By Lysa Scott, ANet coach
Students first. Growth mindset. Always learning. Innovative thinking. Collaboration. Strong relationship building. These are the key elements that propel the work that is garnering results for student achievement at Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City, Maryland.
The leadership team at Tench Tilghman have built a school culture that promotes teacher development and leadership, student ownership of learning, and a strong sense of community. They’re deeply committed to increasing student achievement.
As their coach, I am inspired by Tench Tilghman’s leadership team and teachers every time I am in the building. Principal Jael Samuels and Math Instructional Coach Daniel Murphy are always seeking knowledge to build their capacity as leaders. They’re also always looking for ways to help teachers provide high quality, engaging instruction.
This year, the team has been working to build teacher capacity and ensure that they meet their instructional priorities. They’ve focused on student discourse and students’ ability to justify their thinking through discussion and in written form.
We wanted to bring this goal to life in a way that engaged students, so I suggested that the team develop a protocol with this in mind—and they did just that. They built a framework for engaged group discussion that gave each group member a role, incorporated accountable talk, and set desired outcomes. I also suggested that they videotape the discussions so students could watch, critique, and adjust.
The leadership team worked alongside teachers to put the protocol into practice in the classroom. Today, eighth-graders at Tench Tilghman are recording, reviewing, and responding to discussion videos once a week, and it’s strengthened their ability to talk about math ideas as well as justify their thinking in writing.
“The middle school teacher and special education teacher, Ms. Richardson and Mrs. Brown, were able to bring our vision to life by owning this student process,” Mr. Murphy shared. “The classrooms, as a result, have become more student-centered, which has had a positive impact on student learning.”
The leadership team gets in the trenches alongside teachers, whether it be through co-teaching or pulling students for small group instruction to address unfinished learning. They’re not afraid to put their teacher shoes back on to support students and teachers! It is rare to see a school where a majority of teachers go above and beyond not only to provide high-quality instruction, but also to seek new and innovative ways to execute it.
“When Lysa sat down to talk this through with me, she did not prescribe a vision,” Mr. Murphy reflected. “Rather, she helped me grow as an instructional leader. It’s funny because I know she has the answers, but she pushes me to own my development, just as we are working toward transferring ownership of learning over to students in the classrooms.”
Through their hard work and dedication to their students’ success, the leadership team and teachers at Tench Tilghman show on a daily basis what it truly means to have a strong school community that works together. They've created an environment that supports student achievement.