Sixty-seven new teachers joined the Madison City Schools family at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, and that is only in the secondary schools! One thing that makes a huge impact on our students’ success is the value that our district places on supporting and nurturing the teaching skills of brand-new and new-to-Madison teachers. On October 28 and 30, our new teachers gathered in two groups for a day of professional development to learn more about the district's instructional expectations to be implemented in their classrooms. Mrs. Mary Oliver, Secondary Instructional Specialist for the district, led the session. She stressed how she hopes that the teachers will develop friendships within this group of colleagues and learn from each other's expertise and experience. Teachers spent part of the day exploring evidence-based strategies that help students retain their learning about new concepts. New research conducted on how the adolescent brain learns suggests that new learning will be more easily stored in the long-term memory if:
~Acquisition of new learning is connected to prior knowledge
~Students are given the opportunity to make meaning by using a learning strategy, by using a graphic organizer, or by using project-based learning
~Students are given the opportunity to transfer their new learning to a new situation
~Students are given the opportunity to reflect on their new learning and how that learning was achieved (McTighe and Willis, 96-117).
Another part of the day was spent considering the benefits of routines and structures that teachers can develop for their classrooms to better support student learning. Dr. Randy Sprick and his colleagues propose that effective teachers must be as “fluent” in classroom management as they are in their content knowledge (Sprick et al, 156-157). Teachers practiced with scenarios to help them develop plans for dealing with various situations that are encountered in classrooms on a regular basis like beginning and ending class routines or encouraging a student who has become frustrated because the new concept the class is learning is difficult. Teachers learned from expert resources and colleagues how to redirect that student and help him or her to persevere through the challenge.
Several teachers commented on how much they appreciated the practicality of the strategies that were modeled for them. “I purchased some large Post-it paper blocks and used them for Venn diagrams today in small groups, and I plan to use the colored cups (a system for communication between students working in collaborative groups and the teacher) soon,” commented Cindy Lepore French/World Language teacher. Gifted Specialist, Teresa Schmidt, who transferred to Madison City from another district stated, “This was one of the best PD's I have attended.”
A second day of professional development has been scheduled for the spring semester to further assist new teachers. This day's learning will focus on supporting students of various learning abilities and developing quality questions that will lead to deeper, more thorough discussions of concepts and information. This professional development along with the support given to new teachers at the school levels by their instruction team that includes administrators and instructional partners will influence them and benefit their students for many years to come.