The Brooks faculty engaged in an exciting new initiative called Brooks School Open Door Week in February. Faculty visited each other’s classrooms, observed their colleagues teaching and provided their colleagues with short, written takeaways: tactics or methods that they learned during their visit that will have an immediate impact on their own teaching. The organizers hope the initiative inspired ongoing collaboration between faculty.
AN ORGANIC IDEA
Dean of Faculty John Haile is thrilled with the success of the initiative, which arose out of the work of one of Brooks’s faculty triads. “Faculty triads are part of our professional development here,” Haile explains. “Each year we team three teachers up to work together; they undergo a team-building time in June and then work together throughout the year on a project. This grew out of a project that [Chair of Mathematics Department] Doug Burbank, [Chair of Science Department] Mary Jo Carabatsos and [history teacher] Eddie Carson did together as part of their triad work. I think it’s great that progression took place, from their brainstorming to the implementation of something that benefits the entire Brooks faculty.”
Open Door Week supplemented the formal training and development that Brooks faculty already receives. Instead of addressing weaknesses or opportunities for growth in faculty work, the initiative illustrates “the power of classroom visits,” according to Carabatsos.
“It’s about going to someone’s classroom for ten minutes or so, seeing the power of what you can learn in a very short time and coming away with a takeaway that can be of immediate impact in your classroom,” she says.
Haile took advantage of the opportunity to visit several classrooms during Open Door Week. He’s an experienced teacher, but he found a visit to a second-year English teacher’s classroom enlightening. “I was very impressed with the way Steph Holmes coaches in her classroom,” Haile says. “She is a superb teacher, but she’s also a superb coach, and I observed that in the way that she directed students with very few words to do things in very specific ways that helped them accomplish their goal. One thing I think all of us tend to do is talk too much in the classroom. She doesn’t. She probably spoke the fewest number of words I’ve ever heard in a class period, and yet, the entire thing was productive.”
A FUTURE BENEFIT
Open Door Week enhances the faculty’s ability to collaborate. And, Haile and Carabatsos stress, Open Door Week also grows the faculty’s expectation of collaboration in the future. Open Door Week “fosters the idea that we are a teaching and learning community, and we have a lot to share with each other,” says Carabatsos. Haile credits the program with furthering one of the goals that he’s tried to maintain during his tenure as dean of faculty: a collegial, collaborative faculty. “This allows faculty to find out and appreciate what people in other disciplines and even other members of their own department are doing,” Haile says. “This sparks conversation about the common ground that people share in their teaching and opens the door to further collaboration. This is a real benefit.”
Carabatsos says that the enthusiasm with which the faculty approached Open Door Week shows the faculty’s desire to see each other work. “It says that we are increasingly open to learning from one another, and in that increasing openness we are moving closer to being the kind of teaching and learning community that we really want to be,” she says.
Open Door Week could turn into a recurring event at Brooks; Carabatsos envisions a future where classroom visits become the norm, and where faculty see the benefit of visiting and of being visited. “It would be awesome to get to a point where the culture is that once a week, someone’s in your classroom,” she says. “We want this to be about colleagues getting in and seeing what their colleagues are doing, and recognizing that good work every day.”