Last week in one of our Walk-N-Talks (1) for families of 6th Grade applicants, a woman in the first row looked Mike in the eye and asked, "What is the best professional development you, as the Head of School, have done?" In 15 years as a head, and especially as a head who loves Q & A sessions, there are not too many questions Mike has not been asked. This, however, was a first. And it led us to reflect upon not only our own professional development opportunities, but the ongoing professional development of our faculty and staff. One of the many things that we both appreciate about Brentwood School is that we are truly a learning community for everyone—faculty and staff, administration, and parents and guardians. To that end, when division directors meet with faculty at the start of each year to discuss goals, one area of focus is on professional development interests and opportunities.
One may ask why we encourage professional growth for everyone regardless of their level of expertise or experience. First and foremost, well-designed professional development helps us grow as individuals and professionals, which makes Brentwood better for everyone. Second, it helps us to connect and empathize with our students as we become students ourselves and experience the process of learning that includes excitement, confusion, questions, doubt, vulnerability, and finally, understanding. Third, in community wide K-12 professional development (see the Teaching and Learning article below on Monday's inservice with Visions) we share an experience across all divisions and departments that provides us with a common language to reference as we move forward...together. Finally, similar to how we engage in professional development as learners, we do the same in terms of faculty/staff presenting at different conferences around the country because students learn from teachers, and teachers learn by teaching.
Some recent examples of ongoing professional growth for our faculty and staff include:
- Attending local and national conferences in their content area such as the Learning and the Brain Conference or Assessment to Support Student Learning workshop
- Visiting other schools to see their peers in action or to learn first-hand about a new program or approach
- Enrolling in a graduate degree program or taking specific courses toward a certificate in an area of specialization
- Engaging with a program designed to allow them to connect with others as they look to grow professionally; for example, a conference focused on Women in Leadership or department chair leadership
- Forming a discussion group around a topic or book
- Participating in seminars around diversity, inclusion, and equity. For example, our SEED groups or the People of Color Conference
- Presentations at national conferences and local workshops on a variety of topics including diversity, the teaching of World Languages, character development, Peer Leadership programs, and the orientation of teachers new to independent schools
That one question by a prospective parent led to several robust conversations about ongoing growth with the adults on campus, which is essential to the continued vitality of our school.
Dawn's best professional development was, and is, ongoing. Having worked at school's throughout the country she has had the opportunity to learn from many outstanding educators and professionals in a variety of different schools who have provided her with the depth of knowledge and breadth of experience that she brings to Brentwood every day. Mike's response to the question was easy. He's part of a group of seven other heads of school that meet once a month for a half-day as a means of support and ongoing professional growth. Ask him about it one day.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Dr. Mike and Dr. Cunnion
(1) Walk-N-Talks are admission events for families who have applied to Brentwood—a chance for them to learn more about the school and ask questions.