"Learning Lunches" Allow Faculty to Share Interests, Ideas
Posted 03/09/2015 01:26PM

When a trio of faculty members at an Educational Records Bureau (ERB) conference in Boston last fall attended a workshop on professional development, they came away inspired by the question raised in the discussion: How can a school offer professional development experiences that are different than having faculty members leave campus to attend conferences or bringing speakers in?

One idea was to hold “learning lunches,” during which interested teachers could gather around a table away from the busyness of the dining hall and talk about how to bring larger world issues to their classrooms and how to cultivate such qualities as grit and resilience in their students.

The first learning lunch was held last fall in the Farmhouse, when attendees talked about Angela Duckworth’s research on helping students develop grit.  In advance of the gathering, links to related material online, such as Ted Talks and articles, were circulated. “It was so successful, we were encouraged to continue,” says Laurie Byron, chair of the English department and one of the three teachers—the others were John Sharon and Ralph Giles—who attended the ERB workshop. “It’s been a really nice way to validate our interests and talk to each other about a variety of topics. We don’t do this enough.” 

Learning lunches were scheduled for the first Tuesday of each month, though snow days derailed a couple of them. The second lunch focused on how school communities can address what’s happening in the outside world, such as the incidents in Ferguson and Statin Island. The third meeting, held in February, had attendees Jon Byrd, Jane Potsaid, Sue Fisher, John Sharon, Ralph Giles, Rob Morrison, Beth Shiffler, Scott Chelist, and Laurie Byron discussing how to cultivate a classroom culture in which it’s okay to fail, where resilience and independence can be cultivated, and where students can take more ownership of how they learn. 

An upcoming learning lunch will be a discussion led by Fenn learning specialist Jane Potsaid based on the book Leading and Learning with the Habits of Mind by noted educators Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick. The goal of developing and assessing habits of mind is to make students more thoughtful, reflective learners, Jane says, adding that habits of mind such as persistence and striving for accuracy are determined to be valuable traits for success in school and society.

Pictured are Ralph Giles, chair of the math department (left) and English and social studies teacher Rob Morrison.