Building Faculty Capacity

Building Faculty Capacity
  • Teachers & Tutors
  • Tutoring
Steve Wilkins, Head of School Blog

 

I remember this conversation as clearly as the crisp June evening in 2010 on the back patio of Storrow House during the New Parents’ Welcome dinner. We were about to launch the Waltham Lower School Campus for the following September, marking a significant increase in the size of the student body. A new parent questioned, “Where are you possibly going to find enough qualified teachers to open the new school? I think that you are going to fail.”

Although that stark conversation was nearly a decade ago, it is an indelible memory. That parent’s question goes right to the heart of why Carroll works for bright children with dyslexia and language-based learning difficulties, whereas other schools can’t.

We train our teachers to a higher level.

The direct answer to that parent’s anxiety is that we don’t expect to hire teachers and tutors with all the skills necessary to be successful with our students. Rarely does a teacher come to us properly trained to succeed with our students. We expect to engage every educator at Carroll in a rigorous and indefatigable program of professional development. We hire the best, most tenacious, energetic people we can find. We look for their intrigue and curiosity. Successful candidates for employment at Carroll light up when they learn of the intensive professional training that is integral to the job.

In the interview process, we tell candidates that there are far easier jobs in education. Working at Carroll is highly demanding. It is hard work.

The specific nature of Carroll’s work to build capacity in our teachers and tutors is multifaceted. It begins with the assumption that everyone needs a Coach who is an experienced partner and a mentor. We assume that every one of us needs to engage in intensive, ongoing education to grow our skills. Coaches work with faculty members weekly. They collaborate as partners; coaches do not serve as evaluators. Coaches are invested in each teacher’s growth and development so that each child can be successful at Carroll.

The concept of “Everyone at One” is when Carroll turns into an unofficial graduate school of education for our faculty, and we all learn together on Friday afternoons at 1:00. 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
  5. Technology for teaching

All teachers must complete coursework in all of these five disciplines. Three Professional Days during the school year, several keynote experts at the beginning of each school year, and two community lectures also add to the enriching experience of being a Carroll faculty member.

Intensive programs prior to becoming a full Carroll faculty member are also essential in our determination to build capacity in our educators.

Carroll operates a Masters Degree in Education program with Lesley University (known as the Angela Wilkins Program of Graduate Students in Education). Arguably, this program is an ideal model for teaching preparation. Students engage in fourteen months of graduate level classes, many taught by Carroll faculty members. They also are on campus at Carroll every day throughout the school year, learning by being in our classrooms with master teachers. Graduate students often assume roles as teaching assistants and occasionally pick up a class or tutorial of their own. To us, the combination of internship and graduate coursework provides the right amount of exposure to create skilled teachers who have the capacity to deliver what each Carroll child most needs. Indeed, many Carroll faculty members have earned their EdM degrees as part of their teaching experience at Carroll.

The other intensive program is the Garside Institute for Teaching Training which provides an intensive and comprehensive program in Orton-Gillingham. The most comprehensive version of this essential skill development is the yearlong program where we utilize the same powerful combination of coursework and supervised practicum. Nowhere is the adage that “Carroll teachers are trained to a higher level” more potent than in the GIFTT program.

Despite all of the above, I have omitted the most significant component of growing our teachers’ capacities. It is the school culture of collaboration and continuous improvement that is the unequaled marker of why our teachers and tutors succeed where others haven’t. We expect to take on complicated children with complex learning profiles, and we expect that every one of them will make meaningful progress, that their educational trajectories will improve, that continual adjustments in our teaching are necessary to meet a student’s needs, and that data will inform us about how we are doing meeting a child’s needs. That is universal at Carroll.

What’s your job as an educator? Build capacity in each child. Give each student what they most need. Enlarge a child’s opportunities in life. Be the difference. Teachers can only achieve these expectations when they work to develop their skills to a higher level.

 

  • Teacher Training



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