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Director, Antioch Center for School Renewal

"As a teacher or parent, how

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"As a teacher or parent, how do you encourage the confidence it takes for students to "lean in"? Does your school create opportunities for student leadership in diverse contexts (for example, not only in student government)? How do you encourage students to take risks and recover from setbacks? "

For me, this is all about building community. A solid learning community, grown through meaningful work and intentional choice, provides not only a solid springboard for risk but also a safe place to fall when failure is elusive.

That last question? "How would your students define a successful school experience?" That one sounds like a great prompt for discussion in the first few weeks of school. Ask them to imagine it's the end of a great school year and write a letter back to themselves- a time capsule, sort of- in which they talk about the specifics of what made the year great. What did they do? What were the tough spots and how did they overcome them? What advice would they give themselves?

We also do a lot of T-charts- Quality Audience, Quality Conversation, Quality _________. By breaking those down into what they look like and sound like, we get to solid, observable behaviors that even the most concrete kids can grasp.

The common denominator shared

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The common denominator shared by 100% of successful schools is removing disruptive students from the class. All schools do it. Successful charter schools do it too. If you think you know of a successful school that does NOT do this, look carefully at (a) admissions and (b) attrition. In one of those 2 places you will find the filter. "Disruptive" does not equal bad. A student may have enormous challenges and difficulties that prevent them from participating in class, but those problems are often emotional, medical, economic, legal, or psychiatric. Not a child's fault to be sure, but also not within the expertise of a school teacher.

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