Winter Staff Development Day

By Stephanie Swenson, Assistant Teacher

Each quarter, Bing teachers and staff look forward to the day in which they get to become students themselves, participating in workshops, presentations, lectures and more. This past winter’s staff development day, held on February 16, 2010, was no different. Joining together in the Tower House, the newly renovated building adjacent to the school, the staff were treated to presentations from the major annual conference for early childhood educators; a communication workshop on giving and receiving feedback; and a guest lecture from one of the newest assistant professors in Stanford’s School of Education.

The morning began as Beverley Hartman, director of Bing Institute, and Karen Robinette, head teacher, delivered their presentation, “Basic Materials: An Approach for Early Childhood Curriculum.” Hartman and Robinette originally presented this talk to early childhood educators from across the country in November 2009 at the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Annual Conference and Expo in Washington, DC. The staff enjoyed listening to these two master teachers extol the importance of basic materials—blocks, clay, paint, sand and water—as the foundation for curriculum at Bing. [See page 27 for more information.]

Executive and management consultant Roy Blitzer then led the staff in a workshop entitled “Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback.” Blitzer, who is also an adjunct professor at several universities in the Bay Area and a self-described “communication-guru,” helped the staff establish ground rules—behavioral guidelines for how the staff is going to practice giving each other feedback. “Giving and receiving feedback is the most important skill of any leader, teacher, or parent, or anyone who wants to get anything done,” Blitzer explained. “If you master this skill, you will be infinitely more powerful in your job.”

Blitzer had the staff brainstorm types of feedback, discuss the five different “key actions” in constructive feedback and how best to receive feedback, and watch a few videos that demonstrated examples of both good and bad feedback. With the workshop coming to a close, the staff broke out into groups of three to practice their new feedback skills. Blitzer concluded with a final piece of advice: “If you continue to think and practice, then you will find feedback becomes powerful to get people to the best they can be.”

Following lunch, Jelena Obradović, PhD, a new assistant professor in the Child and Adolescent Development Program in the School of Education, lectured about her two previous studies. The staff appreciated learning about her cutting-edge research that assesses how risk and adversity affect children’s development over time. [See page 6 for more information.]

Following Obradović’s lecture was another presentation from the NAEYC fall Conference, this one given by head teachers Nancy Howe and Parul Chandra. Entitled “A Gift of Time: A Window into Bing,” Howe and Chandra’s talk resonated strongly with the staff, reflecting on both the value and necessity for children in today’s society to have time to just play. [See page 27 for more information.]

Howe and Chandra’s poignant talk completed a full day for the Bing staff, who went home with new skills in giving and receiving feedback, information about the rapidly evolving research on how children react to adversity, and renewed appreciation for Bing’s philosophy on the importance of time to play and basic materials in children’s early development.