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Tennessee Teacher: Why School Choice Empowers Educators

Tennessee Teacher: Why School Choice Empowers Educators_5fbeeac840aec.jpeg
Charter Schools School Choice School Choice Week Teacher Voice Tennessee

Tennessee Teacher: Why School Choice Empowers Educators

Tennessee Teacher: Why School Choice Empowers Educators

For families, school choice means identifying the “best-fit” school based on academic programs, student culture, community presence and location. When families seek school options, the goal is to find a place that sets up that child for the most responsive, productive and positive school experience possible.

Different families look for different assets in schools, based on student abilities, student needs and family values. The right school is a place where students can be happy and successful learners.

Last summer, I transitioned from teaching at a public magnet school to a public charter school, LEAD Prep Southeast in Nashville, Tennessee. My search for the right school was much like the choice of the families of the students I teach. I visited a number of schools, both district and charter schools. I met administrators, observed classrooms and spoke with students.

I am fortunate to teach fifth grade science this year at the school that fits and further develops my values, ambitions and teaching philosophy. Certainly, I anticipated a positive year, but the culture of my school and the support of the administration continue to transform my practice. I love the opportunity to teach at a school where I am growing into the teacher that I want to be. As a result, I am, in turn, able to support my students as they grow to be capable, kind and motivated learners.

As a teacher researching different options, I learned about the assets of public and public charter schools across the county. My happiness has roots in two non-negotiable values, which are supported by the school where I teach.

Empowering Students (and Teachers!)

At my school, students are respected and supported as individuals. With the trust and guidance of teachers, even fifth graders can develop the tools to become curious, motivated agents of their own learning. When students are empowered, academic performance and student culture benefit significantly.

As a staff, we dedicated part of our summer professional development to creating and agreeing upon a school-wide behavior system, a tremendous tool for giving students ownership over their actions. Expectations are consistent day-to-day and teacher-to-teacher, and our system includes both incentives and consequences.

The expectations we have for our students are high, and our scholars consistently demonstrate the responsibility, integrity and kindness needed to meet those expectations.

Academically, one of my focuses this year is “pushing ratio,” or building student capacity for success with greater cognitive responsibility. With clear and reasonable expectations, the right resources and a lot of intentional questions, 10-year-olds can accomplish amazing things.

In turn, I feel respected, trusted and empowered as a teacher. I am supported in my school and throughout LEAD Public Schools by administrative and academic staff.

Teachers as Learners

I expect my students to come to school every morning with open minds, a positive attitude and the determination to keep learning. It would be foolish for me to expect anything less for myself. As long as I teach, I want to continue to learn and refine my practice every day.

Learning is the highest focus of our school, for both students and teachers. Inside my school, I am supported by administrators on planning, instruction, assessment and building positive, supportive student culture. I am fortunate to work with a team of hard-working, student-focused teachers who share my mindset for professional growth.

This is only the second year for LEAD Prep Southeast. As a staff, we have the unique opportunity to create and refine the expectations, procedures and culture that will define our school as we grow over the coming years.

In the purest, most productive sense, choosing a school is deeply rooted in values and needs of students. Different people thrive in different environments, and school choice gives students and teachers alike an opportunity to find the right place to be successful.

A former Teach for America Corps member, Anna Handy taught in the Metro Nashville school district before becoming a fifth grade teacher at LEAD Prep Southeast in Nashville this year.
Photo by US Department of Education, CC-licensed.

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