Learning is Oxygen to Teachers
A parent approached me last week to say: “Ben, I know you have a Faculty Development day this Friday, but I have no idea what that is”. Hmmm… sound like a good topic for the Weekly Note!
At Randolph, we view our Faculty Development days as a chance for the entire staff to get together for some moments of enlightenment, reflection, innovation, organization and focus. Unlike larger schools, we are able to spend a great deal of time together in conversation as a whole staff, which gives us a great opportunity to align our programs and share our thoughts about students and their work.
We often will use these days as an opportunity grow and reach out to our community. We love to go visit other schools, for example, to see how they do their work. Over the past few years we have spent time observing most of the local schools, as well as schools down in the city, northward up in Stone Ridge, and across the river in Rock Tavern. We always come back from these visits with a deeper understanding of our own work.
This past Friday, however, instead of visiting we had visitors. We met all morning with representatives from the Wappingers School District special education department, and had an illuminating discussion about the work they do in the public schools, and about the challenges and opportunities that present themselves when trying to transfer that work over to the many local private schools that the District services. It felt like a an important sharing of ideas between two very different educational worlds, and we all felt wiser having met.
The rest of the day was spent in a stew of conversation about curriculum, standards, students, and upcoming projects and events. We somehow also snuck in a little extra time to organize and rearrange classrooms, which is always a nice change of pace from sitting still in meetings all day.
These are the types of days that sustain us as educators. It is not by accident that Judith Warren Little has noted in her research that one of the consistent hallmarks of successful schools is that teachers “engage in frequent, continuous, and increasingly concrete and precise talk about teaching practice.” Learning is oxygen to teachers, and days like Friday so often feel like a deep breath of sweet morning air. It puts a jump in our step and a smile on our face when Monday rolls around!