Professional Development at Congressional School
Written By: Brent Hinrichs, Assistant Head for Academics and Lower and Middle School Director
Congressional School has many strengths and one of those is our Faculty. Our teachers work tirelessly to educate and teach, to support, nurture and challenge. They love working with students and their passion for children and their subjects is evident in every classroom. Teachers design lessons that require our students to think critically and engage thoughtfully and authentically with the material and with each other. Classes are purposeful and fun- this is an exciting place to be and learn.
During the summer of 2013, we began an important new program at Congressional that has impacted the ethos of Congressional and helped strengthen the school as a learning community. The summer of 2013 was the first year that our Summer Fellowship program launched. While professional development has always been a priority at the school, the fellowship program formalized our practice of always improving. We do not rest as we work to become a stronger school. Every year, during the summer and throughout the school year, the teachers at Congressional are eager to pursue professional development opportunities locally and nationally, in order to better themselves and the experience for our students.
Last summer, many teachers participated in Summer Fellowships and upon their return to school, teachers implemented new program that directly impacted Congressional’s students:
- Several teachers in Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten attended the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program to further their knowledge of effective strategies for the teacher of reading, spelling, and speech.
- Six Middle School teachers worked in June to further review, develop and update the Advisory curriculum for 2016-2017. The Advisory curriculum includes topics such as goal-setting, friendship, inclusivity, social responsibility and leadership. In addition to Advisory, the Fellowship designed a special schedule for the first two days of school so that students could focus on our new Core Values as well as general community building.
- Two Teachers attended the Washington International School’s Project Zero Summer Institute for one week. Project Zero is a nationally recognized group from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. The focus of Project Zero is building critical thinking skills in learning environments. Project Zero’s research includes investigations into the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, and ethics.
- Teachers in first grade attended an Orton-Gillingham training. Orton-Gillingham is a flexible language-based approach to reading that incorporates multisensory instruction. Learning often relies on a child’s sight to look at text and pictures and to read information. It also relies on a child’s hearing to listen to what the teacher is saying. Orton-Gillingham brings together all the senses to help students learn to read and write more effectively.
- Our new Lower and Middle School teachers attended the Washington, D.C. Responsive Classroom or Developmental Designs week-long workshop in order to add to their strengths as student advocates. Responsive Classroom and Developmental Designs are both research-based and emphasize social-emotional learning which provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students' ability to succeed in school, careers, and life.
- Two teachers traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend a one week workshop at NuVu Studios. Founded by MIT graduates, NuVu is an innovation school geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects that resemble pre-engineering exercises. Our teachers learned more about design thinking and have begun to implement this process in science class.
- Several teachers attended the Greg Tang Math Conference in Kansas City. Greg Tang is well known in the Math world and his keynote speakers and presenters are national and international leaders in math teaching and pedagogy.
- In previous summers, our Lower and Primary School Homeroom Teachers have attended one week workshops at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. Teachers’ College at Columbia is a nationally and internationally renowned research-based program that focuses on best pedagogies to teach reading and writing.
In addition to these fellowships, our Faculty have shared a summer reading book for many years. Reading together helps set a tone and vision for each school year, and it brings faculty together around a common summer experience. Our books are always written by thought leaders in the United States and all the authors and books have been recommended by VAIS.
In the past three years, we have read:
- Mindset by Stanford Professor, Carol Dweck. In her book, Dr. Dweck shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we approach our goals. We either approach our goals with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
- A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. In this book, Mr. Pink draws on research from around the world and outlines the six fundamentally human abilities that are absolute essentials for professional success and personal fulfillment.
- Creating Innovators, The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Harvard Professor, Tony Wagner. In his book, Dr. Wagner presents what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators.
We are busy at Congressional, building a community of learners for students and adults. In addition to all the opportunities described, Congressional is very involved in the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) and the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). At Congressional, we are always looking to improve, as any good institution or organization must. Our Faculty are excited to be bring their extraordinary professional development experiences into the classroom where the students benefit. We recognize that we are on a journey of continuous improvement at the school and our students are fortunate to spend their days with teachers who are role models for continuous improvement and growth.
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