What Happens on Professional Development Days?


Photo of the new Upper School faculty for the 2018-2019 school year. Photo courtesy of Pete Zivkov on Menlo Flickr.

Crystal Bai, Copy Editor

Every couple of months and most recently on Monday, Nov. 12, the Menlo planner blacks out a seemingly random Monday or a Friday as a “Professional Development Day.” The majority of students view these as free days off from school, but they are not a break for everyone. While students are enjoying a bit of relaxation, the Menlo faculty remains at school for professional training.

Professional Development Days occur four times per year: once in November, once in March and twice in June after summer vacation has started. According to Dean of Teaching and Learning Bridgett Longust, the days are intended to help the faculty become stronger as teachers and advocates.

“Usually, it’s a blend of professional training for teachers on something like diversity and inclusion or some aspect of teaching and advocacy,” Longust said. “Then, we’ll often take part of the day and use it for teachers to work in collaboration. We try to make sure that it’s a time that teachers have to work together and to grow their skills.”

In order to choose the focus of each Professional Development Day, Longust, who is in charge of organizing the days, thinks about the goals of the school for that year. The most recent Professional Development Day centered around cross-cultural communication.

“It was about diversity, equity, inclusion and building our awareness how [teachers] can be better at communication and at understanding where other people are coming from,” Longust said.

Because former Chief of Institutional Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Angela Birts left last year and Nov. 12 was before Keith Wheeler filled the position, the day was devoted to continuing the work that Birts had done to make Menlo a more inclusive school. Past Professional Development Days have included themes such as the improvement of technology skills and the purpose of assessments.

Longust believes that Professional Development Days help keep teachers connected to trends in education, a domain that is constantly shifting and evolving. “I would say the way we primarily teach now is really different from the way people thought 10 or 15 years ago,” she said. “One of the ways you evolve as a teacher is by always being in touch with what is happening in your field.”

Having half a day to collaborate is also beneficial to teachers, who are hard-pressed to find that time to work together during the school year. “I think that incrementally over time, [Professional Development Days] can make some really positive shifts on people’s teaching,” Longust said.

Longust emphasized that the desire for continual improvement is an aspect Menlo looks for in potential new staff. The mentality that one wants to keep learning their whole career is just a part of working at Menlo.

“The teachers are really committed to staying at the cutting edge of their fields, and they’re always working on it,” Longust said. “I think that’s just something that people probably don’t realize.”