Jess Dang, Associate Head of School, 8th grade advisor, Go-Girl teacher
For two days, independent school educators from all over the state, and somehow a cadre of army air traffic control officers, were immersed in the principles and practices of differentiation. We were taught by Carol Ann Tomlinson, the mother of differentiation herself, and her colleague Mike Murphy. An "aha" moment for me during the workshop was realizing how differentiated instruction is intuitive to good teaching. An educator's decision to use a differentiation strategy--such as flexible grouping, student choice, levels of challenge, ongoing assessment, just to name a few--reflects a belief in students' potential and a deep commitment to meet each student where they are. As Tomlinson describes, "Differentiation is classroom practice that looks eyeball to eyeball with the reality that kids differ, and the most effective teachers do whatever it takes to hook the whole range of kids on learning." It was truly inspiring to contemplate the many parallels between differentiated practice and how we teach and learn at JMSG. As a faculty, we have begun the exciting work of delving into Tomlinson's seminal text The Differentiated Classroom and strengthening our collective practices, and I'm looking forward to sharing the insights and tips I gained from the workshop as we progress.
Elizabeth Scotten, 6th grade Humanities teacher, 6th grade advisor
This three-week online course helped me prepare to start my first year teaching at JMSG. One of the most valuable aspects of the course was connecting with a network of girls' school teachers and administrators from around the country. I also learned about current research and practices in girls' education, and got a deeper understanding of the history of single-sex education. I was delighted to see that the first reading we were assigned was an excerpt from Where Girls Come First: The Rise, Fall, and Surprising Revival of Girls' Schools by Ilana DeBare, a JMSG co-founder. It was exciting to see JMSG's founding story woven into the history of girls' schooling in the United States.
Miranda Bucky, 6th & 7th grade Associate Math teacher, 7th grade advisor
In August, I attended a two-day training with Girls Leadership in Oakland that focused on culturally responsive practice and on developing strategies to address trauma from an asset-based approach. At the end of the workshop, every attendee left with a curriculum booklet of lesson plans compiled by the training facilitators, titled “Power ColLABorative: A culturally responsive, social-emotional learning-based curriculum designed to meet the needs of girls.”
Following the training, I have been thinking about the similarities between the roles of teacher and facilitator. Teaching is a type of facilitation: facilitators set in place a structure within which a group can generate new understandings, learning in community. This opens up space for students to be the drivers of their own learning and to shape the culture of their classrooms.
So far this year, I have used several lesson plans from the curriculum for activities in advising, centering around the themes of identity and community. In math classes, I have been adjusting the structure of my facilitation by asking more questions that do not have just one right answer, hoping to reduce the fear of getting a question wrong and to focus on conceptual understanding. This workshop left me with a lot to think about, plans and goals for ways to modify my own practice, and a resource to draw from and to share with colleagues.
Katie Topper, Educational Director of Technology, 7th grade advisor, teacher
This past summer, I was fortunate to be nominated to be a panelist at the Wearable Technologies conference in San Francisco. The panel consisted of Bay Area and international technology educators and consultants. The conference was a subset of the annual Semi-Conductor convention that draws a large crowd from around the world.
Before I attended the panel, I was very excited to not only learn about new technologies in the wearables market, but also at the prospect of applying what I would learn to my classes and pass on some ideas to the STEAM and science faculty. Specifically, for the past few years I’ve taught an 8th Grade Arts Elective on wearables, which mainly focuses on sewing circuits into clothing, stuffies and such. I had also hoped to learn more about 3D-printable technologies that can be incorporated into student sewing and circuitry projects. Instead, what I learned is something much larger: despite the fact that JMSG has very comprehensive technology and STEAM programs, our alumna will still have a very uphill battle to fight when they enter these fields.I had expected around a 60/40 male to female ratio in attendance, but I would guesstimate that over 85% of the conference attendees were male. Knowing that women in tech have declined since the 1980’s, and also appreciating that 30 of the fastest growing occupations are in the STEM field, it’s critical to understand what educators can do to prepare our students for that uphill battle. As a panel on how to recruit more female engineers was simulcast on a large screen in the convention center lounge, the audience stayed glued to their personal screens, seemingly with no awareness or concern about the gender disparities in their fields. The conference advertising efforts revolved around an NFL football player who, although his research around wearables and concussion detection is certainly important, drew a much larger crowd than any of the female innovators who presented before him. My quest for water on the exposition floor turned into proposals to drink a beer with the salesmen. I enjoyed being on the panel and the opportunity to promote the technology offerings at JMSG. However, my participation confirmed to me that, no matter how many technical skills our students may gain while at JMSG, the leadership and confidence-building work our faculty implements every day is even more critical to making a much-needed shift in the tech industry.