Many parents at The Oaks may wonder why their student is leaving school after only half a day’s instruction a few times out of the year, or why students often have the Monday following an extended break off of school as well. What is going on at The Oaks Academy when the school calendar lists “Professional Development”? As is typical in a school, the answer involves learning.
The Oaks holds a week of Professional Development prior to the start of each school year, along with 2 full and 3 half days throughout the school year. While much of the schedule during these days revolves around learning techniques, curriculum and training sessions; these days are also one way that we show our teachers that they are known and loved. We build this known and loved culture by establishing and continually nurturing relationships – by following that core value: Relationships Come First.
Unsurprisingly, it is our other core values that influence how we put relationships first in professional development: personhood, authentic learning, and renewal.
Just as we affirm the personhood of each student in our classrooms, we affirm the personhood of our teachers by engaging them in meaningful and reflective professional learning. In an atmosphere characterized by trust and respect, teachers learn alongside and from one another. They set and work toward individual professional goals while simultaneously growing as grade level teams, multi-grade teams, departments, and as a campus faculty. Great care is given to the physical, emotional and cognitive environment of all professional development activities to ensure the personhood of our teachers is honored in an authentic learning process.
Authentic learning happens when the mind is active; therefore, professional learning objectives, texts, and processes are selected to ensure teachers actively engage in the duty and delight of learning. Authentic learning leads to renewal, but it is not only cognitive renewal – it includes healing and growth in wisdom, compassion and maturity. When authentic professional learning is happening, our teachers’ minds are nourished by inspiring ideas that can be practically applied to their classroom practice.
Opportunities for spiritual and emotional renewal are built into each school day at The Oaks during two key routines: lauds and the daily reflection. Starting each day with a time of community worship and prayer and ending it with a guided time to think purposefully about the day gives our teachers and students time to rest their hearts and minds and reflect on what is true, good and beautiful. Faculty meetings and professional development days also include time for worship through singing or a devotion and time for reflection on the day’s learning. By structuring our sessions to provide these opportunities for renewal, we are putting relationships first by attending to the overall well-being of our teachers by reducing stress, promoting healthy living and allowing for dedicated time for the investment in relationships with each other.
At The Oaks, we intentionally and carefully put in hard work to build a school culture where all are known, accepted and loved. When our teachers are actively engaged in meaningful and reflective professional development that puts relationships first, the result is a strong community of teachers who are able to create the best environment for our students.
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