By: Susan Gum // May 6th, 2016 // Stories
Students at Delmarva Christian High School (DCHS) begin their classes at 9:30 a.m. every Thursday, an hour and twenty minutes later than their normal start time. The delay isn’t so the students can sleep in. Instead, it allows the high school teachers to meet for Professional Development.
These weekly morning meetings have created an ongoing, established time that is intentionally designed for teachers to maintain their professional credentials through a variety of discussions and activities.
“Generally speaking, Professional Development at DCHS is helping teachers grow into the teacher that God has called them to be,” said Matt Kwiatkowski, Director of Instruction at Delmarva Christian Schools.
Effective Professional Development is about delivering content in a way that models strategies that teachers can employ. Just as a DCHS teacher wouldn’t lecture at the front of a classroom for an entire class period, Kwiatkowski doesn’t lecture teachers on how they should teach—he models it.
“In our meetings, an administrator (usually myself) identifies themes or topics and leads the teachers through collaborative sessions,” said Kwiatkowski. “These sessions could be focused on a theme or more pointed topics, such as effective instruction. Regardless, I give teachers a thought process, not an answer. Likewise, when we work with our students, it’s not about giving them the answer. Instead, it’s about helping them develop the process of coming up with the answer on their own.”
“Four corners,” a process-developing exercise modeled during Professional Development meetings, has been implemented in a variety of classrooms.
“With Four Corners, a teacher throws out an open-ended, multiple-answer question with four choices,” said Kwiatkowski. “Each corner of the room represents a choice. Students then go to the corner that corresponds with their choice. After talking with the other students in their corner, they debate their answer with students in other corners. It’s not about whether or not you, as a student, chose the right answer—it’s about supporting your answer, critiquing others’ answers, and developing critical awareness.”
In order to better target discussion and activities in their weekly meetings, an overall theme is established at the beginning of each new academic year.
“Last year’s Professional Development theme was ‘Cultivate,’” said Kwiatkowski. “It was all about how to better mentor our students. This year, in conjunction with a course offered to our students, we are going through our own Biblical Life Calling course as a staff study.”
Biblical Life Calling (BLC) is a required junior-level course at DCHS. Created by Dr. Bill Mallard, Professor of Leadership Studies at Indiana Wesleyan University, the college course has been modified to be implemented at the high-school level. DCHS is one of only a few high schools in the nation to have put the course into practice.
“The mission statement of Delmarva Christian Schools is all about one’s personal call, and we don’t want our students to lose who they are because of the influence of society,” said Kwiatkowski. “We want our students to identify their God-given passions and strengths—and not just strengthen their weaknesses.”
In order for the students to best use their strengths, Kwiatkowski affirms that the entire school has to be on board.
“We’re going through the BLC course as a staff study because it’s a whole school approach,” said Kwiatkowski. “After we go through the BLC coursework, the teachers break up into pre-determined small groups and look at curriculum to see where BLC can be intentionally inserted. We come up with strategies on how to talk to students about their strengths and how their strengths identify with the needs of the world.”