Living Our Mission in the Middle School
By Alissa Benway, Middle School Assistant Division Head and ELA teacher
The Hall Copacino Institute of Professional Study courses were created to help identify and train teachers for the different aspects that make a successful teacher at Carroll. All educators take part in professional study each year and over their time as educators, they take all five courses: 1. Orton-Gillingham, 2. The Whole Child, 3. Data-Informed Instruction 4. Pedagogy: The Science of Teaching, and 5. New Teacher Course.
As the Assistant Division Head for the Middle School, I’m involved in developing and providing pedagogy courses at Carroll. The Carroll courses started as a way to train staff to be successful teachers at Carroll.
We developed the core professional development courses 5 years ago, for focus on identifying the social/emotional needs of our students, and all the ways an educator can meet those needs. We looked closely at how students and teachers speak to each other, how we can encourage and thoughtfully redirect students, and how we can help students recognize where they are in their learning, and overcome their anxiety about certain tasks.
It’s important that these courses continue to evolve each year, and that we remain committed to improving the content to meet the needs of our educators and our students.
Our Pedagogy class has recently been transformed to create a more interdisciplinary experience for our students. During the pandemic, we had teaching teams working in pods—a shift that led us to recognize that there was a benefit for our students in having a combined experience across subjects.
We began by looking at the skills taught in English Language Arts and those taught in History, and where we could potentially teach these skills in unison in a diagnostic and prescriptive way. We came up with essential questions that our students could focus on across partner subjects, as well as ways that writing projects could be more aligned within the ELA and history curriculums.
How do we read this article and then write about it? What does note-taking mean for a 6th Grader, for a 7th Grader, for an 8th Grader across disciplines? What are some of the different ways to analyze information? Are students going to be writing a descriptive article, and what kind of graphic organizer are they filling out? We wanted to guide our educators toward teaching in a more systematic way, using a shared vocabulary, and creating content connections between the subjects.
We did the same for Math and Science by exploring how our teachers could collaborate to align the learning in both subjects: where we could integrate greater repetition and scaffolding, and move students more wholly from the unknown to the known—a core concept in Carroll pedagogy.
One of the most important pieces of the new interdisciplinary approach is to have the students focus on inquiry. In a lesson, students may explore one or two meaningful questions to be answered using novels, historical information, or math and science concepts. The end goal is to build critical thinking skills while students stay in the flow of what we’re teaching and what they’re learning.
I see highly motivated teachers coming to work at Carroll because we help them hone skills that really help students—not just in terms of what they learn, but how students can become more independent in their skills.
Because we are intentional every step of the way, our students are better able to become independent learners and thinkers.
“The teachers at Carroll will advocate for you and they are very engaging. They help you if you need help and the projects we do make learning fun. It’s not like they just hand you a piece of paper and you do work; there are fun projects like the cell project we’re doing in science.”
Alex Bloch, 8th Grade Student
This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection 22-23: Living our mission every day as an inclusive community of learners
- Carroll Connection 2022-23