All Together Now
Generating the Spark
Clearly it’s not all talk, and sometimes learning new methods requires a.) open minds, and b.) a teacher for teachers: Enter Ainsley Rose, of The Leadership and Learning Center. Rose, a 30-year veteran in the field of education, designs learning structures. He hosted a retreat for the department chairs, and at the top of the agenda was a lesson on developing protocols for examining student work.
Ainsley Rose, of The Leadership and Learning Center, hosted a retreat for department chairs, providing them with the spark to improve teaching and learning.
“Professional learning communities such as Deerfield need to follow certain steps if they want to gather data about teaching and—in particular—learning, in order to achieve meaningful results with students,” Rose explained. “But the focus has to be on the learning, not the teaching—it must be student-centered.” Rose then ticks off the steps for inquiry: “What do we want students to learn? How do we know they have achieved that learning? What do we do if they haven’t? What do we do if they already know what you’re teaching? And the ‘big’ question: How do we teach in order for students to learn?”
Rose acknowledges these are tough questions, and there are no immediate answers, but adds that if teachers aren’t willing to look more critically at themselves and their peers, then there will be no answers down the road, either. “This type of collaboration is so important—learning itself is a collaborative affair,” Rose points out. “The more teachers work together, the better they will be able to analyze how in a perfect world they would want their subjects to be taught; then, once they assess the gap between the way things are and the way they can become better, that’s when learning achieves a higher ground.”
Chairs came away with a philosophical view of Rose’s process, agreeing that education remains the subtext of all teaching, and that they need to be conscious of how their minds work and how their students’ minds work—in short, taking the time to think about what they think about. Put mundanely, the hope is that chairs will become more deliberate about curriculum, and in turn, more supportive of each other across departments.
In philosophy class, Deerfield students learn that Socrates proposed that an unexamined life is not worth living; Ainsley Rose proposes that an unexamined curriculum might not be worth teaching—that’s a statement Peter Warsaw can get behind, too.
“My ‘north’ is growth,” Warsaw says with a smile. “We should be teaching and modeling lifelong learning, and that requires constant reflection, which is essentially what we’re doing when we take the time to examine our teaching. We need to ask what our graduates will need to succeed in the 21st century, and whether our curriculum reflects a world that has changed a great deal over the last 60 years. This kind of reflection shifts our focus from teachers teaching to students learning, and it ensures that what we’re doing here remains relevant to our students and to the world.”