By Henry Chisholm
The school year officially ended on June 15 with the Class of 2018 graduating. Still, there is work to be done. Teachers were back on campus from June 25-29 for the Teachers’ Summer Institute.
The Summer Institute covered curriculum changes, provided a look back at what worked last school year and what needs to be reworked for the upcoming school year. For Social Studies teacher Brian Springsteen, Summer Institute is encouraging and builds camaraderie among CG staff.
“(Summer Institute is an) opportunity to have my voice validated within the organization as well as hear from coworkers and colleagues and hearing feedback on the work I’m doing in the classroom,” he said.
Feedback, appreciations and constructive criticism were a large part of Summer Institute. CG’s educators revisited the organization’s mission, where we’ve come and where we’re going. Mathematics teacher Evan Green said it was beneficial to take a look at the mission statement again.
“This week was a big zoom out so it’s going back to the mission statement, trying to figure out what we’re all about, things we share in common and how we’d like to go together, go forward together,” Green said.
A larger part of Summer Institute was identifying building blocks according to former Environmental Leadership Manager Jesse Delia. Delia said the building blocks were based on teaching and learning moments educators experienced the previous school-year.
Delia said educators conversed and thought about how building blocks like relationships and community-building, focusing on the whole student, student agency and leadership and more can be used to create a consensus about what is core to CG’s practice at an organizational level.
Our Building Blocks (working)
Relationships & Community-Building
All Students Can Learn — High Expectations & Individual Supports
Focus on the Whole Person
Student Agency, Voice & Leadership
Relevant, Authentic, Engaged Work
Family and Community Engagement/Community Engaged Learning
Change — Hard Work & Continuous Improvement
Teaching for Justice
After exploring and reflection on the building blocks, School Director Liz Cox said CG’s teacher’s got down to work.
“Our staff has gotten to dive into curriculum and get a good deal of work done, thinking about what is essential to this place,” Cox said. “We’ll have a lot of work to do there, we’ll come back at the end of August and do part two.”
The summer’s work is not done, but a lot was accomplished this past school year. English teacher Keith Lambert said the ninth grade core was changed for the previous school year and tenth is up for some large changes this upcoming school year. For Lambert, coming together to talk about the changes, and having time to do so, was necessary.
“The time that I’ve gotten with the core nine team, just because we rolled it out last year for the first time and we’ve been holding onto all of these revisions and things we really wanted to dive into, and this week we’ve been able to dive into those things and say ‘hey that was cool, that was awesome, how can we make it better?’ ” Lambert said.
And making, not just the curriculum, but how the curriculum is delivered to CG students better is what Summer Institute is about, according to Lambert. The teachers took time to write about their concerns in regards to what’s foundational to teaching and learning at Common Ground, internal pressure teachers feel as it relates to the economics of education in Connecticut and how systems of race, ethnicity, class and gender impact teaching and learning. Lambert said addressing all of these things are imperative to successfully address the needs of the whole student.
“(Our students) come from different communities they come from different social dynamics, they have different skills, they have different strengths,” Lambert said. “Taking that and we can sit down and break that down and think what’s going to be best for our kids? What’s going to reach each individual?”
The work to build on the progress CG’s educators made continues in August.