AcademicsNov 9, 2020

updated May 20, 2022

Creating Professional Development (on a budget affected by COVID)

Preparing for a school year like no other, MHS faculty looked to each other for professional development and support.

By: Chris Ouellette
Director of the Leonhardt Academic Skills Center

Happy final Tuesday in October to you all! I hope that you have been able to find that groove you were looking for!

As we enter our COVID-inspired Term 2, we are starting to ideate on professional development. What are our needs? How much is in our budget? Can we safely bring in an outside guest to deliver a PD offering?

As we entered this past summer at Miss Hall’s, it was clear that the majority of us would be working through the summer in order to build the best programmatic offering during this wonky time. One of the pieces of our summer work centered on offering PD to our colleagues. Several of us were given a pretty straightforward task: Create effective offerings that would help our teaching colleagues prepare for the year while also allowing for asynchronous attendance.

Our ultimate result: Miss Hall’s PD Summer Seminar Series

Our premise was simple: Our school is filled with experienced teachers who had participated in PD courses outside of MHS or had expertise in certain areas. If we could tap into these humans, not only would we empower their voices, we could also provide our PD program at a significantly reduced cost to the School.

We were able to target three areas of focus; Technology, Assessment, and Curriculum. Once we targeted areas to focus in on, we began to tap people who could potentially lead one hour webinars for our colleagues. All together, we offered nine structured webinars and also offered up three practice-and-play sessions over a two-week time period.

I am really proud of my colleagues for their offerings:

  • Zoom: Reconceiving Zoom as a learning and collaboration space
  • Wayfinding: “No you don’t need to create 2 lessons for each class
  • Student Agency + Classroom Culture
  • PowerSchool 10
  • Maximizing Learning Outcomes w/ 5 week terms!?!
  • Creating Videos with Loom: “Enhancing student learning”
  • Assessment “Through the eyes of our PD courses”

I also had the honor of presenting two offerings to my colleagues:

  • Assessment: Using Formative assessment to guide student learning “And you can still give summative assessments
  • Student Support: Supporting different learning needs in the hybrid model

After we had presented the webinars, all recordings were uploaded to our faculty resource page on our Powerschool LMS. This allowed for easy curation of all of the offerings for colleagues to peruse at will.

So what have I learned? Here’s my top five:

  • Asynchronous for the Win! — Adults really enjoy having the ability to attend something asynchronously on their own time during the summer. While we had many in-person attendees, the timing required flexibility that was achieved through the asynchronous opportunity.
  • Expertise in your Halls! — There are so many diverse minds and experiences amongst your faculty. Work hard to find out where they have expertise, and tap into it! Almost everyone we spoke with was excited to help out!
  • Reimagine Summer PD — Most of us are used to one or two weeks of full-day meetings and professional development right before school starts. This does not have to be the case, and our colleagues really appreciated dropping to 3 days of all-school PD with the addition of our seminar series.
  • Provide Ease of Access — We added in timestamps so that asynchronous viewers would not have to listen to every moment. This allowed for a choose-your-own-adventure style of PD. A little fun goes a long way!
  • It Won’t be Perfect — We learned so much upon reflection that will help us implement this style of PD in a more efficient and effective way in the future. We ran into speedbumps, they required mea culpas, and we now know how to make it better. Be humble and listen to the feedback that comes in.

This work would not have been possible without Science Department Chair Donna Daigle, Language Department Chair Sarah Nix, Dean of Academics and Faculty Lisa Alberti ’73, and all of our presenters!

Thanks for sharing your time with me, I will leave you with a quote from the late science-fiction author Robert Heinlein, “When one teaches, two learn.”



About the Author

Chris Ouellette is the Director of the Leonhardt Academic Skills Center at Miss Hall's School. He is also Vice President of the Northeast Association of Learning Specialists (NEALS). This post was first published on October 29, 2020, on the NEALS website.