Utopian workplaces are possible in many small districts and in larger districts with principals who assume personal accountability for the success of their schools. If the budget were not an issue, very small class sizes would be the number one issue to confront. Placing approximately 10 students in each class, with no more than 12, would be ideal in a perfect world. Schools would not “separate” some students; all students would be included in the general education classrooms. The aforementioned would allow for better manageability, teacher satisfaction, increased individual student attention, and improved student learning.
The principal would have the ability to hire only the most effective teachers and would be involved in all of the hiring decisions. Effectiveness would be based on personality, attitude, creativity, education, proven skill, track record, test scores, desire to help all learners, peer references, professional references, and parent references.
Each classroom would be equipped with state of the art technology and other resources. There would be one laptop computer per student and teacher in each classroom. The computers would contain the most up to date software and programs designed to foster creativity, success, innovation, inquiry, and learning. Students would have limited internet capability (certain sites would be forbidden).
Additionally, each classroom would be equipped with smart boards. All books and other curricular resources would be new and aligned with the State content standards and would inspire academic rigor. Each student would participate in fairly routine assessments to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Students wouldn’t need to purchase school supplies because everything would be provided through corporate donations.
Designer Physical Education Program
Nutritious lunches and snacks would be provided at no cost to students, teachers, volunteers, and other staff. Each student, teacher, volunteer, and other staff would participate in a designer physical and health education program. Participants in the designer program could choose from aerobics, water aerobics, swimming, yoga, Pilates, karate, or spin class. Additionally, each participant would receive individualized healthy living follow-ups and education. The school nurses and doctors would provide these services at no cost to the participants.
Each student would begin to focus on skill development in kindergarten. Portfolios would be developed at this stage and would follow the student through high school graduation. Teachers would follow the students through their academic careers. If teachers weren’t qualified to teach a high school subject, for example, they would invite other qualified teachers into their classroom for instruction in that subject. In the fourth grade, students would begin to focus on the skills they need to be successful in middle school.
In middle school, students would begin exploring their career interests, and would start planning their high school courses of interest. In high school, each student would continue to take interest inventories and would revise their course schedule, if necessary. They would also tour one college each month. The cost of travel would be funded through corporate donors.
Teachers would participate in professional development to include, but not be limited to formal education and advanced degrees. They would be allowed to attend these classes during the day (for a portion of the day). Coverage would be provided. Teacher professional development would be provided at no expense to the individual. They would agree to remain with the district for a period of time in exchange for this formal training. Teacher salaries would be commensurate with their skill and ability. For example, if a teacher had an advanced degree, they would be compensated fairly.
School board members would regularly tour the school and would recognize and celebrate excellence. They would provide gift certificates to outstanding teachers on a monthly basis. Community members and parents would be invited to walk through classrooms during an open forum once per month. This would provide an opportunity to demonstrate school safety, high standards, and satisfied and competent teachers.
Each classroom would display, in writing, the rules, expectations, and consequences for disobeying the rules. Each classroom would have a lending library for parents and students containing books, audiotapes, and videotapes on various educational topics. Guest speakers would be invited into each classroom once per month which could include therapists, psychologists, college representatives, SAT preparation, other educators, medical professionals, researchers, and others.
Parents, students, teachers, other staff, and volunteers could participate in the guest speaker sessions. Teachers would host morning coffees once a week, in their classrooms, for the parents. The administration, staff, teachers, and volunteers would host monthly parent discussion groups to provide insight into specific issues such as learning disabilities, co-parenting, bilingual education, ADHD, gifted students, literacy skills, behavioral issues, standardized testing, exit exams, board policies, etc…
Classroom Staffing and Organization
Each classroom would be staffed with a master teacher, an ancillary teacher, two substitute teachers, one teaching assistant, and several volunteers. Classrooms would be large and would be organized into sections. One section would cater to group learning and instruction; one section would include “cubbies” to allow for one on one assistance; one section would include a technology center; one section would include a small library space; the teacher work space would be included in another section; student lockers would be in one area; and a student break area would also be included.
Staff meetings would be mandatory, but would cover only what couldn’t be covered in the monthly e-bulletin. A continental breakfast would be provided at no cost. Teachers would provide updates regarding their workgroups; each workgroup would focus on writing one grant per year. Important decisions would be made and agreed upon during these staff meetings. Teachers would provide their input regarding the school budget, spending, curriculum, changes, policy, needs, wants, etc…Local newspaper staff would be invited to attend these meetings so they could provide updates for the community.
All students would participate in a conflict buster or peace academy. They would be trained in nonviolence and conflict resolution. Parents would be in charge of designing school bulletin boards documenting student and family community service projects. Parents would also organize and plan monthly barbeques for the community, staff, volunteers, students, and families. Student and community member art would be auctioned during this time to benefit the school.
Collaborative Problem Solving
Collaboration and partnerships would be the keys to a utopian workplace. Everyone would be respected, valued, cared for, and trusted. Decision making would be consensual; there would be no tyranny. People would feel compelled to share and would thrive on excelling. They would feel the confidence that comes from collaborative problem solving. All participants would realize a commitment to providing excellent education, safety, improved health and happiness, and cultural participation. Passion and zeal would inspire creativity and success. Everyone would buy into the environment because of the awe-inspiring positive effects of job satisfaction, empowerment, flexibility, mobility, and balance.
The utopian workplace would be vision driven versus stress driven. Teachers and other staff would be afforded a certain number of days in which they would be able to work from home. As technology has improved, they could conduct research using the internet, they could interface using voicemail, email, teleconferencing, or web conferencing. The vision would include ensuring world class learning to each student who attends the school. The vision statement would be developed by all staff. All staff would be held accountable for its success as it would be rigorously enforced. Staff would be rewarded for supporting the vision.