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Salisbury Academy teachers spend Fridays learning

What’s so unusual about teachers spending Friday afternoons in the classroom?
At Salisbury Academy, the teachers are learning on Friday afternoons.
Students are released early on Friday afternoons so the teachers can continue to learn. Dr. Jean Owen, a 30-plus-year veteran in the field of education, is the consulting director of curriculum and instruction at Salisbury Academy.
For the past two years, Owen has scheduled the Friday afternoon sessions to continue the professional development of the entire faculty of Salisbury Academy.
“Having a regular schedule for professional development avoids the pitfall of teachers feeling like they never have enough time,” Owen said. “Planning ahead ensures that the staff development will meet the instructional needs of the school and not conflict with other scheduled events.”
While a few of the sessions are used for required school health and safety information, most sessions further professional skills.
Regular on-site study allows administration to customize topics to meet instructional needs or to incorporate new teaching strategies and research, refine the curriculum and collaboratively plan to deliver the best instruction.
Staff development begins before school starts in August, when teachers analyze their students’ progress on the standardized tests, and continues throughout the school year with topics on new ideas or sessions that help them put theory into practice.
“I’ve always found that a good school is one in which everyone is learning ó the students, the teachers and the parents,” Owen said. “Friday afternoon staff development goes a long way in making that concept a reality.”
These questions help the administration determine study topics:
– Are our teachers really engaged and active in improving the teaching process?
– Are our teachers using researched-based best practices?
– Do teachers know how to use technology to deliver the curriculum effectively?
– How can we better incorporate technology into classroom lessons?
– Are we meeting our school’s goals and objectives?
– Are we meeting our Southern Association Independent Schools Accreditation School Improvement Plan and other school initiatives?
– What are the needed next steps in our improvement process?
Diane Fisher, head of school, said, “The way our core knowledge curriculum integrates every subject, teachers want to work together often. They enjoy this team approach, and the students benefit from the joined efforts. The opportunity for collaborative learning helps teachers and students.”
“Every class is different; every child is different,” Owen said. “And we are training ourselves to help each child learn in the best way. When our teachers use a variety of instructional approaches, this keeps lessons interesting so that students are more likely to focus longer and learn more.”
“Commitment to professional growth and student learning go hand in hand. Supporting faculty staff development maximizes their talent and enthusiasm in the classroom and in the whole school,” Fisher said.
“It makes for a wonderful educational atmosphere. You feel it everywhere at Salisbury Academy. Visitors comment on it all the time. Not only does this concept create a healthy faculty culture, but it’s a very efficient use of limited time and resources. We don’t have funding this year to send all of our teachers to conferences. Whenever teachers attend a conference, they return to share with the rest of the faculty what they learned ó teachers teaching teachers.”
Fisher said she is very committed to being a good steward of the school’s resources.

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