There’s always much to be done in the few days leading up to the opening of another school year, as faculty organize their classrooms and get ready for the arrival of 350 students this coming week. Certainly a significant portion of time is taken up with faculty meetings, professional development, and collegial gatherings which enhance this preparation, and in 2012 these have all been exciting and productive experiences.
This past Wednesday, the entire faculty and staff assembled in the Class of ’45 Hall to begin a very busy few days. Chaplain Barbara Talcott delivered an opening invocation, and Head of School John Warren ’74 then welcomed everyone to the start of another year at St. Mark’s. New members of the St. Mark’s community were then introduced, and then work commenced.
A number of faculty reported out on the wide range of professional development work undertaken over the course of the summer. Travel, study, research, writing, creative expression, and change-of-pace teaching opportunities were all among the many experiences shared. Then Sarah Eslick, the new Associate Director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning—an integral component of St. Mark’s Strategic Plan 2020—collaborated with faculty in understanding various strategies employed to support student learning. Eslick helped facilitate small group discussions leading to productive insights, engendered by the thoughtful professionalism and depth of expertise among St. Mark’s educators. In the afternoon, the new Director of Community & Equity Affairs Ava Archibald, along with her husband, Writer-in-Residence Brian Walker, guided everyone through a community-building exercise to help build awareness of those societal roadblocks which can become serious obstacles to student achievement. On Wednesday evening, the Warrens hosted a party for all faculty, staff, and their families at Choate House.
On Thursday, Andrew Watson of Translate the Brain, worked with faculty around the concepts of working memory and long term memory. Translate the Brain focuses on exploring and explaining the practical teaching implications of the latest insights from neuroscience. Watson’s presentation “was concrete, funny, and informative,” commented Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Michael Wirtz, “and he had the faculty really focused on their practices as educators. There was a lot of great conversation and energy in the room.” In the afternoon, the faculty processed Grant Wiggins’ Educative Assessment (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), their professional reading over the summer. After debriefing the book together, assessments from their own classes were shared by faculty in smaller break-out workshop sessions.
A great deal of thought and planning went in to preparing an intellectually and professionally stimulating program for these first few days. “In organizing the opening of the year meetings,” said Mr. Wirtz, “we wanted to do fewer things for longer amounts of time. Additionally, it was incredibly important to think and talk with each other about our practices as educators. The conversations we enjoyed over the last two days are a wonderful springboard for the year, and lay a strong foundation thanks to continued work with the Center. I am so incredibly excited for the 2012-13 year, and for the many important conversations the faculty will have about how we educate St. Markers.”