The Urban School – Where Innovation is Tradition


Like every school we are visiting, The Urban School is set in sunny San Francisco.  A city that is famous for its rolling hills, awesome architecture and even more more awesome food.  It is perhaps most famously known for its landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the notorious Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

It is a city that holds a rich cultural history in the arts, but also a place that has been greatly impacted by the constant innovation of the brilliant minds who flock to Silicon Valley; the home of many tech companies that have changed the world as we know it.

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It is perhaps fitting then, that the Urban School is an institution that is symbolic of everything that is San Francisco.  It is a place where innovation is indeed the tradition of the school.  Where the forward thinking philosophies of the founders in 1966 continue to shape the school as it continues to grow.

It is a school that is exemplary in its use of technology.  Whether it is the implementation of Blend-Ed techniques or the development of the current Urban X Labs, technology has a genuine purpose at The Urban School.  Where every decision is carefully crafted to benefit the student.

However, it is not the use of technology that has impressed me.  Rather, it is their unique teaching culture that I was most interested in.  I found myself taking more notes on how they approach education and their philosophy of education itself.  Not how they have implemented technology, which was the main purpose of my visit…or so I thought.


One of the many collaborative learning spaces at The Urban School

Geoff Ruth, The Urban School’s Academic Dean, described their teachers as ‘relational leaders’ and not the traditional ‘seminar leader’.  Incase you didn’t already know, this is brilliant.  A teacher that has a personal connection to their student will work harder for their students and vice versa.  He tells us that:

The Pedagogy has to be different, it needs to be different to make it work

An example of this is their use of a ‘Digital Innovators Group’.  This group is made of people involved in the school community including: teachers, administrators and most importantly, students.  This group has a variety of roles such as creating assessments that are engaging and relevant to the students, whilst covering all necessary curriculum outcomes.  An idea that I will be adopting in my own personal journey in education.

From this, the use of technology arises.  It becomes relevant. It becomes purposeful. It becomes organic.

I myself am envious of the teaching culture that is so easily found throughout The Urban School.  It is something that I will be taking back with me to reflect on.  But until then, I will continue to enjoy the sunny days of San Francisco and marvel at everything this wonderful city has to offer.




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