For many years, the Board, faculty, and administration had been having conversations about learning at Latin: How would we describe it? What is critical to a Latin experience? And how do we know it when we see it?
These conversations led to a strategic opportunity in light of our Teaching Excellence grant . We decided to return to the “Teacher at Latin” document, written in 1999 by the beloved Dr. Dolezal, to see if we could update it to reflect our current goals and priorities. As we began to look at the document, we wondered about the student at Latin. Independent schools have always stressed the value of the relationship between teachers and students. So, could we think about teaching AND learning in order to capture the dialectical relationship between teachers and students? Knowledge is, in fact, constructed in the space where teachers and students come together. One cannot exist with out the other. So, how could we represent this process?
Working with Kirk Greer, our grant administrator and upper school History chair, we focused on describing a teaching/learning process centered around the School’s values: excellence, community, and integrity. Partnering with our Faculty Fellows and Academic Council, we engaged faculty in conversations around their work each day with students. Then, we talked with students about their experiences at Latin. I asked 3rd and 4th graders to tell me about their learning process at Latin. The responses I got were inspiring:
“You have to have an open mind and be open to new experiences.”
“You have to listen.”
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s how you learn.”
“Every opinion counts and the rules apply to all.”
“Be responsible for your actions and to the community.”
For our most recent in-service day, we brought faculty and staff together to review our most recent draft of “Teaching and Learning at Latin.” The conversations were affirming and insightful. As we all sat at round tables in the cafeteria listening and reflecting, I was moved by the focus and engagement of our group. Here’s a quote we used to guide our collaborative process:
"No educator works alone although at times we seem to. Yes, we make lots of private moves, and our work demands an individual capacity for spontaneity, improvisation, and good judgment. But all our efforts, for better or worse, are mediated by the efforts of our colleagues. What they do matters as much to the learning of our students and the running of our programs as what we do." — From The Power of Protocols
Just as teachers and students construct their learning environment together, so do all of the adults on a campus. Whether we are in the business office, the cafeteria, the gym, or the front desk, we are all working to enhance the Latin experience. And the children pay careful attention to the ways the adults interact. All in all, it was a productive and collegial exercise. Stay tuned for next steps as we think about how the teaching/learning principles we have outlined apply to the various divisions and grade levels.