We recently celebrated the end of spring break–and maybe the coming of spring–with our inaugural Faculty Forum. It was a professional day with presentations by Milton Upper School faculty on topics ranging from assessment to signs of addiction to classroom management. Presenters represented all academic departments, counselling and athletics. Presenters were teaching fellow and veterans alike. What did they have in common? Pride in their work and a strong desire to share their work with their peers. Each earned the attention of the audience for their willingness to participate and their level of preparation. The willingness to share–not shine–was what made the day a success.
Session were 30 minutes, with Q & A built in. Presenters shared resources and modeled different pedagogies in their presentation: open forum, more traditional presentation, demo-slam, hands-on tutorial. Form and function worked together. A colleague who had a huge role in putting the day together remarked, that the presenters “reminded me of some of my own professors who, in responding to questions, made the asker of the question feel incredibly smart and valued, and then also could engage with the question in ways that left the asker wanting to know more.” High praise, especially since this comment was directed at the Teaching Fellows. (I’d like to think the reaction held true for all presenters; based on what I saw it absolutely does.)
Here are three lessons that I learned from the day.
1) Timing. The fact that we this work on the first day back from spring break meant that teachers were eager, enthusiastic and energized. The buy-in was near 100% and the choice meant teachers could blaze their own professional growth plan/path. Too often professional days are sandwiched in as throw-ins or afterthoughts. The day work around other “real” days trying not to make too much noise or step on too many toes. Not this day. This day was a step towards learning–into learning–and not a step around it. I hope to use this as a reminder moving forward.
2) Smart technology. Many of the sessions from the Faculty Forum were edtech related. I ran a session on tools and techniques for formative assessment. Others led session on Google Apps, Schoology and PBL. What did these sessions have in common? Technology in service of good pedagogy. The inquiry directed learning, not the internet-enabled device. What are the expected outcomes? What are the tools–not technology–that can improve outcomes? What are the platforms–technology–that can facilitate them. The integration they described and demonstrated was smart and, at its best, seamless. These teachers have their students writing, brainstorming, polling, assessing, expanding. Smart tech tools enable and empower them to do just that.
3) Teachers teaching teachers. Teaching is simultaneously a very public and very private profession. We perform and facilitate for students, but too often talk policy with peers. Even when conversations do turn to practice and pedagogy–as they increasingly do, I’m proud to report–it is conversation. This day and this format allowed teachers to see each other in practice. The content of the presentations came through clearly; additionally, teachers were able to observe each other in practice: how do teacher use time? resources? transitions? how do we include and take cues from the room?
Overall the inaugural Faculty Forum was a success: for the content, the energy, the reflection on practice. I hope this will serve us as a model for professional growth–individual and community–moving forward.