"I've taught at other schools before, but I've never been this happy and satisfied with my work," says Jean Hurst, a second-grade teacher at The Children's School of Rochester (CSR). "The excitement that comes from helping govern the school really keeps me focused. I'm designing curriculum. I'm determining what the report card will look like. I'm making decisions about the school's budget. Talk about teacher autonomy!"
CSR's staff of fifteen teachers, together with the principal, support staff, and family members, are jointly responsible for the academic and administrative operation of the K-3 school. This shared responsibility takes time -- the faculty works long hours and spend a lot of time in meetings and on the phone -- but the teachers say it's worth it, because they feel free to create the best possible school.
To manage these nontraditional duties, the staff has organized itself into permanent work groups that address issues from staff development to technology integration. Each teacher is also a member of a grade-level team that identifies goals, objectives, and the subject matter knowledge they want students to acquire.
Grade-level teams are responsible for collecting electronic and print resources -- such as software programs and children's literature -- and creating interdisciplinary projects based around broad themes. The second-grade team, for instance, used the theme "winter weather in the tropical and temperate zones," to create a project in which students turned the team's two adjoining classrooms into representations of winter in two different climates.
CSR's faculty uses their autonomy to constantly improve the school's teaching and learning environment. "We are truly treated as professionals here," says second-grade teacher Deanne Delehanty, "so we really try to live up to those expectations for ourselves."