Postcards from New York: What makes an Uncommon Classroom?

Improving Teaching

Over half term, I spent two days being ignored.  Visiting classrooms in New York City, my presence was disregarded consistently across three Uncommon Schools.  I went seemingly unnoticed by teachers and students alike, from Kindergarten to Tenth Grade.

According to Dylan Wiliam, what astonished one group of Japanese teachers visiting American schools was the number of interruptions to lessons.  Likewise, in my experience, British classrooms.  Uncommon Schools are different: teachers and students did not skip a beat or turn a head at my entry or exit from lessons.  They were neither disinterested nor rude; at appropriate times they were amiable and interested interlocutors.  They were, however, robustly focused on the business of learning, to the exclusion of distractions.  This principled, effective commitment to learning seems an appropriate synecdoche for me to begin attempting to pinpoint what makes Uncommon classrooms worthy of their name.

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Uncommon Schools are probably best known from Teach Like a Champion, Driven by Data…

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