A new professional development (PD) plan throughout the Old Rochester Regional and elementary school districts was just approved during the March 22 joint meeting of the school committees, with teacher, student, and parent survey data steering the priorities of the districts towards further teacher training in social/emotional learning and techniques for “problem and project-based” learning.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Dr. Elise Frangos presented the PD plan that highlights “an inclusive professional development approach” that “addresses twenty-first century needs of our students.”
Teachers, students, and parents from all six Tri-Town schools submitted their feedback on focus areas most important to them, resulting in a finely tuned schedule for professional development topics for the upcoming year.
Teachers prioritized key areas for development, ranking social/emotional supports first, technology integration second, and project-based/problem-based learning third.
Students put learning stress management through yoga, mindfulness, and other activities as the most important social/emotional area for development in school, followed by learning about diversity and handling social situations and relationship building.
For academic support, students expressed a need to develop public speaking skills, followed by research and discussion on how to support academic learning at home. Students also want to see more opportunities for coding and the addition of technology like robotics and drones.
The top five picks for parents’ priorities were science, technology and learning; advanced learning and enrichment; mindfulness and stress management; social/emotional skill building; and planning and time management strategies for students.
Through this type of meaningful, effective professional development, Frangos said, teachers can work towards recertification requirements while advancing instruction and classroom leadership.
“Most importantly, the many professional learning opportunities you can access will raise the achievement of all students and your partnership with our families,” Frangos said.
Frangos explained the project-based learning concept, saying the process begins with a driving question about a challenge or problem, and students focus on relationship building collaboratively and with intention. Furthermore, she said, it engages students with action projects that investigate critical real-life problems, and every student contributes. She stressed the skills this produces that prepare students for the workplace and college.
“Social skills cannot be taught in isolation,” said Frangos is a follow-up email. “Instead, all learners want to learn these skills as part of meaningful work. This is how all team members in any organization improve – through careful consideration of the talents of the team and helping others have a voice and a meaningful role before making their findings or learning public. Project-based learning is something we do to some degree; it needs to be a part of the lives of every student.”
The next meeting of the Joint School Committees is scheduled for May 31 at 6:30 pm in the ORR Junior High School media room.
Joint School Committees
By Jean Perry