Professional Development Day

I am often asked what it is that teachers do on the professional development half-days.  As this month’s PD day comes on the heels of several snow days, I thought I would take the opportunity to share how we utilize these three hours to strengthen and grow our work together.

You may remember that I wrote about a joint professional development day on December 4 with Newton North faculty where we heard a presentation on Carol Dweck’s theory about growth mindset and the importance of understanding emotions in the classroom.  Later this spring, faculty will meet in vertical teams by subject with their counterparts throughout the district.  Today, however, most of us were at South working in our own departments.  Below are the details – we were very busy!

English:  Teachers are working to prepare their common writing assessments. In May of this year, students in grades 9, 10, and 11 will be taking a common grade-level assessment.  For freshmen, this will become one element of their end-of-the-year writing portfolio, while for sophomore and juniors this will be a formative assessment for their final exams. Teachers will be working on creating the prompts for these assessments and working out their details. A group of senior teachers is also working on honing our new critical lenses unit and our senior synthesis essay.

English Language Learners:  City-wide ELL teachers with Jody Klein.  Meeting Objectives: use the Ellevations platform to create reports to share with classroom teachers, set goals for students, build student groups.  Curriculum Link – Review google doc with archived curriculum.  Begin to develop a plan to organize documents in a way that information is readily available.  Articulation – Middle school teachers will provide the proficiency levels and other information of rising 9th graders and high school teachers will provide information on different levels of English and class selection at North.

Family & Consumer Sciences and Business: continue to develop curriculum based on our meetings in the fall with Newton North High School faculty members.  Additionally, we are reviewing progress towards goals, evidence, formative and summative assessments.

Fine and Performing Arts: we are working on Mission Statements and looking ahead to community activities in the spring such as: 8th Grade Parent’s Night (discussing the change in formatting to include students and electives teachers), Newton Celebrates the Arts 5/30 (a combined visual art and music performance at the Newton Free Library) and the May Fair.  Our Mission Statement work is designed to interweave the philosophies of our veteran teachers with our new teachers, and provide us with a roadmap for curriculum/courses/F&PA handbook planning for next year. 

Guidance: made plans to visit Framingham State University, where we would meet with a representative in their Admissions and Financial Aid offices, followed by a tour of the campus. Unfortunately, due to the snow days and difficulty traveling, we’ve postponed our visit to later in the spring.   In lieu of going on a college visit, one of the counselors will present information for discussion and peer supervision. We’ll also revisit counseling best practices with students relevant to the upcoming anniversary of our student’s death (2/6), curriculum for Sophomore Guidance Seminars (2/13), and impending changes to PSAT’s and SAT’s.

History: we will hear updates on our work with two pilot programs (the learning program students and the 9th grade pilot), discuss our practice regarding group work vs. group grades, and have training on the “schoology” website.

Mathematics: we are joining with the Newton North Mathematics Department to plan out curricular changes prompted by the new Massachusetts State Frameworks.  Teachers will be working in the following teams with our colleagues from North:  Mathematics 1 ACP/CP:  Teachers will be learning about and looking ahead at curricular units built over the summer and to be used during Terms III and IV.  Mathematics 2 ACP/CP:  Teachers will be learning about the proposed course sequence of topics for Mathematics 2 which will take affect in the 2015-2016 schools year.  Teachers will also be given a mini-training on performance-based assessment tasks in mathematics that emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. Honors:  Teachers will be examining the overall goals for the honors program at both high schools, aligning course topics across the district, and working on developing curricular materials.

Science:  Developing a 5 year plan and working through some action steps that will help us get there.  Working through a short engineering challenge, and brainstorming how to incorporate those types of activities into our classes.  A sharing of best practices around lesson closure.  Planning for the course selection process and our new courses. Revisit the work we have done on assessment, writing within science, budget, and room utilization.  Starting to plan for our Science Open House.

Special Education: Part 1 – Social Thinking.  What is a hidden social curriculum?  Why teach social skills? Social thinking develops from birth, but for students with Aspergers/Autism they don’t intuitively learn social information.  Perspective taking – thinking with your eyes.  Provided strategies and suggestions for special ed staff.  Part 2 – Collaboration and developing common practices with the team from the High School Stabilization Program.

Wellness:   Implementing Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset into the wellness curriculum.  Discussed the learning gap, character traits, and stereotype threat. 

World Language:  worked with a protocol to analyze 5 years worth of enrollment, achievement and demographic data on our SAM program.  Our focus was to examine whether and to what extent we were meeting the overall goal of our SAM program – to bolster students who were on the cusp between a CP and an ACP placement so that they met with success in ACP.  We looked to identify patterns, trends and surprises that would help us understand what the benefit was to students, which students benefited most, and how we might refine our approach to further foster student success.  We also considered the implications of this data on all of our mixed-level classes.