Amid uncertainty surrounding the new school year, NYC Outward Bound Schools helped support its network schools by hosting two virtual professional development institutes — the Secondary Institute, which is an introduction to the EL Education model and planning tools for new network teachers, and Leading Schoolwide Improvement 2.0, a multi-session cohort experience for network leaders.
The Secondary Institute, which is typically a 5-day in-person workshop for new teachers, was redesigned into a 2-day virtual experience this year, facilitated by School Designer Ingrid Wong and Select Strategies School Coach Paco Hanlon. This year’s focus was on creating relevant and compelling case studies with clear objectives to help engage and empower students.
Wong says one highlight of the institute was the alumni panel, during which graduates of NYC Outward Bound network schools who are a part of the To and Through College Program met virtually with teachers. Jah-ni Fleary (Kurt Hahn ’19), Laiba Ghumman (Leaders ’17) and Andrew Wong (MELS ’19) discussed assessment tools that put them at the center of their own learning experience — including student-led conferences, presentations of learning and passages — and how this impacted their development as people and learners.
“I’m so inspired by the openness and enthusiasm of our new teachers, many of whom are experienced educators eager to learn more about our approach,” said Wong.
“I really enjoyed a chance to think about learning targets in connection to what I will be teaching in September and then workshopping it with peers,” added Rebecca Graham, a math teacher at Leaders.
Concurrently, NYC Outward Bound Schools ran the first session of Leading Schoolwide Improvement 2.0, which served as a follow-up to the “1.0” workshop co-led with EL Education last year. School Designer Aurora Kushner is leading this year’s institute, which includes three more sessions throughout the school year and a focus on how continuous school improvement promotes more equitable outcomes for students. Fourteen school leaders from Brooklyn Collaborative, CSSJ, Leaders, MAELS and WHEELS are part of this cohort that will learn, pilot new ideas and reflect together.
“This was [NYC Outward Bound Schools’] first time leading this institute as a network,” said Kushner. “And we’re super proud of how our schools are taking on this commitment to improve the impact they have on all students this upcoming year.”
Kushner explained how continuous improvement, or a recurring, incremental approach to change, is NYC Outward Bound Schools’ and EL’s engine for disrupting historical systems of racial and social inequity.
With equity as its focal point, the institute’s first session covered how to develop a Theory of Action plan, how to align learning targets with this plan, and how to collect data and measure improvement. According to post-event feedback, attendees left the first session confident in their ability to apply these ideas at their school, and eager for the next cohort convening.
Fostering community and a growth mindset in the classroom — whether in-person or virtual — is also a key part of the continuous improvement process, and an approach that NYC Outward Bound Schools champions among network staff, as well.
“It is very helpful to have a collaborative team of teachers to work with,” agreed Ryan Berry, who is part of the WHEELS Instructional Leadership Team, “And the dedicated time to work with that team.”