During the first week of summer vacation for students and teachers, the Colonial School District administrators were back in the classroom learning new things to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.
"It's important for all administrators to continue with professional learning opportunities," said Rosemarie Gregitis, Colonial's Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. "Beginning now allows us to immediately focus on the same vision, mission, and goals as we start planning for the return of our staff and their professional development."
Making learning visible
Principals and other instructional administrators took a day to explore Visible Learning, which inspires educators to see learning through the eyes of the students and to choose the most effective instructional tools and strategies based on measurable results.
"Visible Learning helps the staff learn to recognize what is most impactful on student achievement," said Eileen Carr, principal at Ridge Park Elementary School. "For example, we discussed how something as simple as clearly communicating the learning expectations and success criteria to the students improves the outcome of the lesson."
Led by nationally renowned consultant Kristin Anderson, the session reviewed ten behaviors, or "mindframes," that educators use to maximize students' success, including the importance of feedback and assessments, building a sense of community, balancing talking and listening, and building positive relationships.
Developing anti-bias strategies
The full administrative team also took part in a half-day Anti-Bias Workshop led by Lindsay Shafer and Caryn Rivers from the Anti-Defamation League. Participants learned to recognize bias — such as attitudes and actions based on characteristics like race, religion, and gender — and address it directly in themselves and others.
"You have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable in order for the truly powerful discussions — and change — to take place," said Gerald James, Colonial's Diversity, Equity, and Instruction Officer.
In addition to addressing examples of "explicit" bias, where the person knows they're being racist or sexist for example, the session also covered "implicit" bias. Implicit bias includes the unconscious attitudes and stereotypes that people don't realize they have.
"Our students may struggle from the effects of implicit bias," said Tara Collice, Assistant Principal at Colonial Middle School. "Once the adults who interact with these children have an opportunity to reflect, identify, and address those implicit biases, the students should see a positive change that will help them feel safe and cared for in their learning environment."
The Colonial School District has a long history of working with the Anti-Defamation League through the No Place for Hate® initiative at Colonial Elementary School, Colonial Middle School, and Plymouth Whitemarsh HIgh School, as well as through the team of student volunteers serving as World of Difference® Peer Trainers at the high school.