Winter Staff Development Day
By Katie Smartt, Assistant Teacher
What’s going on at Bing? Each quarter, one day is set aside to further staff development, and this year’s winter staff development day took place on Februrary 17. Bing teachers learned from colleagues, who described class projects, and from researchers, who reported on studies they’ve based at Bing. This quarter’s event also featured a child psychologist who spoke about promoting emotional resiliency and emotional development in children.
The morning began with team presentations of their classrooms’ fall quarter projects. Everyone rotated from room to room to view bulletin boards, which provided a vivid illustration of the hard work involved. The project topics were diverse, ranging from bugs to photography, and it was gratifying to see the children’s energy and enthusiasm displayed on the bulletin boards. It was also exciting to see projects that began over the summer or even last year that continued to hold children’s interest. This session inspired teachers to experiment and adapt creative ideas from other classrooms.
Next, five Stanford researchers with projects based at Bing updated teachers on their findings. Linguistics graduate student Inbal Arnon explained her work on the link between comprehension and production of language. She is investigating children’s common errors with irregular plurals like “teeth” and “mice” and whether using these words in phrases like “brush your teeth” and “three blind mice” will reduce production errors [see page 4 for more information].
Psychology graduate student Andrei Cimpian discussed his work on how language affects how we think about the world. He is specifically interested in the difference between generic and non-generic sentences. For example, he studies the difference between: “Bears have a good sense of smell” and “This bear has a good sense of smell,” and asks whether these distinctions affect how children think about entire categories, i.e., the entire category of bears.
Quin Yow, also a psychology graduate student, is interested in the communicative sensitivity of bilingual children, particularly whether bilingual children are better able to use social cues such as tone. Because bilingual children must choose which language to use in any given situation, these children may pick up on more subtleties, like tone, than monolingual speakers who do not need them, Yow hypothesizes.
A third psychology graduate student, Caitlin Fausey, presented her work, which investigates intentional language versus unintentional language. She wants to determine whether children are sensitive to the subtle differences between sentences like, “She did it” and “It happened.”
Bing alumna, Dawn Maxey, a Stanford undergraduate, described her senior honors thesis on examining emotional perspective taking. Some researchers believe that children are able to take another’s perspective only by projecting their own feelings onto that other person. Maxey will investigate whether it is more difficult for a child to take another’s perspective if their preferences differ, for example, if they themselves prefer chocolate, but another person prefers broccoli to chocolate.
The day ended with a presentation by child psychologist Rachel Robb Avery, PhD, who is head teacher Peckie Peters’ sister and has extensive experience working in a clinical setting helping children develop emotional resiliency. She reminded us that we are doing important work here at school, especially in helping children use words to express their feelings and to organize their experiences.
The event was an essential day of sharing and growing for the Bing community. It offered not only a full day of information and learning, but also helped build community, as teachers and staff shared their experiences and discussed issues and ideas that contribute to the mission and heart of this school.