Throughout my trip, I visited 7 different schools in Ukraine and Turkey. I saw schools that serve pre-school kids all the way up through high school, and schools that work with kids who are gifted, special needs, or average. Each school was different from the others in some way. All of the schools that I visited had teachers who really cared and wanted to be there for the students.
The last school that I visited at the end of my time in Istanbul was the first private school that I saw. It was very apparent that they had money to get the best for their students. The facilities were beautiful. If you watch the video below, you’ll see just a glimpse of their amazing resources — computer labs, projectors, gym spaces, giant chess sets and ping pong tables in the open areas, great food for lunch, etc. It was truly impressive. Even more amazing were the people, who come from all over the world to teach there. It made me stop for a minute to consider a move to Istanbul to work there.
Don’t worry — I won’t really move to Turkey. I love my community and my job too much. I feel lucky to work at a school like Innovation Academy that fits me so well, and I don’t think that money buys a good school. This private school, for example, still has to teach the Turkish national curriculum, and they still need to spend large portions of their time preparing for standardized testing. In the elementary grades, they are able to do really creative, interdisciplinary work, but once students hit middle school, they need to focus on preparing for exams. Hearing the teachers talk about this problem made me think of our challenges at IACS, trying to balance MCAS preparation and more holistic projects that have real-world application. Some issues are universal to all schools, no matter where they are.
I love working at Innovation Academy, and I am thrilled to go back to school tomorrow after this three week trip. It’s been a long time and I am excited to see all my students and coworkers. How many students love going to school? This whole experience has made me wonder, “What does make a good school?” Is there any universal answer that would be true around the world? Any readers out there have a magic answer? Please share your ideas!