Last week, I went on another Discover Duval Schools Tour and again, I was impressed with what I saw being taught in Duval public schools. Have I been impressed with every school I've visited? No. But I can tell when I walk in a school which schools are just talking and I do the walking and the schools that "walk the talk."
I can tell a "dog and pony show" because of my long career in education helps me to see through "a bait and switch" promotion. I know a good school when I see it. And when I visit a school I look for good teaching with good teachers who were passionate about what they do to help students to better themselves.
More importantly, I have talked with the students and they were honest in their answers to me and they were also grateful for the variety of programs they could partake in that met their needs, interests, and skills. I heard from many students that their school was 180 degrees of what it was the year before and they were glad they stayed this year. I heard their success stories from knowing no English to having no chance for a college education. And they have their schools to thank for their growth in communication skills and academics.
I am impressed with the variety of programs that are being offered in the schools. I have seen: vocational skills that prepare students for manufacturing or using graphic designs on shirts, ceramics, and signs. Even the school newspapers and broadcasting staffs have left me marveling over the quality and professionalism of their news magazine and news programs. The culinary arts at 3 different schools has had me wanting to get cooking tips (and that recipe for salmon and grits). Did you know some schools have their own banks? Which means my husband has his own account at an institution that is managed by his students! There are so many Duval schools that are preparing their students for the real world using resources within their schools. These are the schools that are truly preparing the kids to succeed.
When I, a retired science teacher, can walk into an elementary class, high school class, or ESOL class and see students engaged in learning science, I can't help but to smile.
As I alluded earlier, I was not impressed with every school I visited and only at the visit to Englewood High School did I finally realize why the difference....the principals. When the principal was welcoming and the faculty is happy to show you what they do....that is a "village" that works together to raise a child to their highest potential. Coupled with my experiences with principals, I can tell you there are two types of principals, "Managers" and "Leaders." It is the leaders who see that their team of students, parents, teachers, and neighborhood achieve their best and finds every means to help them do so. A leader sees that everyone is important and has a role in the success of the school community.
I have personally asked several people to join me on these tours and two have and they both loved the two schools they visited. And they will likely to be visiting more schools in the next few months. Better, yet I suspect very strongly my friends (both former teachers) will be volunteering in some way to help a school that impresses them with a need where they could best use their skills.
I encourage the public to come out and visit these schools and see where the taxpayers' monies are going. It is worth a trip to take a tour of what our schools have to offer. Look for me, I will be the tiny white-haired old lady schoolteacher with a big smile because I am in a school with kids and colleagues as passionate as me about education.