Professional Development at the JCC

October 15, 2013

By Jenna Kalkman-Turner and Stacy Mitchell, Gan Ami Whitefish Bay & Mequon Site Directors

Professional Development.  Teacher in-services.  Having many friends in the educational world, we sometimes hear stories that cause us to shudder when we listen to the tales of endless meetings that feature monotone speakers.  Patrick Lencioni, the author of Death By Meeting, shared in an interview “People hate meetings for two big reasons.

First, they are boring. Painful. Tedious. Second, meetings are unproductive. According to a Wall Street Journal poll, CEOs list meetings as the single largest category of unproductive time on their schedules.  Yet, our faculty has a remarkable outlook regarding Professional Development.  Why?  They’ve been artists, physicists, philosophers, Rabbis, scientists all in the course of a day!  We know that adults learn much like children – in meaningful, relative hands-on experiences.  At Gan Ami, we continually strive for a community of learners – where adults and children learn together.  In Pirkei Avot, an ancient Jewish text, a Jewish sage, Ben Zoma said, “Who is wise? The one who learn from everyone.”

So how do we create these meaningful experiences for our teachers so they can refocus, reenergize and continually display their expertise in guiding our children through their time at Gan Ami?  We’ve created the who’s, why’s, how’s, and the when’s of Professional Development.  Sound interesting?  Let us (Jenna or Stacy) know and we’d love to have you visit our next day of learning, because we can all learn from each other! 

Who:  At the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC Gan Ami, we invite full and part-time faculty, JCC executive staff, community partners, and visiting experts to attend our Professional Development Days.  We’ve had art educators, physical therapists, child psychologists, parents, speech therapists, fellow teachers, and Rabbis as part of the instructional team.  The planning of these days is done collaboratively by the Gan Ami Administrative Team.

How:  How do we learn together?  We engage our faculty through technology, field trips, visiting lecturers, collaborative artistic experiences, play, and music.  Shared readings and experiences help to create shared language and culture of inquiry.  When faculty engages in rich dialogue, the experiences are deepened and that work is reflected in the classroom.

Why:  Professional development offers opportunities for collaboration with teachers from different age groups and sites.  We design experiences so educators have access to cutting-edge research in early childhood education.  When we invest in our teacher’s learning, the reward to our children shines through in their classroom experiences.  When we bring new teachers into our mix, professional development is a great way to provide them with a sneak peek into our methods of teaching and our organization.

When:  We offer internal professional development experiences in August, January and February for our faculty.  We also promote outside opportunities with the Milwaukee Area Reggio Collaborative, the local school districts, and other early childhood organizations.

At Gan Ami, we are inspired to create shared meaning and  when we study and discuss emergent concepts, it becomes part of our shared fabric, and that by creating/finding our own understanding we are able to then bring these ideas  to life in a way that makes “sense” to our children.