Posted on October 14, 2013
According to the research, one of the most effective ways to improve education is to invest in the professional development of teachers. I have always been a firm believer in the professional growth of our teachers, which I came to better understand during my affiliation years ago with the Hawaii Writing Project, one of nearly 150 sites of the National Writing Project. The model of teachers-teaching-teachers sustained by collegial conversations informed by research and expert guidance over extended periods of time has the greatest impact on student learning. Since we began our journey as a School of the Future, professional development shifted schoolwide to carry the entire school forward. Most recently, Anne Davies, PhD, noted international authority on student assessment, provided powerful examples of how teachers can and should re-focus on the notion of assessment in the service for learning, rather than assessment of learning. The difference? Assessment that promotes the growth of learners versus evaluation that inhibits learning. Teachers across grade levels met in content areas to practice the idea of co-constructing criteria for critical thinking. You'll be hearing more about assessment in the service for learning schoolwide throughout the year. (photo courtesy of Scot Allen)
The engagement among teachers strengthens our school community.
The model of teachers-teaching-teachers struck home when colleagues from the Wai`anae Head Start and Kamaile Academy (a public charter in Wai`anae) joined our preschool and kindergarten faculty for a full day of learning this past week. A team of five teachers spent the morning observing preschool and kindergarten classes, then met over lunch in the Tech Lab with our faculty. We have an informal partnership with our Wai`anae colleagues, having visited each other's classrooms and discussing our practices in the context of our cultural settings. In early November, colleagues from Kamehameha School's Early Childhood programs will visit for a day in our preschool for more collegial sharing.
On Saturday, Leslie Gleim (preschool pedagogista) and Jordan Guillory (ateliterista)
presented their students' inquiry project "O`ahu Unlocked" at the annual Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children (HAEYC) at the Convention Center.
This unique year-long inquiry helped children to develop a deeper awareness of their relationship to cultural and natural icons in their environment. Parents participated in the inquiry in phases of "trickery," that is, providing images of landmarks intended to trick the children by making the familiar less familiar.
This very same day at the Convention Center, our preschool faculty attended a presentation by their Wai`anae colleagues, who shared their beginning journey into the Reggio Emilia approach. Our preschool teachers commented on the "amazing courage" of the Head Start teachers and "the image of the child that these wonderful women have and how it is impacting the youngest of children." Here the model of teachers-teaching-teachers is exemplified! We are planning more cross-school visits in an effort to deepen our learning about the wonder of children.
The previous week, Jen Matsumoto, Tiffany Byrne, and Leslie Gleim traveled to Maui to present at the Maui Independent Schools Organization in the spirit of sharing our learning on our electronic portfolio system in the elementary and Reggio-inspired practices in the preschool. What we have learned is that portfolio implementation across grade levels is still on the horizon in many Hawai`i schools. That we have been able to forge ahead in the elementary is a credit to the faculty who are unique in their capacity to collaborate and problem solve together. In a few years, there may be need to extend a portfolio system schoolwide, which is why the conversations in which we are engaging across grade levels on assessment in the service for learning are necessary and timely.
Side-bar: I was invited to attend the MPX Heroes' exhibit last week. Pictured here is Kendall Murphy, a high school freshman who came up the ranks from the elementary level, standing proudly beside her exhibit display. She selected me as one of her heroes and wrote about me. There was no question about the powerful impact these MPX students had on the individuals they selected, I among them. A truly humbling experience. (photo courtesy of Scot Allen)
Finally, on this 2013 Discoverers' Day, hats off to past and current explorers who have taught us to look beyond the horizon. There is no final frontier.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey