Darlington School: Middle School faculty embraces book study
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Middle School faculty embraces book study

February 22, 2011 | 390 views

This year, Darlington’s Middle School faculty is bonding as a community through the reading of Peter Gow’s “The Intentional Teacher: Forging a Great Career in the Independent School Classroom.”

“I wanted us to read this particular book because it does a really good job outlining the unique job of working in an independent school,” said James Hutchins, director of Middle School. “The book focuses not just on the teaching piece, but on coaching, advising and communicating, just to name a few. Each teacher has been assigned a chapter to present at our monthly division meetings, and we spend about 10 minutes of each meeting discussing it.”

Eighth-grade English teacher Michelle Major’s chapter focused on knowing your students. “It was about connecting with students both in and out of the classroom and being a part of their lives rather than the task master of a certain discipline,” she explained. “It is what I think we do best at Darlington.”

In preparation for her presentation, Major asked two students to brainstorm on what makes a great teacher. She then invited two new students to speak to the faculty about how different their experience at Darlington has been versus their old schools. 

“It was very telling,” Major said. “One of them shared that she knew the work was harder here but it was OK because she knew she could ask questions and would get the help she needed.  Another new student said he enjoyed having most, if not all of his teachers at his football games cheering him on.  We know these kids, we understand what makes them unique, and we want them to grow to their own individual potential.  That is what makes Darlington so special and the book study has just reinforced what we already know.”

Fifth-grade humanities teacher Charla Brewster’s chapter focused on teaching with standards. “It was an eye-opening chapter about how to get the students involved in grading and evaluating,” she said. “I use rubrics a lot with my students and this reinforced how important it is for students to look at the expectations before they turn in an assignment and give feedback on how an assignment was graded. The chapter also stressed that departments should have the same expectations in their assignments – for example, in terms of grammar, punctuation and spelling – even in a math assignment.”

Brewster’s chapter suggested working backwards from the test to identify the skills and information you want students to learn, as well as to develop hands-on projects and other lessons, before actually teaching the unit. “This has been a great book that has inspired a great deal of discussion among the faculty,” she said. “I feel this makes us a stronger school with higher expectations for our students.”

Fifth-grade math teacher BeBe Cline’s chapter was similar, in that it focused on the give and take of feedback. “It talked about how feedback can be useful to both students and teachers,” she explained. “Specifically, it said ‘The best teachers also find ways to make sure that they receive the feedback they need to be at their best in the classroom and at their most useful as members of a school community.’ I liked that the chapter referred to feedback as a roadmap to growth and to close my presentation, I used a math formula:  Observations + Feedback = Growth. This formula applies to both students and teachers.”

Seventh-grade English teacher Julie Duke, who was new to Darlington this year, said she has really enjoyed reading the book and hearing her colleagues’ perspectives. “This book has offered many opportunities for discussion about issues that affect each of us in the Middle School,” she said. “I love hearing the insights of my colleagues because it helps me think about and improve my own teaching.”