Professional Development days at Proctor look little like they might for a public school faculty simply because the spectrum of responsibilities extends well beyond the classroom. For most teaching faculty, time in the classroom represents only half of their job as they are also advisors, coaches, and dorm parents. Within all of these roles, our core responsibility remains focused on our mission of valuing the individual and recognizing the potential of each member of our community to stretch beyond what they had thought possible.
The Proctor Mathematics Department has begun a transition from a textbook-based curriculum to one that is centered around rich tasks that all students can access (low floor, high ceiling). We believe that everyone can learn mathematics, and feel that transitioning from textbooks will help us further our vision of equitable learning.
Normally my winters are spent in the gym coaching one of Proctor’s basketball teams or one of my three kid’s local rec teams. But with youth basketball programs on hiatus until later this winter due to COVID-19 and Proctor on an extended break, I decided this winter would be a great time to dust off the Nordic skis that usually get one or two uses a year.
Natural learning requires the transfer and construction of knowledge. Spend time with toddlers as they explore the world around them. They touch, feel, taste, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, evaluate their findings, and then explore again. Over the last two days, faculty have engaged in professional development conversations exploring the learning cycle and how we can deepen our own understanding of how to create classroom experiences that encourage students to ask questions and pursue understanding. How do we give our students the autonomy to act, to actively question the world around them? How do we pursue our best selves?
Intuitively, I feel my students’ experiences, reflections, and actions influence who they are and what they do. However, the more I learn about neuroscience, the more research released on brain plasticity and metacognition, the more I realize these intuitions that have guided my work over the past twenty years as a Learning Specialist, and Proctor’s work over the past seventy, are based in scientific fact. Adolescent brain development is a biological process, but it is also a dynamic process that is enhanced through experiences. In other words, what teenagers learn, practice, and think develops neural pathways, which fundamentally restructures their brains over time.
Over the past decade, a shift toward competency based education (CBE) has flooded the world of higher education as universities look to become more efficient in developing a graduate’s skill set while ensuring each student possesses baseline proficiencies. Plenty of obstacles exist to implementing a competency-based educational model in higher education, however, Proctor’s World Language Department continues to pioneer a rethinking of the traditional approach to assessing and evaluating student development used by most high schools.
Sustaining and stewarding a school's culture through generations is the responsibility of each of us. Wednesday's inservice day for faculty took a non-traditional approach to professional development. There was no discussion of curriculum mapping, professional goals, or strategic initiatives that will drive Proctor forward in the most competitive boarding school market any of us have ever seen. Instead, we talked about our personal lives in small “life groups” of 8-10 colleagues.
“Which path will you choose?” Each visitor to our website or admissions office encounters this question through our marketing materials. The intent of the question is simple: Demonstrate to each prospective family there is no single track through Proctor, but rather an infinite array of different paths through which a young person will encounter growth opportunities and develop attributes we believe to be critical to success in life after Proctor. But does this focus on breadth of curriculum and individualized approach to academics have unintended consequences for those seeking to better understand the value of a Proctor education?