In a recent conversation with two educators in Boston, one of them wanted to know how I knew if our opening faculty meetings had made an impact, and what type of follow-up, if any, there had been. As part of our September 2009 opening faculty meetings, over the course of an afternoon and the following morning, the entire faculty and staff participated in a set of activities revolving around the theme Embracing Diversity in Learning and Teaching. If you are curious, feel free to read about the introduction, the simulations, and the workshops.
I was intrigued by the educator’s question because, interestingly, nobody at my school asked the first part, which is how we knew if the meetings had made an impact, or what type of impact they might have had. In fact, I don’t really know what type of long term impact the sessions had. I do know that at the time, the activities made a highly positive impression on people, because on the third morning of opening meetings our Headmaster began by noting that the buzz from quite a number of people who commented (to him and other administrators) was that these were the best opening meetings they could recall in awhile.
In planning the opening meetings, we had determined there would be opportunity to follow up on the ideas throughout the year. Experience has taught that faculty prefer time to process ideas, but also want to reengage with them at a later date. Our first follow-up came at the end of October, in partnership with our Faculty & Staff Association (FSA). Twenty of us gathered for a Feed Your Head in Follow-Up after school session. Comprised of faculty from all three divisions, we met in the Library to discuss “a thoughtful approach to changing mindsets about intelligence, share practical formative assessment techniques, and engage in the debatable discussion topic of Is Less Actually More?” The discussion topics were culled from the themes and questions that emerged from the Exit Cards filled out by participants at the conclusion of each opening day workshop. (After close to 75 minutes of guided conversation, a number of folks went on to join others for the FSA’s Happy Hour.)
Our plan is to have at least one more follow-up session (though ideally there will be two!), most likely in early April and then again in June. This was where my reply to the educators in Boston ended. Later that evening, though, I realized my answer had been incomplete. Our school has enjoyed a relationship with Mott Hall V, a public school in the Bronx. I had been invited to meet the Principal and Assistant Principal when they were visiting in December. We had an energizing and amicable conversation, resulting in an invitation for me to visit Mott Hall V.
Knowing of my interest in differentiated instruction (DI), the Assistant Principal later amended the invitation to include a workshop in DI and invited me to bring others. Consulting with our middle school learning specialist, with whom I had planned the opening meetings, we agreed this opportunity should be shared by the three math teachers who had offered the workshop Making math accessible for all learners and reducing math phobia. Thus the five of us headed to Mott Hall V on a sunny day in January for what turned out to be a stimulating, thought provoking, hands-on look at the whys and hows of crafting differentiated instruction.
We were in the hands and classroom of a master teacher, and I am hoping it will be possible for her to visit in June as part of our year end Digital Wave workshops, so that others among the faculty can have an experience similar to what we had at Mott Hall V. Meanwhile, I’ve got some planning to do for our April follow-up!