Living on the Edge of Chaos: "Leading Schools Into The Global Age"
Second Edition, written by Karolyn J. Snyder, Michele Acker-Hocevar and Kristen M. Snyder, 2008.
After becoming headmaster of a private school in Tampa, Joyce Burick Swarzman, a former college professor and the director of an award-winning teacher training program called SCATT (Sun Coast Area Teacher Training), set out to create a continuous learning environment for the school's faculty to advance the success of its students. Although Independent Day School-Corbett Campus (IDS-CC) is a private school, it has a public purpose. Swarzman's A + Action Approach to Leadership and Change model guided the design of new programs and systems of learning, which included: (1) model the models, (2) proceed purposefully, (3) embrace the vision, (4) build leadership capacity in teams and networks, (5) adopt "presence," (6) develop a lifelong learning mentality, and (7) persevere and persist.
Eventually, a cluster of basic training programs became important to their pursuit of the A + Challenge, which evolved into an integrated system of teacher and learning, called the M.O.R.E. Approach (Multiple Options for Results in Education). Seven clusters include the following: 1) child-centered vision, 2) appreciating the uniqueness of the learning, 3) motivational strategies to increase time on task, 4) creating dignity and respect, 5) teacher presence, making connections, 6) learning community, and 7) curriculum development. (Debbie Happy Cohen, It's All About Kids: "Every Child Deserves a Teacher of The Year", 2003.)
The school soon became known for its success in creating a world-class teaching and learning environment and it emerged as a major teacher-training center for schools in Florida. In time, teachers from both private and public schools in the United States and many countries around the world attended training sessions at IDS-CC, and also came to the campus to work with IDS teachers. Local teacher-training institutions learned about the high quality of teaching and learning at IDS-CC, and its teachers soon were training teacher interns. Some teachers taught with Swarzman in the program at St. Petersburg College to prepare the next generation of teachers. This school, which is on its journey to greatness, has become not only a great school for its students, but also a training site for both pre service and in-service teacher preparation programs.
What is the M.O.R.E. Approach? The model integrates learning strategies to nurture children and provide a safe and caring environment, which is built through communication skills, relationship skills, motivation, and an emphasis on promoting pupils' self-esteem. Time is invested each week to develop highly skilled teachers in cutting-edge strategies, in which an "Olympic mentality" drives the work of everyone. The M.O.R.E. Approach is used to create a brain-friendly environment to accelerate the learning process.
The school staff wrote a book to tell their story, It's All About Kids: "Every Child Deserves a Teachers of The Year", (Debbie Cohen, 2003), which has been translated into Spanish (2007) and Chinese (2007). In 2004 IDS-CC was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. The learning environment exhibited excellent results because of the training, high expectations, and dedication of the IDS-CC staff. Independent Day School-Corbett Campus was also named during 2007 as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle School Years Program school. Teachers participated in extensive training and worked diligently to create even greater influence on learning patterns.
When Swarzman learned about the International School Connection (ISC) and its mission, it seemed that becoming a global school might take her staff and students to new levels of excellence. Swarzman purchased a HomeMeeting license and software and began to connect with ISC members, especially in Spain. There followed a strong partnership with Luis Perez Martinez, who directs Global Learning, an initiative designed to strengthen the private schools of Spain; he is also the ISC Hub Coordinator in Spain. Swarzman began working with one school at a time for weeklong seminars and classroom demonstrations about how the M.O.R.E. Approach can enhance learning for all teachers and students. This movement with Spanish schools grew to over 20 private schools, and Spanish teachers are coming to Florida as interns for various periods of time at IDS-CC.
Many international guests were brought to the campus over several years, during which time IDS-CC also hosted events that were sponsored by the ISC for the Tampa Bay area. Creating a global learning environment in the school eventually became a conscious choice for teachers, and in time a tipping point was reached. Almost overnight all teaching teams were integrating global learning activities into the curriculum. Having already achieved the IB honor, IDS-CC teachers and leaders began working to become an ISC Global Leaning Center School, and are preparing their portfolio now to be certified as a global learning center. Skype and HomeMeeting technologies are used regularly to connect students and teachers with their partner schools in other countries. In addition, groups of teachers and their principals came from Spain and Chinato study for short periods of time to learn the M.O.R.E. Approach with IDS-CC teachers. In November 2007 two IDS-CC teachers worked with M.O.R.E.-trained schools in Spa into advance their learning, which was a professional honor for the selected IDS-CC teachers.
In 2006/2007 students from Nanjing University spent four months at IDS-CC, teaching Chinese and also interning with the ISC by giving seminars to schools in the Tampa Bay area with their sponsors, Professors Xinmin Sang and Shuhua Li. The four students (Jun Liang, Rain Guo, Vanessa Yang, and Jie Yan) have all returned to China and now communicate regularly with students at IDS-CC, using many forms of technology. In October 2007, IDS-CC sent many of its teachers and students to Beijing to participate in the first ISC Global Youth Summit, which was co-directed by Linda Boza, a leader of IDS-CC's Middle School. The Nanjing Four, as they came to be called, helped prepare IDS-CC students and staff, using technology to communicate from China to Florida.
The IDS-CC story will continue to emerge as a sustainable development school because of the leadership of the school's headmaster and other school leaders, and the continuous training and high levels of caring and proficiency of the teachers.