November 21, 2015
There’s definitely something going on at the Inspired Teaching School on Douglas Street in Northeast DC. It was evident as I toured the school and spoke to teachers, parents and faculty during today’s open house. Even the classrooms echoed an openness and relaxed atmosphere, geared toward expression and learning. It’s not often that you hear words like imaginative, inspired, creative, and student centered echoed with such enthusiasm by teachers and parents alike.
If you don’t believe me ask Pre-K teacher Daris McInnis who stated teaching at Inspired Teaching was “his dream job” and sees this as a way of giving back. He went on to praise how the school helps children learn to problem solve and talk through things through its inquiry-based learning.
Or maybe it was Yashika Ocon who has two boys in kindergarten and 4th grade who gleamed when asked what she liked about the school and replied that she likes the way they “meet children where they are”. “They don’t hold children back like some schools do”. When asked what message she would want to pass on to other parents, she stated that Inspired Learning “Allows your child to be who they are, where they are. It’s not a rote memory-based learning environment.”
Still not buying in? Ask Bashon Mann, the proud parent of a 3rd and 1st grader. He commented that after being stationed in DC he wanted to find a school where his “children’s education experience would provide the building blocks for them to excel and compete at a high level”. That included not only a strong academic program but an “environment where it would be clear that his children were engaged”, and not just attending. He liked what he saw and heard during the open house he attended many years ago but realized that “the proof was in the pudding”.
To him, that proof would lie in the response he received from his children when they were picked up from school. Bashon says, he saw all he needed to see when his children wanted to stay longer after school. He relayed some other key ingredients like parent participation and follow-up to reinforce the school’s objectives and reciting the schools 4 I’s: Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity.
But it was the final minutes I spent with Deborah D. Williams, Head of School, and Kate Keplinger, Chief Operating Officer that truly emphasized that something different is happening at Inspired Teaching School. You get a sense of pride from them leading the only school in DC with this learning format. They were proud of the wide range of students they enroll from around the city. This diversity, reflective of the changing demographics in the District, is important to the learning environment. However, they also expressed concern that DC’s regulations prohibits “neighborhood preference” which would allow them to enroll more students from the community. This concern has been expressed by residents and is a concern of these two school leaders school as well.
Still not convinced? Find a parent whose child attends the Inspired Teaching School and experience the enthusiasm for yourself. Talk to a teacher, any teacher, and see if you walk away with the same impression. But most of all, if you are a resident in this neighborhood, call Councilman McDuffie, write the Mayor, and the School board and lobby for neighborhood preference so that your child isn’t potentially walking past a school each day that could, in the words of Bashon Mann, “help your child excel and compete on a high level”.