This week, I had the tremendous pleasure of visiting the PTSA meeting at Melrose Leadership Academy (MLA), located in Maxwell Park. I was inspired by what I saw. MLA is a dual immersion (Spanish/English) school, led by Moyra Contreras.
During my visit, I was struck deeply by the commitment of the parents to the vision of the school. The meeting was conducted in Spanish, with translation into English for the parents who don't speak Spanish. The meeting was largely focused on an issue that many schools in Oakland struggle with, how to engage parents on a more sustained basis in the PTSA and other activities that help the school achieve its mission.
Moyra also shared with the group that the teachers at MLA will soon be presenting on their research on teaching for the year. All the teachers at MLA participate in the Mills College Teacher Scholar program, a program that affords teachers the opportunity to improve their teaching practices through research into their craft that they design and carry out themselves.
Teachers select an aspect of their students’ learning they see as important in improving student learning outcomes, and meet monthly to discuss their questions with their colleagues and to examine the data that they collect to answer their questions, including classroom video data, student work, student interview data, and observational data.
The Mills Teacher Scholars staff provides facilitation and coaching to help move teachers forward in their thinking and to support them as they document the changes they make in their teaching and how these changes impact student learning. At the end of the year, the teacher scholars present their findings to their colleagues.
In fact, one of the MLA teachers is using the program to improve her Common Core math instruction.
I was very excited to learn about the participation of the MLA teachers because I know that teacher retention is a critical strategy for improving Oakland's schools, and I believe these kinds of programs are essential in recognizing the professionalism and expertise of our teacher workforce.
These opportunities for recognition demonstrate to teachers that they are our most valuable asset in the Oakland schools, and keep teachers thinking critically about their teaching and sharing what they learn in order to help colleagues do the same.
I will keep looking for and sharing these exciting opportunities to improve teacher retention as I continue my campaign.
I was also delighted by the way that the school's values are reflected in the visuals of the school. As you enter the school, to the left is a gratitude tree. Students are encouraged to reflect on their feelings of gratitude toward others in the school community and to jot them down for addition to the tree. Then once a month a couple of the notes are drawn and the students get a small token of appreciation. The tree itself is the Oakland tree, but as a rainbow to recognize the school's commitment to inclusion and diversity.
I think an emphasis on gratitude and appreciation is good to cultivate in any setting, and it is also a way of recognizing the efforts of the students to build the school community.
I also took some photos of my favorite murals at the school - there are lots of them - to share.
There are more under way. If you haven't been to see them, you should. The art teacher Pancho helps students to paint them.
This is my favorite one, along with the puma, below. All the animals pictured are native to California.