As a long-time faculty member, Co-Director of College Counseling and now Curriculum Coordinator, I have worked with hundreds of our students, and am filled with pride when hearing of their successes after leaving the walls of our building, their home for so many years.
What graduates report back to us is that Whitfield taught them to be curious, to ask questions, to seek to understand, and to draw connections and conclusions. Here they were taught how to learn, not just how to memorize. We ask the same of our faculty: embrace life-long learning for personal enrichment and for the betterment of our community. To that end, we draw upon research to implement best practices as they emerge. We don’t innovate for innovation’s sake; we evolve to make our students better, stronger, more well prepared for their futures.
When we moved from semesters to trimesters and adopted a six-day academic calendar during the 2016-2017 school year, we structured a more flexible and dynamic environment in which to facilitate student growth. This year we’ve not only further defined the essential skills required of our students in the 21st century, but we’ve undertaken a comprehensive review of how we teach students to develop those skills. Writing, reading, research, collaboration, literacy, critical thinking, presentation and, of course, the Habits of Mind and Heart: these are the skills that will make successful students in Whitfield’s walls and well beyond. The skills by themselves are not innovative – education, business, technology and nearly every industry that analyzes skills include these in their assessments. It’s the way in which our teachers coach our students and the degree to which they care about student success that takes Whitfield curriculum and instruction to the next level.
Our faculty, under the thoughtful direction of our department chairs, have taken a keen eye to the skills we teach our students, how we demonstrate the transferability of those skills from course-to-course, and the way in which we build on the sophistication and depth of those skills each year. It has opened up the opportunity for increased interdisciplinary opportunities, as teachers from different disciplines collaborate to develop common skills. Refining our scope and sequence will also better prepare our students to demonstrate these skills in novel situations – like college, and work, and life. Starting this spring, we will use the information we’ve gleaned, along with our course description guide, to make recommendations for additional courses for upcoming years that fill skill gaps and further develop spiraling skills.
Monthly, the full faculty has the opportunity to come together to dialogue about this innovative process. These sessions, called “Faculty Forum,” are designed to build community among the adults in the building, while providing an organized, yet informal, way to learn from one another, review short- and long-term goals, and evolve the way that faculty teach and the kinds of courses that we offer. It’s inspirational. And it’s working.
Every year we welcome new faculty members to our school family. This means new ideas, new experiences, and new personalities. It means the mix and the perspective changes every August. Just as we ask our students to embrace change and to reach out to those new to our community, and the Parents’ Council coordinates loads of events for parents to get to know one another, we create opportunities for our faculty to become more than just colleagues—to become collaborators, mentors, partners and friends. What makes this easy for us is that we share a common passion—developing skills in your children.
Co-Director of College Counseling