This summer, our Early Learning teacher Savannah Barker attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute Program for Early Career Teachers (Teachers College, Columbia University). This program brings together 75 teachers from independent schools around the world to explore teaching styles and educational philosophies. Savannah recently shared with us some of her experiences at the program:
Linden: How was your professional development experience this summer?
Savannah: I spent an incredible two weeks at the end of June in Lawrenceville, New Jersey participating in the Klingenstein Summer Institute (KSI). Together with 74 other new-career, independent and private school teachers, I was exposed to the beauties and complexities of the teaching profession. The entire experience was collaborative, intensive, thought-provoking, and truly inspiring. It exceeded my expectations and I look forward to applying my experiences to my practice as the Early Learning teacher at Linden.
Linden: What was the program's main focus?
Savannah: The institute was centered around the themes of leadership and change in independent schools around the world. The big idea of being intentional in our teaching practice truly resonated with me. This includes bringing conversations about diversity and social justice in the classroom, embracing the role of being a designer of learning experiences as a teacher, and above all, being an active leader and change-maker within the community.
Linden: How have you been able to benefit from this course on a personal and professional level? How has this course enabled you to grow as a teacher and a Linden community leader?
Savannah: I believe that I am and will always be a life-long learner. On a personal level, KSI has inspired me to continue expanding my knowledge around issues of race, equity, and diversity. I have started by reading a number of books this summer on topics such as our implicit biases, the impact of stereotype threat and privilege on performance amongst minority groups. In terms of my role as a teacher and Linden community leader, KSI has helped me identify and take pride in the strengths of both my teaching and Linden as a school. Specifically, our small Early Learning classes allow the students to make significant gains in reading, writing, and numerical knowledge, as well as their confidence and self-regulation abilities. The institute has also encouraged me to look critically at my practice and our school to find areas for improvement. Looking ahead at the new school year, I want to be both a designer and a reflective practitioner in my work at Linden.
Linden: What are some of the areas you would like to focus when applying your new learning at Linden? Can you think of ways in which Linden can benefit from your experience and new-found knowledge/resources?
Savannah: I am especially energized by the opportunity to improve my own teaching by applying the Understanding by Design model while planning instruction and assessment in an inquiry-based environment. This involves planning with the “end” in mind. As well, I look forward to bringing diversity and anti-bias education to the forefront in my classroom to provide all students with a sense of belonging. I would also like to work with colleagues, in both our junior and senior school, to be more collaborative in our teaching. To do this, I want to try out a collaborative approach to improving instruction, known as “Critical Friends Groups,” with a small number of faculty. I would also like to work with our wider community to continue to find new ways of making both diversity and inclusion visible and authentic within our school community.