Dear Harbor Families,
PD. That’s short for professional development, in teacher talk. Years ago, as a public school teacher just starting my career, I thought PD meant sitting in a room with a bunch of other teachers on a “PD day” listening to the latest new initiative from “central office”. Usually, I learned something on PD days, and I definitely enjoyed the change in pace. Years later, as I moved into the very different world of independent schools, professional development began to take on a different, and deeper, meaning.
The Head of School at my previous school used to liken professional development in education to ongoing training in the medical field. Over the years, I heard him say, in many settings and in front of many different audiences, that “you wouldn’t want your surgeon operating on you if he/she hasn’t had continuous learning in the latest research, technologies, and practices in his/her field. Why should teaching be any different?” The metaphor really resonates with me, so much that I’m pretty sure I’ve said the same thing to many of you at Harbor since I arrived last summer. The field of education is changing rapidly, as is research about the brain, new technologies, and the landscape of our students’ future careers. It would be ridiculous and foolish for any learning institution not to stay current on research-driven best practices in education. (This is when you breathe a sigh of relief that, at Harbor, your children are in good hands.)
Independent schools, and especially small schools like Harbor, are well-positioned to be the most nimble in a world where research is rapidly presenting us with new knowledge about the very nature of teaching and learning. We don’t have to wait for “central office” to cycle in an initiative; we educators can instead engage in continuous and immediate learning through a variety of professional development opportunities - whether they be workshops, conferences, online learning, university courses, book studies, local evening events, collaboration with specialists, or learning in other forms.
Just this year, teachers at Harbor have engaged in professional learning through participating in workshops with local specialists in OT, speech/language, and learning differences; observing KID Museum colleagues do model lessons and having their own teaching critiqued, attending conferences about how to promote student agency in learning; attending talks by experts in diversity and anti-bias work; and participating in workshops on responsive classroom and design thinking - to name a few. And this spring at Harbor, we have planned further in-house workshops on diversity and inclusion and STEM learning.
This weekend, when we raise the paddle at the auction (or from your phone or computer), I encourage you to invest in your teachers, because, well, they are the lifeblood of our school. It is in their classrooms, under their expert guidance, where our children are building foundations for a life of learning in a new and changing world. Join us in raising the paddle for professional development!
Head of School
The Harbor School