As a student in the 1980’s I loved “teacher work days”. It meant a day off of school and the concept of teachers’ improving in their areas wasn’t on my young mind’s radar. As with so many other things in life, we see things different when our perspective changes with experience and age. Professional Development is critical to a growing and effective faculty.
Late-start Wednesdays have been an extremely beneficial time for our Upper School faculty this year. Thank you to our parents for arranging your schedules to allow our 6th-12th grade teachers to have this time each Wednesday morning to dive deeper into areas like Biblical Worldview integration training, departmental alignment across grade levels, cross curricular planning, and more. Currently, our elementary faculty connects after school several times a month, but we are examining several options to provide more time for them as well, so we call more effectively lead our students.
One week ago, twelve of our faculty members from all areas of our school attended an extremely helpful professional development conference called The Lausanne Learning Institute. It offered the chance for us to observe expert teachers conduct class with students while teachers observed their methods. (We were proud to have two of our own, Ben Jeanfreau and Angela Trigg, lead sessions). Along with these “fishbowl” sessions, we heard from experts in many fields including strategic planning, development, and advice from master teachers that complimented every facet of a K-12 independent school’s academic program. It was a time of great growth for all of us who attended.
I walked away from my time most affected by Tim Elmore, a nationally known author in leadership growth. He challenged us to understand the generation that we are currently trying to reach every day in our classrooms. I would love to share these insights that we as educators and parents need to know to connect, empower, and lead this generation, Generation Z. We are charged with a tough task! Are you aware that we are raising the first generation that:
- Doesn’t need adults to get information.
- Can broadcast their every thought and emotion.
- Enjoys external stimuli at their fingertips 24/7.
- Is in social contact at all times, yet often in isolation.
- Experiences more mental health issues than any generation on record.
That is an intimidating list to contend with! And yes, much of this leads back to the technology that our students have access to. Our students often are socially and physically mature, but do not have the cognitive or emotional capacity to manage and judge what they immerse themselves in. Our roles in their lives are critical. What, specifically, can we do about it?
First, we need to understand that trust with this generation must be earned through established relationships. They long for hope and often we have to creatively motivate them. As Elmore put it, we must balance two major areas:
- Being Timely – We must understand the needs of our culture to prepare them for adulthood.
- Being Timeless – We must pass on timeless (I would say Biblical) values and skills they will need to flourish.
If you are interested, I would encourage you to read more in Elmore’s book, Marching off the Map. I have never felt more strongly about Christian education than I do now. And every time I hear a motivational speaker discuss the challenges our young people face I grown stronger in my resolve to make Hartfield Academy all God calls us to be. I have no doubt, that the “Timeless Values” Elmore referred to are found in the Bible. It is our responsibility as parents and educators to point our children’s identity toward a loving God that has created them with unique gifts and a great purpose. Ours is a calling of great reward and consequence and I am privileged to join you in this task.