The typical school year begins with weeks of planning and professional development, providing staff with time to prepare for the arrival of our students. The pandemic created a seismic shift in that process, requiring our school leaders to work tirelessly throughout the summer to strategize, develop, and build new virtual learning structures and methodologies for a remote classroom.
This year, it has been especially important for our teachers and leaders to come together as a team to find the best solutions for our students. In August and September, teachers participated in virtual professional development sessions and came to campus where they outfitted classrooms for hybrid and remote instruction and practiced using new digital platforms.
In a recent professional development session, Humanities specialist Melissa Psallidas presented on optimizing literacy instruction online. To kick off the session, she invited teachers and staff to remember what it felt like to be a child learning to read with a writing warm-up where staff wrote about their best childhood memory of reading. In breakout rooms, staff shared their memories with each other, noting how relating to the characters in their favorite books or reading with a family member motivated them to keep reading. They could still remember how the feeling of closeness made them love reading but had long forgotten which books they were reading.
Ms. Psallidas invited an alumna who recently moved up to high school to reflect on how she used to dislike reading until her teacher started recommending books with characters that looked like her or had similar experiences. These protagonists made her feel like reading was a super-power, and inspired her capstone: a powerful spoken word fable about criminal justice that brought down the house at one of our last in-person celebrations in March.
Psallidas also shared information about Conservatory Lab’s Millionaires, students who have read more than 1,000,000 words during any given school year. Some students read more than four million words last year! She gave specific instructions to both ELA specialists and classroom teachers to encourage students to strive for their independent reading goals.
Through this professional development exercise, teachers were able to discuss a variety of inspirational options to create well-structured connections to reading within their curriculum so that students can acquire literacy skills and meet learning goals. The session also provided teachers a space to remember what is most important as they teach and inspire these burgeoning readers – finding joy for learning founded on human connections and relationships.
Join us in sustaining our mission to ensure sufficient educational resources for students at Conservatory Lab Charter School here.