Behind the doors of staff development days

March 29, 2018 — by Alexandra Li and Michael Zhang

March 19th marked the second year of being able to collaborate with colleagues in a way that each department determines — a radical change from the traditional top-down, administration-driven collaborations of previous years.

 

To students, March 19 was a needed holiday in the long six-week stretch filled with tests and projects between February break and Spring break.

For teachers, the day marked the second year of being able to collaborate with colleagues in a way that each department determines — a radical change from the traditional top-down, administration-driven collaborations of previous years.

“This way, teachers are involved in the planning process and get to ask for things they know they'll utilize within the classroom, so I think that’s a step better than what we were doing before,” principal Paul Robinson said. “It’s better when the teachers are a part of creating their own learning experience.”

Staff members across the district, including ones from Los Gatos, were present at the school on March 19. In the fall, SHS teachers visited Los Gatos High for a development day on Oct. 9.

This model of planning has become regular for staff development days, which occur once a semester and last the whole school day.

“It’s essentially a day to reflect on how the teachers did so far and what some ideas and plans are for next year,” Robinson said. “It’s based on our goals for the district to create a culture of collaboration and innovation, to work on student wellness, balance, and belonging and to make learning really relevant and engaging.”

According to Robinson, goals for staff development vary widely across the departments, with some working on different types of instruction or buying new textbooks to use in their curriculum. For example, on March 19, English teachers  focused on how to bring media literacy to their classrooms.

The math department, said Algebra 1 and AP Computer Science teacher Debra Troxell, worked on vertical and horizontal alignment within the courses. Essentially, the teachers make sure that the way they teach a certain topic stays consistent throughout the different levels of a subject.

Troxell said ensuring that all teachers were on the same page has been a constant goal, but was brought to the forefront three years ago when the departments changed textbooks and needed to adopt a new curriculum.

“We spent the entire day looking at different standards and courses because it’s a huge job,” Troxell said. “This opportunity gives us a chance to carry out big-idea projects that we don’t have time for on a regular basis.”