Today’s school spotlight features Flintridge Preparatory School, located near Los Angeles in La Canada, California. Flintridge Prep is a private-independent, coed day school for grades 7–12.
Flintridge Preparatory School seeks to nurture in its students the knowledge, critical skills, community values, and creativity essential for an engaged, balanced, and responsible life.
The Situation: Maintaining Teacher Morale During a Crisis
Sarah Cooper, Flintridge Prep’s Assistant Head for Academic Life, took on this new role during the pandemic. She had been preparing to take on new responsibilities, but the new demands of distance learning presented her with unexpected challenges.
Sarah faced three major obstacles as she worked to support teacher morale. She knew she had to maintain good morale, conduct professional evaluations, and encourage faculty growth. "We decided not to do teacher observations last spring, and we knew we needed to adapt our observation and support strategies to reflect the realities of the virtual learning atmosphere,” she explained. “Keeping teachers' spirits up even in this time is the gold standard."
For the challenges of distance learning, Sarah worked with her faculty, reminding them that everyone should consider themselves first-year teachers. "The first quarter of this school year felt like we were all new. The second quarter felt more normal, but teachers were still spending their weekends planning lessons."
She could relate to the faculty since she also teaches eighth grade U.S. history and civics. "I felt the pressure too—I was doing my administrative work and then lesson planning. There was little time to focus on goals and evaluations. It felt like survival mode."
The Solution: Adapting Evaluation Principles to Meet Challenges
Thankfully, Sarah could refer to the principles and strategies she learned from ISM. In 2018, she attended Transformative Academic Leadership, a Summer Institute workshop led by Barbara Beachley. She's also worked with Barbara in one-on-one coaching and reviewed our Comprehensive Faculty Development Book. "I enjoyed what Barbara taught so much during the Summer Institute,” Sarah said. “When she sent out an email in the fall of 2018 and said she was going to do remote coaching, I wanted to talk to her about how my goals might settle into the school during a transitional time.
"Barbara talked a lot about faculty growth and evaluation. She mentioned the essential professional expectations,” Sarah added. “We're not using that exact list, but the vast majority of our faculty are meeting and exceeding expectations."
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The Benefit: Goals and Evaluations for Continual Growth
Since adapting ISM principles and Barbara's advice, Sarah has continued shepherding an evaluation system that includes extensive observations—examining how faculty are teaching their classes while also taking into account everything else they're doing, such as creating curriculum and leading cocurriculars.
This system has been especially helpful in view of the added stress of the pandemic. "Normally, we would do student evaluations for veteran teachers in the spring and new teachers in the fall, but this year we've done everything in the fall. There have been some upsides of virtual observations—I've been able to sit in more than 20 classes on Zoom, and we’ve conducted over 60 student evaluations of individual classes.
"It's amazing to me what the teachers are accomplishing online. It is also evident with our students,” she said. “I've read the comments from the evaluations. While our students don't love being on a computer all the time, they love our teachers and what they're doing."
These thoughtful evaluation methods help teachers preserve a growth mindset, and Sarah is glad that she and the Administrative Team timed evaluations when they did. "Now that we’re in the second half of the year, more teachers feel like they can focus on growth goals again," she shared. "I feel good about where we are—even though at times it feels like we're still riding the waves of uncertainty. I am hopeful we can move into even more of a forward-thinking perspective soon."
8/19/2021 — 1/20/2022
New Heads Cohort: Fall Semester
11/3/2021 — 11/6/2021
25th Annual Heads Retreat
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