In his book Cultures of Thinking in Action, Ron Ritchart writes about two types of professional learning: informational learning that “primarily focuses on increasing our knowledge and skill level” (p. 3), and transformational learning that “calls into question the assumptions that undergird our practice through participation in constructive discourse with our colleagues” (p. 4). For schools to become organizations of learning, it is important that adults not only attend conferences, workshops, and other types of professional development opportunities but also that space and time are allotted to share one’s takeaways, embed new approaches into teaching practices, and reflect on them. The structures that exist in the weekly schedules of Brewster faculty (i.e., department meetings, PLCs, or team meetings) allow for discussions about curriculum and instruction; however, these conversations usually happen in smaller groups. To make our professional learning more visible to the entire faculty, to create more connections, and to inspire further conversations, one of our recent faculty meetings was devoted to just that: sharing what we have learned from attending conferences and how we will apply it in our professional contexts.
During the fall and early winter, Brewster faculty participated in numerous professional learning opportunities. World Language faculty attended the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Conference, several teachers and administrators joined other educators at the (PoCC) People of Color Conference, and our Program Management Team traveled to Boston to connect with other domestic and international educational leaders at the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) Leadership Conference. In total, at three different conferences, 11 of us attended numerous sessions and engaged with others to discuss topics ranging from diversity and inclusion, classroom furniture arrangement that supports collaboration and student voice, equitable hiring processes, artificial intelligence, proficiency-based education, and how to successfully implement change in our own contexts.
During the recent faculty meeting several faculty and administrators, including Jonathan Browher, Christopher Brown, Steven Davis, Margarita Proulx, and Kristy Kerin, shared their experiences, the sessions that captivated them the most, and how their thinking evolved as a result of new learning and discoveries. For example, Margarita provided examples of how she can leverage more art, games, and AI in her Spanish language teaching, while Steven spoke about the ways teachers and leaders can shift to proficiency-based learning in the World Languages classroom. To Christopher, Kristy, and Margarita, the PoCC Conference helped them develop a deeper understanding of their identities and their positionalities but also provided them with tools to examine issues and topics through an equity lens. As the attendees of all conferences stated, the events were also an excellent way to bond around issues important to schools, to our contexts, and to advancing our work together.
New this year was also our first faculty and student joint opportunity to participate in a workshop. In early December, Narrative 4, a group that came to Brewster earlier in the spring to offer a session on dialogue and deeper listening, offered a Facilitator Training with a small group of Global Scholars and faculty. Together, faculty and students discussed the importance of embedding more equitable dialogue in our daily routines, learned about planning a Story Exchange event, and considered future opportunities for joint faculty and student collaboration and professional learning. As participating students and faculty shared, the session generated energy around developing a school-wide opportunity for exchanging stories, dialogue, and deeper listening.
In the coming months, we will report more about faculty participation in the ISEEN (Independent Schools Experiential Education Network) Conference at the Athenian School in California and the GEBG (Global Education Benchmark Group) Annual Conference in Montreal, Canada, where, in addition to attending, some of us will be also presenting on a variety of topics connected to global competencies. The multiple professional opportunities and platforms to share and discuss are helping us grow professionally and not only expand our knowledge and skills but also help us transform our teaching and learning.