“Burke’s never rests on its laurels. We are always looking to learn and grow as educators, to challenge ourselves as much as we challenge our students.” - Alice Moore, Director of Lower School
Burke’s has long been a haven of joyful, rigorous, project-based learning for our community of students, faculty, and staff. Since the Professional Development Institute (PDI) began in 2014, Burke's faculty have used the days following the end of classes to expand their knowledge for the coming school year. The PDI provides a space for both formal and informal interaction and engagement across all grade levels.
Led by Mike Matthews, Director of Curriculum and Program Innovation, the PDI is a coming together of the faculty as a whole, and also an opportunity to meet as divisions. Head of School Michele Williams, Quise Rodriguez Edwards, Director of Inclusivity and Community-Building, Alice Moore, Director of Lower School, and Sheena Tart-Zelvin, Director of Upper School, collaborate with Mr. Matthews in the planning of Burke’s PDI. Proud of the breadth of expertise they have brought to the PDI each year, Mr. Matthews stated, “We’ve had tech professional development, we’ve invited outside schools to join, we’ve included staff members. It changes year to year, to meet the needs of the school, and to focus on the work that lies ahead. This year, the potential impact on school and students is clear. The excitement about the momentum of this work around racial literacy, and assessing student learning, is palpable.”
As we close out the 2020-21 school year, PDI looks a little different than it has in years past. After an unprecedented year, with challenges and struggles that touched each and every one of our community members, the Professional Development Institute has been crafted with an awareness that the entire school year required ongoing innovation and learning to meet the demands of simultaneously teaching in-person and online. This year, PDI has been scheduled for two days focusing on racial literacy and academic assessment in direct response to feedback from our educators, as well as the overall needs of our school community.
The focus of the first day of PDI was diversity, equity, and inclusion. We understand there is a real difference between performative and authentic anti-racism work, and Burke’s is fully committed to authenticity, as we continue to grow. Faculty participated in a two-part workshop facilitated by Monique Vogelsang from Pollyanna, a national organization that provides programs that enhance cultural competence, racial literacy, and equity practices. The facilitator will return to Burke’s for August Opening Meetings to facilitate an all-school workshop.
The second day had faculty working with Challenge Success to focus on providing more clarity and consistency in assessment. This is the third time Challenge Success returned to Burke’s, this school year, with two previous workshops completed in April. The Upper School also took time to read excerpts from Joe Feldman’s Grading for Equity
, as part of a discussion on grading practices, and how students receive feedback.
As Ms. Tart-Zelvin puts it, “The big goal as I see it is having time to reflect together, to be curious and creative, and share our excitement about the future. It brings the school year to a close professionally for teachers, while allowing for community-based dreaming, thinking, and creativity.”
The Lower School faculty spent time reflecting on and consolidating new learning around assessment. Infusing new assessment practices into the Lower School curriculum is an important goal for next year as providing meaningful feedback to a kindergartener doesn’t necessarily look the same as it does for a third-grader. Ms. Moore explains, “I think people’s minds are really open to doing things in different ways. We’ve had to be creative in a lot of ways, often in different ways than we might have chosen.”
Burke’s believes one of the best ways to teach our students to be lifelong learners is to foster that culture throughout the school community. Reflecting upon the impact of the Professional Development Institute, Ms. Edwards said, “What Burke’s does really well is to encourage joyful and rigorous learning for every member of our community. Our faculty is comprised of dedicated learners who are always seeking to improve on how they teach their students to become strong critical thinkers who understand the content that’s being taught and know how to apply their skills in the real world.”