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Posted on Feb 24, 2012

Faculty In-Service Day Sustains Gillispie’s Learning Community

February 23, 2012

Last Thursday, during Gillispie’s faculty in-service day, our teachers enjoyed a variety of keynote speakers. Becky Candra, former director of a local nursery school, spoke to early childhood teachers about Deb Curtis’ work on creating joyful classrooms. When children are younger, this is done by encouraging them to investigate and theorize so that they see themselves as learners. It means thoughtfully providing materials at school (and at home) that are accessible–high-quality materials that include real art, building, and science tools. Teachers and parents should provide background information about how the materials might be used, and also frequently rearrange the materials to show how the children might apply them differently based on context. Such efforts are sure to spark children’s curiosity and imagination.

Educational therapist Suzi Feldman and speech and language pathologist Penny Cohen discussed the importance of conversation, both as children initially learn how to speak and also when they later practice how to convey their maturing views. They reminded us that the best discussions are two-way and that the adult should not be the imparter of all knowledge with the child’s role relegated to that of receiver. In addition, the speakers noted that teachers and parents too frequently expect immediate responses rather than giving children time to process what we are asking and to formulate appropriate responses. One way to get a conversation rolling is by reading to your child and asking him or her to predict what might happen next or how a given character might be feeling. In addition, play dates and extracurricular activities such as drama, craft making, and sports encourage social communication, creativity, and collaboration.

Award-winning educator and author Rick Morris spoke on classroom management and student motivation. Many of his suggestions can apply to home situations as well. In order to promote a sense of independence, he advised that teachers and parents not do for children what they can do for themselves–to fight the urge to be the provider of all needs. It starts with the “small stuff” (tying shoes or choosing outfits) and, as children grow older, it’s allowing them to organize their backpacks or take the lead on specific tasks (at dinner, one child sets the table while the other clears at the end of the meal). Assigning authentic, real-life tasks teaches responsibility and independence.

Faculty and administration continue to share what they learned and already are applying best pratices to their work in their classrooms and on the play yards. Days like these remind us as lifelong learners that teaching is a craft, sustained in part by a steady supply of inspiration, experience, and reflection.

Alison Fleming
Head of School

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