Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Professional Development Day

October 9, 2007

Yesterday, a professional development day for our teachers, I visited Pomfret School and learned a few good things about proficient teaching. I sat in on Mitch Pinkowski’s senior AP course on Joyce, where I experienced the kind of settled, gentle, and inspiring teaching that I’ve always admired. From start to finish, the class was conducted in a dignified and intellectual manner. The students and Mitch obviously respected each other (a somewhat uncommon condition in a classroom) and they exchanged ideas like gifted, inquiring scholars. It was obvious to me that the students enjoyed the company of their teacher; they seemed happy and relaxed throughout the period, often smiling unreservedly or breaking into laughter.

I noted several things that will be helpful to me as a teacher:

* Mitch used the new vocabulary words in sentences, and applied several of them to the literary discussion of the day.

* He used the board to draw continuums illustrating important themes in the book.

* I loved it when he read aloud from Joyce, slowly and feelingly, and asked the students to take up their pens and watch carefully for imagery and diction. I need to do much more of this.

* I noticed that the students didn’t raise their hands to speak, and yet there was never an interruption. There was a conspicuous atmosphere of decorum and graciousness in the room at all times.

* Mitch often said “Thank you” to students after they contributed to the discussion.

* He ended the class on a high note, reading aloud a dramatic scene from the story, and then quietly dismissing the class.

Later, Mitch and I chatted over coffee about the fine art of teaching, and I gained still more good ideas. He showed me a wall covered with post-it notes on which students had written important insights gained during the classes. He said they cover his walls with these notes, and then organize them and make use of them in writing analytical papers. He also mentioned how important it is for him to keep the whole year in mind when planning a day’s or week’s work. He said the “big picture” needs to be kept constantly at the forefront of thought.

I’m grateful to Mitch for a day of insight and growth, just what my Head of School had in mind when he gave us the day off yesterday.

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