Nonetheless, if someone had asked me fifteen years ago what we were trying to create, a school in which the teachers listed these attributes would have seemed incredibly improbable. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they are all exemplified this year!