Chris Emdin, Associate Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, reviews some of the criteria he looks at when he observes and evaluates a schools social dynamics.
[INTRO SOUND] I know a lot about a school I’m visiting before I walk into the school. Who’s hanging out outside? How they interact with young people? Is anybody greeting them before they walk in?
Are the kids walking the hallways, or are they not? Are they having conversations with teachers, or are they being talked to by teachers? Can I distinguish who the leader is from the teacher, from the student, from the custodial worker? Do they have shared understandings?
Who says hi to whom? Is there a hierarchy in how folks are being treated? When I get into the classroom, what does the teacher say to the students to begin the school day? What kind of questions are being asked? Are they just yes or no? Are they dynamic?
What are they doing? Are they doing things, or are they listening? Is there space for freedom? Is there music? What is the class sound like?
Believe it or not, what does the classroom smell like? Or what are the seating arrangements? What are the colors? Everything in a school has a part to play in how young folks learn within it.
I was just in the middle school down our street, and I saw student work. There were no students there. But what I saw of their work tells me a lot about the expectations for what their work is. You can tell the pride folks have in their building without them being in it.
And so it’s a fluid thing, man. But when you walk to a school building, all your senses are going. I use every sense. I’m watching. I’m listening. I’m smelling. I am touching.
All those things indicate to me what kind of space it is or what kind of space it has the potential to be if you address certain things, right? I think it’s a formula for successful schools. It’s like, oh, man, you got everything but this. Let’s work on that, and we can get somewhere.