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Teachers go to school: what happens at a Professional Development day

Seven days a year, students spend their days relaxing at home and teachers attend a Professional Development Day (PD Day) in order to better understand the DCPS core-curriculum. This caused me to question what happens during these days. Do they go over evaluation reports? Do they talk about test scores? Do they eat? The only way for me to truly find out the answers was to attend the Professional Development Day on February 16. Specifics are different for teachers based on subject and grade level, so I chose to immerse myself within the DCPS freshman English and Language Arts teachers.    


7:45 – 8:30 AM Arrival

The English and Language Arts teachers were required to go to Eastern Senior High School for this PD Day. To get there, some teachers drove, some took the metro, and some took the bus. As everyone arrived, they signed in and headed to the auditorium.


8:30 – 9:45 AM Social Emotional and Equity

This time block consisted of a presentation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) by LEAP (LEarning together to Advance our Practice), whose goal, according to the their website, is helping “teachers become truly expert at teaching the DCPS Common Core-aligned curriculum – so that every student across the city experiences rich, engaging, and challenging instruction every day.” The presentation started off by listing expectations, and went on to focus on “develop[ing] a shared understanding of SEL through competency of relationship skills.” This included watching a video on attentive listening, learning about the importance of powerful questions, doing a small group activity on conflict response mechanisms, and talking about how to eliminate stereotypes.


10:00 – 10:30 AM Social Emotional Learning and Equity Debrief in LEAP/PLC Groups

Teachers went to classrooms specific to school and subject to debrief the presentation. In a conversation led by Wilson English teacher Jennifer Mclaughlin, English teachers discussed how to improve a relationship with a student or a colleague, and how to ensure students leave a class having learned something.


10:35 – 11:30 AM Folger Shakespeare Presentation

Ninth, tenth, and 12th grade English teachers attended a session on teaching Shakespeare, put on by the Folger Theatre. The presentation modeled a teaching method called “3D Shakespeare.” First, teachers were instructed to read the scene chorally, then they were told to read it chorally again, faster and louder. The presenters then asked analytical questions, whose answers had to have evidence from the text. Finally, they assigned acting roles to some of the teachers, and directing roles to others, and they put on a mini-production of that scene. As the session ended the Folger representatives reminded teachers that “the most important thing is connecting your students to Shakespeare’s words.” Freshman English teacher Lauren Hartshorn said she really liked “them and their curriculum because it useful and Peggy (The director of the Folger Education Center) is really straightforward.”

Lunch 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM

A Brooklyn sandwich food truck was brought in by DCPS. Teachers still had to pay.


High School ELA Curriculum Sessions 12:30 – 1:45 PM

All freshman English teachers gathered to discuss the use of 3D Shakespeare for Romeo and Juliet. All but one of the teachers had experience teaching it, so they spent the first 30 minutes discussing it, and giving advice. The general theme of the advice was “let them own it,” meaning teachers should only be a facilitator when teaching Shakespeare. The rest of the time was spent modeling different activities like analyzing a soliloquy and making inferences based on the most frequently used words in the play.


Afternoon Choice Session 2:00 – 3:30 PM

Teachers had the option to go to lessons on teaching techniques such as paideia seminars, close reads, and the Hochman Writing Method. Like most teachers, I left. •