Rectory faculty both challenge and nurture student thinking. I have the opportunity to peek inside our classrooms and see the work our teachers and students are doing each day. I observe how a science teacher may introduce the parts of the digestive system and how it works--not just once but multiple times with different approaches. When I walk in she is using a human body model, then a diagram, then another model she built to show the true length, moving the dialogue from teacher-led to student-led explanation of the digestive system. In an English class, students are asked to take a deeper look at a passage. In exploring the passage further, the teacher asks the students to look at the mood in the passage; one student says it is "sad." The teacher encourages the student to be more descriptive, to look back into the passage to identify words that help create the mood, and to think about how this mood influences the passage. Our faculty stretches and broadens student thinking both in the classroom and in the Individualized Instruction Program (IIP).
In a tutoring session, when a student is not sure about different types of "alternative energies," the tutor has the student take a look at the word "alternative." The student chooses to look it up in a dictionary and they explore the definition of the word "alternative," using examples where "alternative" may be used more commonly, like how using hand sanitizer may be considered an alternative to washing hands. From there, the tutor links his thinking back to "alternative energies," asking him now that he has a better understanding of the word "alternative" could he give some examples of "alternative energies." He hesitantly gave one example, he saw the smile come across the tutor's face, and before the tutor could say anything he shared a few more examples. We ask our faculty to have our students do the thinking. I see our teachers pushing our students' thinking. Teachers have their students create connections in their learning, develop strategies to use when they may feel stuck, and dig deeper in building their understanding.
My visits to the classrooms are part of our professional growth and evaluation model. As part of this model, we actively observe our teachers through formal observations, classroom walkthroughs, and feedback. This collegial dialogue furthers our professional growth and helps to improve the overall quality of our students' experiences. This year we have completed over 100 classroom observations and walkthroughs! At Rectory, our teachers reflect upon their teaching and are always looking for ways to improve the students' learning experience. Being active and reflective in our teaching creates a community of teachers who are working to develop engaging and creative learning experiences for our Rectory students.