What does it take to build a culture of inquiry? On Tuesday, February 10, White Mountain hosted a group of educators from peer schools in the ISANNE (Independent Schools of Northern New England) organization for a program of discussions and workshops titled “Building a Culture of Inquiry.”
The day started with an introduction by Head of School Tim Breen with details of the evolution of inquiry-driven learning at WMS. Dean of Academics, Shane MacElhiney, organized presentations, speeches by students, class visits, and both informal and formal discussion groups and panels for our guests, who ranged widely in their work in schools from teachers to a Head of School.
It was an energizing day of sharing the work on inquiry learning that WMS has been especially focused on over the last several years; work that has included professional development workshops for our faculty, presentations on teaching and learning by our own teachers, plenty of reading and research and even a day with renown educator and technology guru, Will Richardson.
One common feeling amongst teachers and students was that the day felt authentic. We invited interested teachers and administrators from peer schools to come and get a glimpse of our “everyday.” It was great to walk around campus and see our teachers in their element, to listen as students recounted their experiences with inquiry-driven learning and to hear the interesting questions being asked by all participants.
Paddy Foran, WMS history teacher, reflected after the day about how wonderful it was to welcome colleagues from other schools and not only share our practice with them, but also feel the excitement that comes with being in the spotlight. It was a validating experience for everyone at WMS who has worked hard over the last several years to improve the learning experience for our students.
Adam Jones, Community Program Director and Educational Technology Integrationist, at Proctor Academy shared this reflection:
It is always really great to get out of your own school and go see another school. To see the way that they organize their day, the way that their teachers work, and who they are. We brought a lot of ideas back to our school. I was really impressed with the way that the school decided that they wanted to do something new. They put aside time in the summer to brainstorm and come up with ideas. We shouldn’t forget that there is that time in the summer, or even during breaks when we should be tapping people to come in and help re-design or re-think– whether it’s the schedule or a new direction for our schools. I was impressed with that level of vision and foresight and appreciation for people’s time and when they can best be of use. It’s also really neat to see a school take an idea and then look at it in practice. I appreciated that. I appreciated sitting in on the classes and getting a feel for the teachers and students and their relationships and the type of work that’s there. It was also really valuable to talk with folks from other schools that were sharing what they were doing. At the end of the day, I really liked having the teachers and the students there in a place where we could pepper them with questions. I’d love to be able to spend even more time doing that.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the ISANNE schools visit. Thank you to Laurie Hurd, Director of ISANNE, for your support of our workshop, and thank you to the entire WMS community for helping to plan and present our work in inquiry-driven learning to peer schools.