Great teaching is at the heart of a great education. There are many demands on a teacher’s time. In our district, we strive to balance those demands with opportunities for our teachers to pursue their own interests and passions in the classroom.
It is impossible to sum up good teaching in a few words. Recently, staff members at Berkshire Hills worked together to generate a list outlining key elements that are present in high-quality teaching and learning.
What good teaching and learning look like at BHRSD:
- Students and teachers are engaged in activities that have substance (complex knowledge, intellectual and artistic skills, and ideas).
- Students and teachers have the chance to develop mastery and/or expertise in a domain they care about.
- Teachers and students share and use interesting materials that invite engagement and industry.
- Students show signs that they feel in charge of their own learning at least some of the time, and they participate actively in the direction and maintenance of the learning community.
- Students and teachers take risks and persevere.
- Teachers spend time thinking about and discussing what and how children are thinking and feeling.
- Teachers get help for themselves and for students when needed.
- Teachers and students are responsive to one another as learners.
- Teachers and students have high expectations for one another, both intellectually and interpersonally.
- Students, teachers, and families are constantly building their learning communities and show signs they are happy to be at school and interested in the work they are doing.
General Data, 2013-2014
|Total number of teachers in district||115.8|
|Percentage of Teachers Licensed in Teaching Assignment||100.0%|
|Total number of Classes in Core Academic Areas||578|
|Percentage of Core Academic Classes Taught by Teachers Who are Highly Qualified||99.1%|
|Overall Student/Teacher Ratio||12.0 to 1|
Embedded Professional Development
Our primary approach to professional development in Berkshire Hills is to embed it into the everyday experiences of our staff. Professional Development does not just happen on half-days and during in-services, it happens in common planning times, faculty meetings, and departmental meetings. We find that this approach allows us to target specific issues that a particular grade level or discipline might be having. It also allows us to draw on the knowledge, strengths, and creativity of our own staff. We learn best when we are learning from each other, and we are always looking for more time to collaborate for growth.
A central part of embedded professional development is the creation of strong teams within the district. Teams might be all educators teaching the in the same grade or discipline, or they might be specially assembled groups working on specific projects.
According to the staff at Berkshire Hills, effective teams do the following:
- We believe all students can learn. Our work is grounded in shared commitment to student success.
- We commit to collaboration.
- We share leadership.
- We come together with energy and optimism.
- We develop vision, articulate goals, and work towards specific outcomes.
- We share expertise and learn from each other.
- We consider multiple perspectives to enhance learning.
- We use norms, protocols, tools, schedules, and structures.
- We make decisions based on evidence, and we continually assess our progress.
- We take risks and persevere.
- We form and re-form to address needs and solve problems. We often include parents, community members, and students, to support our continuous growth and success, and our connectedness to each other and our larger community.
- We reflect.
- We honor shared successes.
Of course, we also strive to find new ideas and best practices to add to our educational toolbox. We bring in consultants and experts in the field to work with our staff, and educators and administrators have the opportunity to attend workshops and conferences to build new skills to bring back and share with the school community.
Professional Development 2014-2015
In the 2014-2015 school year, our professional development time is focused on continuing the work we’ve already been doing by focusing on a number of key concepts. We will continue to work on providing a guaranteed, viable curriculum. We will continue working to build effective teams. To continue this work, or focus for the year will be on:
- Looking closely on student work, and considering the question, “What are the qualities of a great end-of-unit assessment?”
- Looking closely at our own work, and consider the question, “How can we use peer observation to improve our own practice?”