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Have you ever wondered what really happens during faculty/staff “professional development” week? The last week of August is tough for families; there are no camps in session, and as much as everyone enjoys the looser structure that summer affords, at some point everyone needs to get back into their routines. The last week of August is when EHS has its professional development week. While some schools only give teachers a day or two to get ready for the school year, at EHS, faculty and staff spend a week getting ready. What could they possibly be doing for that long? Keep reading to learn what makes professional development (PD) unique at EHS.
Everyone knows the expression, “Pay it forward.” Well, that is a fitting title for PD week at EHS this August. I had the great fortune to study at Harvard this summer, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate my own learning into the faculty and staff’s professional development week. During the week, I taught sessions about leadership, storytelling, school culture, UDL (universal design learning) and self-reflection/self-improvement. Teachers shared, discussed and explored new ideas together in small groups, chevruta (two-person partners) and as a whole group.
Along with these Harvard-inspired sessions, there were outside speakers as well. Gayle Sullivan from Marblehead Counseling Center gave a workshop on supporting LGBTQ and gender-fluid students. Michael Mino, an educational technology consultant, worked with middle school teachers to fully launch Google Classroom for our older students, while Pam Gougian, our technology coordinator, introduced Seesaw, a new online communication platform for our K-3 classrooms. Lastly, Capt. Matt Freeman from the Marblehead Police Department came for his annual review of safety and security.
When not meeting all together, teachers spent time in their classrooms to create welcoming and thoughtful learning spaces. Additionally, there were grade-level team meetings with our new school counselor, Natalie Maryansky, as well as curricular planning time. We took time out of this busy week to give back to our community, too. Through SPUR, we volunteered in a community garden that provides fresh organic produce to local food pantries. Faculty and staff harvested vegetables, deadheaded plants and installed edging and a fence, which was such a rewarding experience.
A final, and very important, part of our week was hearing faculty present to one another about their summer PD projects. Through our donor-funded Faculty Enrichment Fund, seven faculty members were paid to do projects that would enrich their teaching and our students’ learning. Four lower school teachers presented on a literacy initiative they created to improve their classroom libraries; two teachers spoke about their attendance at national science conferences; one teacher taught about her experience taking a course at Lesley University; and one teacher shared about her meaningful trip to California for the culmination of the Bandage Project. It was incredibly inspiring for our teachers to learn from one another. EHS is unique because of its ability to provide this special opportunity for teachers. It is truly one of its kind!
It was an especially full, thought-provoking and energy-filled week. In our closing circle, several new faculty commented on how lucky they felt to have been hired to teach at EHS. They were very impressed by the thoughtfulness and depth of conversations while being thankful for the humor, warmth and supportive environment. Our teachers could not wait for the students to return so we could begin again together. Each year, I am amazed by the truly dedicated and talented faculty and staff at EHS. It is a privilege to work with them, and our students are the lucky beneficiaries of their learning and commitment.