Fall Staff Development Day
By Jen Aguilar, Assistant Teacher
At the first staff development day of the new school year, the Bing staff enjoyed a busy program full of presentations and discussions, sharing new information and reflecting on the school year thus far.
The event, on Oct. 13, 2008, opened with four researchers from the Stanford psychology and linguistics departments who gave an overview of the studies they have completed or are currently researching at Bing Nursery School. Psychology graduate student Lucas Butler spoke about two studies—last year’s, on adult input and children’s reasoning, and his current study (which is a modification of the aforementioned study), investigating how children might learn information when it is framed as intentional and accidental. Linguistics graduate student Nola Stephens discussed her study on the effects of conversation on child and adult verb use and linguistics postdoctoral scholar Patricia Amaral, Ph.D., summarized her study on the acquisition of adverbs of approximation. Psychology graduate student Wei Quin Yow spoke about two of her recently completed studies regarding monolingual and bilingual children and how they use cues to interpret a speaker’s intent [see page 7 for more information].
The next segment of the day was a talk by Bing parent Thomas Freeland, Ph.D., a lecturer for Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Freeland’s talk focused on effective presenting—a particularly useful topic for Bing teachers, who present at events varying from story time in the classroom to national conferences. Freeland emphasized the importance of preparation and then gave detailed advice on a variety of related topics, such as how to organize material, how to deliver a presentation and how to use visual aids. His talk led to a group discussion about story time at Bing and how teachers can employ Freeland’s suggestions in the classrooms. Bing teachers shared tips and ideas with each other regarding the use of props and other strategies for leading fun and innovative story times.
After Freeland’s talk, the staff shared a lovely lunch and then reconvened to hear about the many diverse conferences that Bing teachers attended over the past several months. Head Teacher Kitti Pecka spoke about an autism conference that centered on how to welcome children with autism into the classroom and how to recognize (or emphasize) their capabilities.
Teacher Jenna Ascari had attended a workshop on a process called “descriptive review,” and she led us in a group activity to help us understand what descriptive review is and how we can use it in our interactions regarding children’s work. It is important, she said, that we notice and describe a child’s work (such as paintings, drawings and block buildings) “as it is,” in simple terms. Teachers should ask thoughtful questions and be diligent about collecting work that helps them to discover and support the strengths of a given child.
Teachers Mary Munday, Andrea Hart and Nancy Verdtzabella traveled to the Boulder Journey School in Denver, Colo., to see the Wonder of Learning exhibit—a new installment of the 100 Languages of Children exhibit from Reggio Emilia in Italy. It incorporated a lot of digital media and contained huge amounts of information. According to the Bing teachers, one of the highlights of the exhibit was the chance to read actual notes taken by other teachers in their classrooms. These notes contained children’s dialogue, teachers’ and children’s questions and ideas on how to expand and support the ideas of the children.
Enrollment administrator Svetlana Stanislavskaya and head teachers Karen Robinette, Chia-wa Yeh, and Parul Chandra attended a conference on the education of young children in Pistoia, Italy, at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Mass. They shared that the teaching philosophy and methods in Pistoia are similar to those of the renowned Reggio Emilia schools. The Bing teachers reported feeling impressed by the amount of support that is given to the Italian teachers by the city and community, and inspired by the active role that those teachers take in advocating for the educational rights of their students.
The culminating activity of the day was a song swap in the beautiful atrium. Each teacher brought a favorite song or two to share with the rest of the group and had fun teaching those songs to each other, often including hand motions or body movements that corresponded to the songs.
The staff development day was one full of sharing and learning, and it provided much-appreciated opportunities to discuss ideas with one another in a full-group setting.