Every Wednesday throughout the school year we release our young people early (at 1:45 pm) and then meet as a staff for three hours starting at 2:00 pm. Much planning went into the founding of PFFS-University prior to its opening in August 2005 (as you can imagine) and remarkably much of what was instituted at the outset, including this weekly early release/three hour staff meeting, has been ‘spot on’. PFFS-Downtown follows this staff meeting model.
When we gather as a staff, the first hour to 90 minutes is spent in a structured conversation about our students. We start with the writing of ’positive notes’ (each staff member writes and shares a note to a particular student which are distributed to them the next morning during the whole school meeting) and then we each complete a weekly ‘student update’ form (the roster is disaggregated by advisory and spaces are designated after each student’s name for comments). From that initial process together particular students are identified for more directed staff consultation together resulting in action steps that we agree to implement on behalf of these students.
The middle part of the meeting is designated for working out programming logistics for the coming week. The last hour of our meeting is set aside for the discussion together of teaching and learning in general at the school and for ‘looking at student and teacher work’. We use ‘SRI Critical Friendship’ protocols to guide these conversations about our work and to create a safe and equitable space for this type of conversation. Here is a video that was taken during a PFFS-U staff meeting on 10/16/13 where we used the ‘Charrette’ protocol to discuss the design of an upcoming interdisciplinary, project-based unit of instruction.
JoAnn and Santo are national facilitators of the ‘SRI Critical Friendship’ model and provide training for new coaches. Paulo Freire and City High School are affiliated with the School Reform Initiative (SRI) who promote this type of professional learning community. SRI arose as part of a larger movement and network of progressive schools/educators called the Coalition of Essential Schools. PFFS and CHS were founded upon the CES ‘Ten Common Principles’: 1) Learning to use one’s mind well; 2) Less is more, depth over coverage; 3) Goals apply to all students; 4) Personalization; 5) Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach; 6) Demonstration of mastery; 7) A tone of decency and trust; 8) Commitment to the entire school; 9) Resources dedicated to teaching and learning; and 10) Democracy and equity.