On Monday, Jan. 6, like many instances throughout the school year, KO’s faculty engaged in professional development sessions dedicated to improving their teaching skills, and how to apply those skills to the classroom.
On that Monday, the faculty had a professional development day before students came back from winter break. The teachers had department meetings, and looked at the school’s course of study to see how they wanted to change what classes they offered going forward.
Spearheaded by Director of the Upper School Dan Gleason, Director of Teaching and Learning Jane Repp, and Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency Joan Edwards, professional development’s main goal is to provide teachers with all the resources they need to create a successful learning environment. New methods, or different ways of teaching are all discussed to better these teachers. “Professional development exposes teachers to new ideas or new ideas of doing things that they wouldn’t have come across on their own,” French teacher Ryan Brodeur said.
Throughout many professional development sessions this school year, Dr. Gleason and his team have looked at two major target points for them to focus on: strategic planning and culture and climate.
Strategic planning looked at how teachers viewed the school, and what the school wants to improve in the future. “[Professional development] allows you to check in with the needs of your staff and faculty, and understand what people need, and address it,” Dr. Gleason said.
Ms. Edwards has led the other initiative of professional development here at KO, focusing on the culture and climate of the school and how to be equitable in the classroom. “I want teachers to understand that there is a difference between equality and equity,” Ms. Edwards said. “Equality is giving each student the same thing, while equity is giving each student what they need.”
This idea of equity has been stressed to teachers in all different classroom settings, whether it be an art class or an English class. Ms. Edwards and the other professional development leaders said they hope that teachers understand how equity correlates to good teaching, and that teachers must understand the power and privilege they control in the classroom.
Some ways that teachers have been adapting to these new methods are through professional development days, and required reading. The goal is to become more acustomed to these new ways of teaching.
Teachers are required to read certain books throughout the school year, such as “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond, which stresses how a balance of taking risks and feeling comfortable allows for a student to most productively learn. Many professional development days are also planned throughout the year.
Teachers have most certainly seen the effects of professional development in their classroom, as they frequently strive to implement these new strategies for the benefit of the students. “It helps me be a more observant teacher in the classroom, and where I can hopefully create an atmosphere all my students feel safe and have an equal opportunity to learn,” English teacher Mela Frye said. “I can’t imagine anything more important as a teacher than creating an equal environment where kids are fully capable of learning.”
Teachers are always learning new methods or new strategies, and the way they teach is constantly changing. While students may think teachers teach simply because it’s their job, they do it to help students learn, develop and prosper. “When you achieve some sort of job status or credential, you don’t stay in a fixed place,” Dr. Gleason said. “There’s always new interests, new approaches, and there’s always new research.”
Overall, professional development helps teachers improve skills that they use every single day. “Professional development to me, is care, so that teachers can teach effectively,” Ms. Edwards said. As the school year powers on, these teachers and professional development leaders will continue to incorporate new methods and strategies to make KO into a place where students can prosper and successfully learn.