While city public schools don't start for another week, the charter system got a head start on learning. Fariña regularly makes visits to public schools, but took the opportunity of the early start to pay one to a charter school.
The purpose was to get a look at what the school was doing and to borrow some of the ideas to maybe apply to the whole public school system.
“The more we see about what's happening in other schools and the great ideas - we can kind of steal from here and steal from there – the better our whole system is,” Fariña said. “It's really exciting to be here, I took a lot of notes.”
Growing Up Green Charter School first opened its doors to students in September 2009 and continues to add a grade per year, hoping to eventually serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Among the things that Fariña noticed during her visit to almost ten classrooms was the use of interdisciplinary learning, something she's a big fan of in schools.
“As a classroom teacher, I believe social studies is almost the basis of everything,” she said. “And this school does a lot of that.”
She also said there are strategies like responsive classrooms, an approach to teaching based on the premise that children learn best when they have both academic and social-emotional skills, that could work in public schools.
“It's been an emphasis for us as a city, so a lot of workshops we do are open to their teachers and parents that wish to attend,” she said.
Fariña also addressed the anti-charter school sentiment that's followed her tenure with the Department of Education. She said she's never felt herself to be hostile towards charter schools in the past.
“I think dialoging and talking is the way to solve all issues,” Fariña said. “So people who think that about us, I would say it's more in their mind than in mine. My hope as an educator is to get the best ideas from everywhere and kind of cross-pollinate.”