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GUS Teachers are Lifelong Learners

Friday, September 2, 2016

In anticipation of the start of the school year, this week GUS faculty participated in one of two professional development workshops. Mahesh Sharma, founder and president of the Center for Teaching/Learning of Mathematics returned to GUS to lead a workshop for our math teachers. Sharma is a former professor of mathematics education at Cambridge College, where he taught for more than thirty-five years. He is internationally known for groundbreaking work in mathematics education, much of which GUS has implemented in the delivery of our math program for twenty years.

The goal at Glen Urquhart from kindergarten on is to make numeracy—the ability to understand and work with numbers—so fluent that students find the higher level math they undertake in upper school much easier to master. Consequently, they are confident math learners. Mahesh explained, “Competent performance leads to long lasting self-esteem.”

The goal of the training was to introduce to new faculty and refresh for established faculty the philosophy that guides the GUS math program. So, the teachers launched into an exploration of the nature of mathematics—the factors, the key skills, the language—and also the exercises of understanding and connecting to their students’ learning styles and identifying the pedagogy that works.

Many of the faculty reported that the workshop was a rich and exhilarating experience. One teacher observed, “Mahesh reaffirmed the strengths of our math program. We were reminded of why it is so important to develop language and conceptual understanding before teaching procedures. We reviewed and also learned new ways to help children develop these foundation skills. This is absolutely the way mathematics should be taught.”

Other faculty took part in a workshop entitled “The Culture Piece” with Chris Hagedorn. Hagedorn leads workshops for K-12 educators, with the goal of promoting growth mindsets and positive social-emotional conditions. Previously, Hagedorn trained GUS faculty in Developmental Designs, the social-emotional curriculum used by the upper school.

"The Culture Piece" workshop offers a comprehensive philosophy and set of strategies to help schools build more positive school climates and cultures. GUS teachers learned about classroom management strategies and behavioral supports that encourage inclusivity and pro-social behaviors, while reducing minor misbehaviors and increasing time on task. Hagedorn, who taught at middle schools in Ecuador, Indiana, and Minnesota for over 15 years before becoming an educational consultant, used a wealth of varied classroom experiences to illustrate his approaches.

The workshop complemented GUS’s ongoing resolve to pursue leading edge strategies for reaching all learners and building a nurturing school environment for all students. “The student-centered approach to classroom management reflects our commitment to meeting all learners’ needs and really helps teachers deliver on the school’s mission—to bring out the best in all our students,” offered Director of Upper School Gretchen Forsyth.

Several of the faculty commented that while much of the information mirrored the school’s common practices, Hagedorn’s fresh insights and approaches gave a deeper relevance to these practices. As with Glen Urquhart’s spiraling curriculum, the teachers realized that the more opportunities they have to explore teaching practices together, the more they learn, the deeper their understanding grows, and the more capable they are of creating an exemplary school environment.