Culture Breeds Growth

The climate and culture at our school genuinely exists on an unwavering foundation of trust, respect, growth-mindedness, transparency, and passion.   There is no better manifestation of these components of our community than our approach to professional development.  First, it is important to note that we are truly a community of learners as exemplified by the universal thirst for knowledge among our faculty.  Within the last 14 months, large groups of  faculty and staff have attended MICON (Martin Institute for Excellence in Teaching), ISTE, GISA, AATEC (which we hosted), GISL (which we also hosted), GAETC, ASCD, and multiple EdCamps.  Further, in addition to our powerful presence as attendees, many of our professionals have also been leaders at these professional learning conferences as presenters.   (9 member of our community presented at MICON15). In addition, our community has a strong Twitter presence in the education realm of that social media universe.  Many of our teachers participate in multiple weekly educational twitter chats and once again, we are leaders in that realm as well, as many of our educators serve as moderators for some of biggest education chats in the world, including #TLAP, #COLChat, and #ENGChat.

Second, our approach to professional development during the school year is unique in that all offerings, which are GADOE approved PLU courses, are developed and led by our own faculty and staff.  Last year, we offered 8 strands that provided fresh, immediately applicable, relevant strategies for our teachers to continue to grow and improve the school experience for everyone in our Kehilla in real time.  Because the courses are developed and led by people who know and are invested deeply in our community, the relevance piece is never forced or ambiguous.   The courses are created with our school foremost in our minds.

Finally, our approach to whole group professional development reflects the first two approaches.   Our faculty meetings follow the model of professional education conference sessions both in practice and in content.  Since our faculty members choose one or two of the 8 strands, we offer each facilitator an opportunity to present to the whole faculty once a year so that everyone can get a taste of the course.   These presentations reflect good pedagogy in their delivery, often with some dissemination of information, followed by activities, discussion, creation, and collaboration.   We have these PD strand focus meetings every other session where the whole faculty is together.  For the sessions that are not PD strand focused, we develop programming that is fresh, relevant and once again Davis-focused.   Our first half-day of PD on October 31st, we held our first #Edcamp Davis.  Following the Edcamp model, our teachers posted and facilitated conversations about topics that were important to them.  We learned together and from each other.  Later in the year.  we had our “Things that Suck” meeting.  No meeting has exemplified the trust, respect, and transparency that exists here better than this meeting.   Members of our faculty had the opportunity to speak openly and candidly about some polarizing topics without any fear of reprimand.  This candor once again allowed all of us to learn from each other, for us as an administration to get some important “straight talk” from our faculty, and for everyone to once again model the respect for and embracing of different opinions. With our re-accreditation year coming up, we also use these meeting times to get our people in small groups to talk about topics relevant to our re-accreditation, and to gather from them meaningful feedback about our school.  Other meetings included an intro to Design Thinking and our annual Ted Talk afternoon when faculty and staff get to choose from a collection of relevant and meaningful Ted talks that had been selected by a small group of colleagues to share with the whole. Discussions followed each viewing.

Finally, an informal piece that is quite powerful is the steady flow of sharing that exists throughout the year.   Articles, videos, technology tools, etc- we are always sharing, receiving, discussing, and envisioning through a sharing process that keeps us connected, learning, and growing.

Ultimately, the vibrancy of our learning community rests on these pillars of trust, respect, passion, transparency, and growth-mindedness.  As such, our professional development philosophy and practices directly reflect these values.