Teaching as Craft

One of the joys of working at The Sage School is having an eye towards how to progress the craft of teaching. Teaching is not a static practice and, as such, we as educators at The Sage School are constantly attempting to hone our craft and looking to grow our abilities to better our students’ experiences. We have several methods we employ towards this goal:

  1. We team teach Human Ecology. By team teaching we give ourselves the opportunity to be observed by our peer teachers regularly- and to observe how other teachers teach regularly.  This also allows for real time feedback on lessons as well as the collaborative process of developing curriculum and lessons as a group. This collegial approach to feedback allows for an authenticity within the feedback process.
  2. Directed mentoring, led by our administrative staff and lead teachers, really assists  younger faculty. The ability to have our experienced teachers work with our new teachers allows for an authentic and safe place for questions to be posed around curriculum building, classroom management, and assessment. This feedback has allowed for more rapid maturation of teachers within our school and has allowed experienced teachers to directly transmit cultural and curricular aspects of the school’s vision to new teachers. All of this enhances and consolidates the school culture and the quality of the program we deliver.
  3. Consistent use of self-reflection, and directed feedback from that serves all of our teachers.  Our Head of School, Harry Weekes, designed a system he named “SuGroMot” (which is shorthand for Support, Growth, and Motivation).  He gives us a series of self-reflective questions on our teaching practices and professional development and we write the reflections during a short block of our weekly faculty meetings. We keep a copy in our reflective journal and give Harry a copy for review. This process allows us to continue to explore our craft and have accountability to goals we set by having Harry review our work and reflections. Our most recent example of this was a mid year reflection on how we were progressing on our professional development goals for the year- much like we ask the students to do prior to mid-year conferences.
  4. Professional development is a central tenet of our philosophy around growth as teachers. We encourage, and include as part of each individual’s yearly planning, a commitment to engaging in a professional development opportunity of his/her choosing. We have encouraged and financially supported activities ranging from pursuing master’s programs to helping faculty pay for conferences to supporting a teacher’s drive along the route salmon take to the sea from Stanley, ID down to Astoria, OR as a learning endeavor. The goal of each of these experiences is to remove obstacles that might stand in the way of each teacher’s journey to continue to grow as teachers.
  5. We have developed our own unique ‘modules’ and ‘levels’ system to help teachers grow within in the school. It is a structure which helps track and facilite faculty growth in teaching, administration, and community responsibilities over their time at the school. The program asks faculty to read a subset of books, attend conferences, write reflections, and develop curricular methods within 4 subsets of teaching at Sage: Developing oneself as an Adolescent Anthropologist, a Human Ecology, a Systems Thinker, and as a Self Aware practitioner.  Each faculty member sets goals with our Head of School for how they will progress each year and when they want to “level up”. The levels are modeled on Jim Collins’ idea of a ‘level 5 executive’. This is supported by a series of check-ins throughout the year and “leveling up” ceremonies are done with the entire faculty. The modules and leveling program help create accountability with in our staff to improving the craft of teaching within a system aligned with our values.

The overall goal of the initiatives listed above is to remove individual barriers to the process of teacher development. Creating a culture of growth with in our faculty has allow us to do several things. We actively show that we can always be working to better ourselves as professionals. We model for our students that it is important to continue to strive to improve your self regardless of where you are in life. We help keep The Sage School on the cutting edge of the educational landscape, and we hold to our core.

Nathan Twichell