November 17, 2016
(Photos: Mara Duquette/ Center for Inspired Teaching)
On Monday, November 14, Center for Inspired Teaching brought a delegation of elementary and secondary school principals from Brazil to the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, so they could learn about our shared mission and work to build a better school experience. Each had been recognized as the most outstanding principal in his or her state. They were joined by a representative from the National Council of State Secretaries of Education (CONSED).
The US Embassy in Brasilia sponsored the principals’ tour, beginning with a variety of policy meetings in Washington, DC, before going across the country on school visits. The Inspired Teaching Demonstration School was their first stop.
In her introduction, Inspired Teaching’s Sammy Magnuson invited the principals to use this visit to frame their questions at the meetings to follow, at the US Department of Education and elsewhere. “Consider this when looking at any policy,” she suggested. “First, how does this help students to build the skills and dispositions that will allow them to thrive in and contribute to the world of the 21st century? Second, how does this invest in teachers as the levers for change?”
The principals explored the classrooms, frequently pausing to take photos of the vibrant student work on the walls. They asked questions of Inspired Teaching staff and Head of School Deborah Dantzler Williams, about the school’s philosophy, structure, evaluation and assessment procedures, policies, staffing, training, and more.
At the end of the tour, the visitors applauded the Head of School, recognizing, as school leaders themselves, the tremendous work it takes to manage a strong school environment. One simply commented, “As a teacher, I would like to work here!” Another celebrated the “harmony at the school, the tranquility, how the children went by in a natural way.”
Several principals commented on the strength of the teachers, and recognized that their training – especially the Inspired Teacher Certification Program for new teachers – uniquely prepared them to manage a differentiated classroom environment. One said, “What most impressed me was that the children were doing many different activities at a time, with a variety of materials, and it did not necessarily accompany what the teacher was doing. The students had a lot of autonomy. The capacity of the teacher to keep all of that under control and to observe at the same time is amazing.”
The tour’s coordinator, Meg Poole of the Meridian International Center, remarked that it was important to begin the principals’ visit to the United States with a window into innovation, which would spark their curiosity and questions at upcoming meetings. She was excited to see the principals’ energy and enthusiasm at the school.
At the end of the visit, a principal offered a final wondering: “I have read in Brazil how to teach children how to think, not what to think, and now I see it here. I would like to know whether this can happen in Brazil, too.”