Yesterday, while our students were enjoying their last day of a four-day weekend, it was a regular workday for teachers. Well, actually, “regular” isn’t quite the right word. We did have a full day of work, but of course there were no classes, as it was a holiday for students. For teachers it was a day of professional development (PD).
All too often, PD turns out to be stressful and unproductive. But not this time. At a brief district-wide opening meeting, our superintendent told us that the day would be “an opportunity for your voice and your experience.” She said that outside speakers shouldn’t drive the activities, as they so often do. As a result, we spent the bulk of the day working in small groups with our colleagues on matters directly related to our teaching. A good choice, thanks to the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and Professional Development Committee.
I was interested to see two connections between the opening meeting and President Obama’s second inaugural address. One was made explicit: the connection between climate change and our “Green Team” initiatives. The other was only implicit: the emphasis on “us,” not “me.” It takes a village…and we’re a village.
Also at the opening meeting was a “movie” (slides presented with the Ken Burns effect) called “Looking at the Past: Wondering and Wandering.” This was a fascinating report by kindergarten teacher Christie Wyman about her experience this summer as a winner of the Schoen Travelship, for which she worked on a dig in England, walked Hadrian’s Wall, and met with museum educators in Oxford and London.
We also got an update on systemwide technology initiatives, principally the upcoming adoption of Infinite Campus, which will replace our current attendance and grading system and more importantly will give all of us access to important information that we hadn’t had before.
All of that was in a 45-minute meeting. The rest of our time — other than 90 minutes for lunch and “wellness break” — was devoted to meeting in teams. In our case we started with all the secondary math teachers (Middle and High School) together, and then we split up by subject. The Algebra II team managed to produce nine documents in one day, describing both college-prep and honors Algebra II, with an emphasis on what they have in common. Each document focused on a specific math learning standard:
- Problem solving
- Measurement (not applicable)
- Geometry (not applicable)
- Statistics (honors only)
- Probability (honors only)
- Functions and algebra
- General uses/connections
Reflecting on our practices is one of the strengths of our math department, if I do say so myself.