August 28th was the first professional development day for Sandwich Public Schools for the 2012-2013 school year. As a new teacher in the district, I quickly saw a tone set by the administration. After the pledge, national anthem, and speeches, each of the four principals in the district took turns honoring their employee of the year. Heartfelt stories of true passion for teaching, compassion for others, and dedication to work, were told by each principal while standing ovations were given by colleagues to honor outstanding educators. It was a wonderful experience to begin the year, and said to me something great about a district where teachers are heroes.
We then went to our department meetings. In the history department, we focused our discussion around five central questions:
- What are key historical concepts students must know?
- What historical thinking skills must students be able to demonstrate?
- What teaching strategies reinforce these concepts and skills?
- How do we effectively assess these concepts and skills?
- What resources do we have/need to be more successful?
The discussion that followed focused on many topics, such as making differentiation more authentic, setting clear expectations for historical thinking skills vertically from grades 9-12, making the integration of technology more collaborative, reinforcing basic geography skills, and more. The caliber of experience in the room, along with a clear desire to strengthen and support the teaching of History and Social Studies, was obvious. It’s going to be a great year.