What Makes a School Great? - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

What Makes a School Great?

Posted on September 12, 2010

by Dr. Edna Hussey on September 12, 2010

It's no secret. The recent edition of Times' cover story, What Makes a School Great, discusses the obstacles to improving public education before getting to the bottom line for school and student success. The challenges include teacher unions that "have a long history of working against the interests of children in the make of job security of adults," inadequate teachers salaries and incentives, ineffective teacher evaluation systems, poor student performance, etc. Yet ask any administrator, parent, and student, and they already know what makes a school great -- it's the teachers. We expect teachers to be caring, compassionate, and respectful toward the students entrusted to them. We value a teacher's innovation, creativity, and ability to keep ahead of research-based instructional practices. We honor teachers who inspire our students to not only enjoy learning, but also to take ownership for their own learning. These teachers are the education professionals who make a difference in their students' lives. How do we make sure that students are being taught by teaching professionals who are prepared to make any school great?

One of the primary areas for ensuring success is teacher education, i.e., teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities. At MPI elementary, several faculty have been serving as mentors to teacher candidates for the past year. We are now entering the second year in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As mentioned in the previous parent letter posted on this website, many teachers have accepted the responsibilities for mentoring a teacher candidate (TC).

At UH-Manoa, education majors commit to a two-year program where they spend each of three semesters doing observations in different public and private settings and some carefully guided and supervised teaching, in addition to prescribed courses such as methodology classes in various content areas. Remember, elementary teachers teach reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, and sometimes art, music, and physical education! The fourth semester is student teaching, during which time the TC assumes more responsibility for teaching several weeks, always under the careful guidance of their MPI mentor and UH supervisor.

The current teacher preparation program is a vast improvement from past years. When I was student teacher, class observations were limited to one semester followed by a second semester of student teaching. Experiences were mostly in isolation, save the weekly seminar, which brought student teachers together to discuss their observations.

Today, teacher candidates (a term that more appropriately describes the nature of the profession) are grouped into small cohorts, which become part of a school's larger community. The current cohort of seven TCs arrive to MPI together around 7:15am, just as our own faculty, spend the entire day on campus until 3:00pm, and participate in nearly every aspect of teaching. TCs attend our weekly faculty meetings and the lunch sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays when we discuss inquiry strategies. They work beside the mentor-teachers, observing, planning, and interacting with small groups of students. All of these opportunities over a two-year period most certainly give TCs first-hand, authentic experiences of learning and better preparation for the classrooms they will be entering as teaching professionals.

I am most proud of our teachers who have willingly volunteered to guide TCs each semester. It has always been my vision to partner with our university-based teacher education programs so that our talented teachers can share their professional expertise, helping to guide and shape this upcoming generation of teachers. It is an awesome responsibility, and we are honored to be entrusted with this responsibility.

What makes Mid-Pacific Institute great? Our teachers.

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey