Teachers Teaching Teachers

One of the key ingredients in any successful and cohesive community is being able to work well together, and to be able to have fun while doing it. The Berkshire Country Day School faculty did just that during our in-service week prior to the start of the new school year.

We came together, as we do every late August, to kick off the year. This year, rather than the administration (yours truly!) planning and leading all facets of the presentation portions of the faculty in-service days, we were fortunate to have some of our faculty plan and deliver important and intentional team building experiences and learning opportunities.

We engaged in a Break Out Box challenge. The Break Out Box, akin to the process of an Escape Room, is a cooperative problem-solving adventure. Led by veteran BCD Science Teacher,  Susan Benner, we divided into four teams and set out together to solve a challenge. We did this by collaboratively figuring out clues, and making connections toward a solution, which then provided access to a locked coded box, which then provided access to the next clue in the sequence. Our winning team cracked into the final clue box, and what did they find there? Chocolate for all!

It was wonderful to see the determination, the communication, and the intelligence of the faculty on display. My favorite part, however, was the laughter in the room. Such a wonderful way to begin a new school year together!

The activity served the purpose of the obvious: team-building and morale-lifting. However, Susan was also taking the opportunity to share a new resource we have on campus, the Break Out Box itself, and to share that she and the 7th Grade would be available to plan Break Out Box adventures for any interested teachers at any grade level. Look for more news about the Break Out Box in action in the months ahead.

Also during our in-service week, we were fortunate to be guided in a presentation by 5th Grade teacher Dr. Jilly Lederman that focused on “growth mindset”(video link), an educational philosophy developed first by Dr. Carol Dweck of Standford University. Growth mindsets stand in contrast to a fixed mindset of which Dweck says, “In a fixed mindset,  students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits.” Dweck posits that in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. “Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” shares Dweck.

In addition to presenting on current research in the growth mindset field, Jilly facilitated explorations into classroom-discussion techniques and shared specific activities that can be used to nurture students’ positive growth mindset in the classroom. Jilly also shared some model lesson plans, as well as approaches to assessment that aim to provide students with opportunities to show mastery over time. Dweck refers to this concept of “mastery over time” as the “Power of Yet” , which underscores that, although a student, or any of us for that matter, may not have achieved a certain grade or ability as of YET, there is a path into the future of possibility if we believe it is possible.

The crux of the message from Jilly’s presentation? Learning is positively impacted when we change how we speak about and present challenges to students, and how we support them in facing these challenges every day. Jilly’s presentation excited her colleagues, got them to reflect, and sent them away with a window into the idea, “Mistakes grow your brain.” They do not define a student.

Thanks to both Susan and Jilly for getting our new year off to a fun, inspiring, and reflective start!