Yellow Springs High School teachers who this year researched best
practice teaching techniques discovered that the high school already
exhibits many best practice characteristics.
We have a lot to offer each other, YSHS English teacher Elizabeth
Lutz said of her fellow teachers. We dont need to hire a bunch
However, the teachers at the March 27 meeting of the Yellow Springs Board
of Education said they also concluded that the YSHS teachers face a formidable
obstacle to learning from each other.
The major issue we uncovered is the lack of time, said chemistry
teacher Emily Riley. We dont have enough time to collaborate,
to discuss the kids and the things we want to do together.
Spanish teacher Kathryn Burkland agreed. We have wonderful teachers
but we dont get a chance to talk to each other, she said.
Like the students, were all flying by the seats of our pants.
At the meeting, the school board heard from the Best Practice Committee,
a group of five teachers selected last summer to research best practices
in their fields. The committee was an outgrowth of the YSHS Project,
YSHS Principal John Gudgel said, referring to last years school
project in which teachers identified the schools values and mission.
From that experience, Gudgel said, he formed the committee as a way to
further empower teachers to improve the school.
Best Practice Committee members Burkland, Lutz, Riley, social studies
teacher John Day and math teacher Dee Ann Holly all expressed their
appreciation for being a part of the group, which has met regularly this
year after school hours.
Burkland said that the committee experience allows me to have dialogue
on a deep and satisfying level with other committee members. It
keeps me walking into the classroom smiling, she said.
All of us are committed to improving our teaching and improving
the school, Day said. This committee gave us the extra oomph
to make it possible.
The committee members attended workshops and conferences in their fields
this year, something several said they hadnt had the time or money
to do previously. At the conferences, they found new teaching techniques.
Holly, for instance, learned about ways to use math computer software
The teachers also researched ways to make the high school more conducive
to student learning in general, and several attended a Washington, D.C.,
conference on school reform.
Were trying to make our school a better place for kids,
While the school employs many caring and committed teachers, the school
day is too hectic for both teachers and students, said several of the
teachers, adding that improving the school climate may involve restructuring
the school day. The school currently follows a traditional schedule of
requiring students to attend seven class periods daily, a schedule that
allows little or no time for teacher collaboration.
Nationwide, many schools are experimenting with block scheduling,
a system that offers fewer and longer class periods daily, allowing for
more flexibility and more collaborative teaching, committee members said.
Block scheduling represents a fundamental shift in the entire structure
of the school, said Day, who reported that the system has, in other
schools, resulted in fewer discipline problems and higher attendance for
both teachers and students.
Block scheduling could also address the teachers need to spend more
time working together, said several committee members.
We have a need for teacher collaboration, Lutz said. Having
a sense of professionalism helps us become more effective teachers and
helps students become more effective learners.
Before promoting a significant change in the school structure, local resident
Wally Sikes said, the committee needs to include in planning as many other
teachers as possible.
Participation in change equals commitment, he said. You
have to find some way to get the bulk of the faculty and the students
Committee members agreed, and Day stated that many YSHS teachers already
favor block scheduling. He passed out a teacher survey showing that 21
out of the 23 high school teachers identified themselves as strongly in
favor, in favor or neutral about block scheduling, while only two identified
themselves as opposed. Teachers also identified themselves as favoring
team teaching, but less enthused about changes such as implementing an
immersion term between semesters.
Overall, Day said, many YSHS teachers seem open to change.
The faculty dialogue has been better than ever, he said. We
have the capacity to move. It feels like were going in the right
Committee members agreed, however, that any significant change will take
We are nowhere near implementing the block-schedule plan,
said Riley, and the high school staff needs time to meet together to discuss
possible changes and their ramifications. The school board could facilitate
the process by helping teachers find the time to collaborate during regular
school hours, said committee members.
In response to a question from school board president Tom Haugsby about
areas of discomfort in committee members research, or
areas in which the high school has a way to go, several committee
members identified YSHS as short on technology compared to
other schools they saw.
Theres so much technology out there that could help us that
we dont have, said Holly.
The school could also implement its mission statement and values
more effectively, said Day, who added that he encountered schools
with more clearly-expressed values.
At the end of the meeting, board members expressed their appreciation
for the teachers presentations and for their efforts. The
board has hungered for this sort of discussion with teachers, Haugsby
* * *
In other business, the school board unanimously agreed to accept
the low bid of $61,200 from A.H. Sturgill Roofing Inc. to replace the
roof of the McKinney School.