Why I Teach Where I Teach: The Opportunity to Share In Schoolwide Decisions
Arnold Pulda is a U.S. history teacher at University Park Campus School in Massachusetts, which is 82 percent low-income students. He has been an educator for 21 years; the last four have been at University Park.
What a pleasure — a chance to dispel a myth or two about teaching at a school that might be called “challenging.” The main challenge at University Park Campus School is the school itself: It is old and shows it age. But everything else works in our favor: motivated students and parents, a smart and committed staff, and terrific administration. Students are disadvantaged economically, but in every other way, they are fully advantaged — even privileged — to attend a school that is ranked among the best in the state. There are only about 20 of us on staff, and we operate as a family: We are open, honest, and fully “on the same page” in sharing a common mission to set and maintain the highest standards, care about each other and our students, and share our best practices for the benefit of everyone. We are an Innovation School in Massachusetts, which grants us significant freedoms in hiring, scheduling, and creating policy and curriculum. This means the staff is empowered to collectively share in all important decisions. We deal with the whole student: We are aware of issues and problems that students are experiencing at home and in school, and we are proactive in taking ameliorative measures when needed. When we say that we are invested — as a community, in the success of every student — we mean it, and our record shows that our efforts are productive in almost every case.
This post is a part of an ongoing series, called “Why I Teach Where I Teach,” which asks educators in high-need schools to share what has attracted (and kept) them in the challenging environments they’re in. They share important stories and experiences that should remind us all of the power of strong school leadership, a network of supportive colleagues, and the genuine opportunity to have a say in schoolwide decisions. Listen up! They’re teaching us.