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Professional Development Week in the Schools

Each new school year brings a buzzing energy filled with anticipation, excitement and nerves. Directors are busier than ever – from supporting teaching teams to onboarding new educators and communicating with families. And yet, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of “to-do lists”, school leaders know the importance of starting the year off with professional development that will spark inquiry and inspiration.

The Efshar Pedagogical and Leadership Coaching Team was uniquely positioned to collaborate with many schools this year and facilitated eight meaningful trainings for teachers to engage in deep learning. Topics ranged from understanding our values as a way to guide our actions with children, co-teachers and families to using our curiosity as a tool for deeper exploration with documentation, loose parts and community learning.

At the Foster ELC at Temple Emanuel, facilitated by Yeshnaya Dougherty and Victoria Bisharat, as well as The Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center at The Boulder JCC, facilitated by Judi Morosohk and Victoria Bisharat, the teachers worked to more deeply understand the values of the school using the methodology of The World Cafe to create dialogue. Following a set of guidelines like those in the World Cafe method cultivates an environment of intention that also allows for more “conversational leadership” in which everyone’s voice is heard and valued equally. Discussing and articulating individual values, classroom values as teaching teams, and the values of the school is imperative for a healthy school culture.

Below is a picture of the teachers at Temple Emanuel exploring an unusual fruit together and answering the questions “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” The teachers said they felt more connected to each other engaging in this experience together – being in the space of not knowing, and yet each having their own individual experiences to share collectively. It was a fun activity that highlights the parallel process of creating provocations for children that spark curiosity and co-construction of ideas.

At The Garden School and HEA, both facilitated by Natalie Boscoe, the teachers were hands-on with interesting loose parts. At The Garden School, teachers explored the connections between playing with loose parts and the cross-disciplinary components of STEAM philosophy. Again, the teachers are able to engage with materials and construct their own understanding of interesting ways to use them in the same way children construct and co-construct knowledge together in the classroom.

At HEA, teachers got creative with light and shadows, using loose parts to create self-portraits with the use of shadows. Symbolic representation is an important language that children use frequently in their play. Children see a shadow, or find a bottle cap on the ground and almost innately see something else represented within that experience. Below is a beautiful shot of teachers creating portraits with playground objects and utilizing the morning light:

The teachers in Boulder also engaged in symbolic representation of the school’s values through the use of mosaics. Below is the mosaic created by the teachers to symbolically represent the value: “We believe in a school that is guided by Jewish Values” in which the teachers made a path, filled with all the colors of the rainbow to represent our beautiful differences, and representing walking along a curved road that ended with a rock in the shape of a heart, which was later added and completed the mosaic.

The Staenberg-Loup ELS at Denver JCC, facilitated by Judi Morosohk, had a meaningful morning talking about the use of documentation as a tool for so much more than simply hanging something on the wall. Using the metaphor “a window and a mirror” she led the teachers through a morning to think deeply and curiously about the opportunities to be in moments of inquiry with children – to “join our attention with theirs”, as Ann Pelo would say. This concept of meeting children’s interests and curiosity aligns perfectly with the philosophical approach in Reggio Emilia. The teachers at Alef Academy, facilitated by Victoria Bisharat, spent the morning learning about The Reggio Emilia Approach and the many connections to Judaism and connecting to the values of your community.

Below is a photo of the teachers and Rabbi Mendel engaging in the Jewish value of “d’rash” as well as the Reggio Emilia value of inquiry as they discussed The Hundred Languages of Children poem by Loris Malaguzzi.

At Temple Sinai, facilitated by Yeshnaya Dougherty, the school leaders have a vision for creating a community of learners. What does it mean to be a community that learns together, that thinks both as individuals but creates meaning for curriculum together with children and with each other as co-teachers? These questions are the ones that propel meaningful conversations into action in the classroom. Yeshnaya was also able to meet as the coach for the teachers at Rodef Shalom Preschool to share how coaching can support blending the values of the leadership team, the school, and the teaching teams together.

Professional Development weeks are always a whirlwind – moving fast and furiously with so much to prepare and many boxes to check. In the midst of the busyness, The Efshar Coaching and Pedagogical team found many moments of joy and connection in being able to be present in these schools and we thank our school leaders for the opportunity to create meaning together. These experiences would be meaningless without the teachers’ insightful contributions and willingness to be creative and present in this sacred space. The learning moments don’t end at PD week and we are excited to see how threads from our learning week continue throughout the year.