4 Reasons Teacher Development Matters

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon

What does it take to inspire a passion for learning in each student who attends Whitby?

On our page about the Whitby difference, we share our secret recipe. First, start with an inquiry based learningenvironment that gives children the freedom to be curious and explore the world around them. Then mix in opportunities for self reflection, time for collaboration and the knowledge of how to assess themselves as learners. Finally, give students the opportunity to proudly present their learnings to their teachers and parents. (Then repeat until students are ready to take on the world.)

There’s one more ingredient that is absolutely crucial. Teachers who love learning. Otherwise the whole mix can fall flat.

Why It Matters to Have Teachers with a Love of Learning

Young children are greatly influenced by their environment. That’s why, at Whitby, we seek to make a love of learning contagious. We look for teachers who are enthusiastic about continuing their own education, and who are passionate about seeking better ways to facilitate and inspire learning for students with many different learning styles. We believe that educators who find joy and challenge in the pursuit of their own professional growth inspire our students to love learning too.

Are you a passionate lifelong-learner who finds joy in a dynamic school community that will challenge you to be your best?                   - Whitby Employment Page

This passion for hiring educators who care about educating themselves is core to the Whitby difference. Our first teacher, Nancy Rambusch, who went on to found the American Montessori Society, discovered Montessori education because of her quest to find a better way to help children learn. More recently, we included the International Baccalaureate in our curriculum because of how it can help our students become inquirers and global citizens.

We believe that teachers who love learning are, quite simply, better educators. That’s why we constantly challenge everyone on the Whitby team to pursue new growth opportunities.

Here are 4 Reasons Why Teacher Development is So Important:

We believe that teaching is as much a learning experience for the educator as it is for the student. Professional Development occurs daily through all our interactions, in addition to courses and workshops, and it ensures that educators remain effective in the long run, helping them to:

1. Go Above and Beyond Subject Area Knowledge

Few people would think a history course that ended at the end of the 20th century was up to date—yet less attention is paid to how often schools update the curriculum they use to educate students.

We believe that “curriculum” goes beyond just subject area knowledge to concepts and approaches to teaching. Teachers should be constantly figuring out new ways to engage students—whether that’s including the latest developments in their field or looking for ways to interact across fields to fully explore concepts through the lens of multiple subject areas.

As an example, earlier this year, one of our English teachers was inspired by Daniel Pink’s Drive to look for ways to increase students’ motivation to learning. This led to the creation of Whitby’s highly-successful Genius Hour, where our seventh grade students pursued a learning opportunity of their choice for 60 minutes every week and presented on their findings at the end of the course.

While it’s important for teachers to be able to teach about the latest advancements in their subject area, it’s even more important for teachers to always be learning about new ways to help students succeed.

2. Improve Student Outcomes

Think about how the world would be different if we were still using steamships to cross the ocean. Just like transportation, teaching is a field that evolves as researchers and practitioners find more effective ways to reach students. Yet far too many schools still use outdated, ineffective teaching and assessment methods.

We believe that teachers need to be constantly seeking more effective ways to help students learn and looking for more creative and engaged ways to assess their learning. In fact, we’re constantly looking for new ways to improve our curriculum at Whitby—whether that’s experimenting with language immersion in our Lower School or weaving the IB Learner Profile into our curriculum to help students develop the skills to succeed in an global environment. We encourage educators to find ways to take risks to ensure we are providing significant, challenging and relevant learning engagements for each and every student. To achieve this we promote shared professional reading and professional action research in our classrooms to improve and assess the quality of our teaching and learning in each classroom.

We also focus on improving student outcomes through ongoing student assessment at Whitby. Assessment not only provides a picture of where students are in the learning process, it helps teachers better understand the students as learners. Whitby teachers then use the insights they gain from assessments to shape their teaching to improve student outcomes.

3. Include New Technology

A school can’t prepare students to use the tools of the future if it continues to use the technology of the past. That’s why we bring in cutting-edge technology like 3D printers for students to use at Whitby, and teach 21st century skills such as coding. When we bring in new technology, however, teacher development is critical. Educators not only need to know how to use technology in the classroom well enough to teach students, they need to be able to tie the technology into a unit of inquiry so that students learn to think and create as they learn the technology.

At Whitby, we believe it’s important to push teachers to go beyond using technology for the sake of technology. When our teachers learn the technology we have available, we challenge them to find ways to work it into the curriculum in a way that enhances teaching and learning (when appropriate). In one recent 3D printing unit, for example, a Whitby educator challenged third and fourth grade students to design keychains that they could sell to younger students. Students not only learned how to design with the 3D printers, they also gained experience with entrepreneurship.

4. Help Each Other Become Better Educators

No one understands the challenges teachers face in the classroom better than other teachers—which is why collaboration is a crucial part of teacher professional development. When teachers get the chance to help each and learn from one another, like in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) at Whitby, they are able to share their experiences and research, evaluate each other's learning engagements in the classroom, and join forces to provide more creative and innovative educational experiences.

When teachers are challenged to share their teaching practice and their learning journeys with their peers, it also pushes them to identify what is really working in their classroom. They have to think about whether it’s the learning tasks they give, how they work with students or even if a particular book or visual prompt sparked students’ interests.

The Best Educators Keep Learning

Peter Drucker, a famous management trainer, wrote that “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change.” We agree. We’ve found that the best teachers are the ones who are constantly pushing themselves to learn about new research in their field.

Whether teachers attend conferences or workshops, learn on their own, or join collaborative learning communities, ongoing professional development is the key to a quality education. How else can we ensure teachers are able to take advantage of the latest research in their classroom, know how to take risks by including new concepts, teaching approaches and technology in the curriculum and inspire each other to be other educators?

To learn more about how we inspire teachers at Whitby to keep learning, read about our teacher development initiatives or schedule a tour of our private school.

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Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon is now the Head of School at TASIS England, having previously served the Whitby School community for 5 wonderful years. The 'Life of Bryan' continues to be an adventure in many ways. From Belfast to Bavaria and Cardiff to Connecticut, and now onto London, his learning journey has proved to be a source of wonder and exploration through each opportunity and challenge enjoyed. Bryan shares this journey with his family and the school communities that he serves. He draws inspiration from the multiple perspectives provided by students, parents and colleagues that continue to enrich his learning and expand his horizons.