Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

Director of Excellence in Teaching Launches Open Classroom Week

Weeks into her new role as GFA’s first Director of Excellence in Teaching, Meghan Chew has launched Open Classroom Week. From October 10-14, faculty and staff will spend time learning through classroom observations of their colleagues. The goal is for all members of GFA’s professional community, and our students, to benefit from exchanging ideas, techniques, and inspiration. Dragon Digest sat down with Mrs. Chew to hear more. 

What is Open Classroom Week, and where did the concept originate from? 

Open Classroom Week will be a week-long program to promote conversations about teaching and learning across GFA’s campus. The week's goal is to make teaching more transparent and to facilitate opportunities for faculty to come together. 

Given the last two years, we have been looking to create more opportunities for our faculty to have a stronger connection with one another, and an open classroom model seemed like a great place to start. The idea emerged from research conducted at other schools and institutions with strong Teaching and Learning departments. I saw it predominantly at colleges, universities, and many schools in the UK, as well as some domestic schools.

I am most excited about how it will simply spotlight all the amazing things happening on our campus. At GFA, we will create a schedule for faculty and staff to visit classrooms, athletic practices, and performing arts spaces across every department and division. This will be a whole week committed to our own professional growth and learning from one another.  I think ultimately when you watch someone else teach; you can see a new way of approaching how to start a lesson, end a lesson, do group work, even organize teams which creates a new way of thinking.

In my new role and throughout my years at GFA, I have engaged with many members of our faculty and staff, and it is evident how incredibly rich our school is with talent. We have a tremendous amount of expertise in-house, and to be able to tap into that expertise in a way that would be meaningful for our community will be a real opportunity. 

Who do you see participating on this day? Mostly teaching faculty? 

Everyone at GFA will have the opportunity to participate. Of course, our teaching faculty has a lot to benefit from watching their colleagues practice, especially across divisions and disciplines, but I also see this being very useful for our admissions team, our advancement staff, and all of those who speak regularly about what makes GFA tick. This is a chance to really have a front-row seat. 

How do you see this directly benefiting our students? 

Whenever I have the opportunity to watch my students in a different class, in a play, or on the athletic field, I feel I know them in a different way.  I think, first and foremost, the chance for teachers to see students that they teach in a different class and in a different arena will afford them more insight into who that student is and what gets them excited. They can then use that in their own classroom to incite that deeper learning, that deeper belonging that we're hoping to create, especially in these first three months of school. 

As a former athlete, when I saw my teachers at my games or practices, knowing that they saw me beyond just the classroom, it had a big impact. I think that that is our student body. They have so many different outside interests and passions, and it is a great opportunity for teachers in the community to take note of that.

In addition to unlocking the potential for a deeper relationship with students, I think students viewing teachers as learners and professionals working on their craft will be really powerful. We're a learning organization; it's the work that we do, not only as students but also as faculty. I think it will create a stronger partnership between our faculty and our students. 

Are faculty and staff members excited? 

I think so!

I have a lot of excitement from each division which will grow once we get sign-ups cooking in the coming weeks. I hear again and again how energized my peers are to get back to the craft of teaching and to look at their curriculums in a different light now that there is not as much pressure to maintain social distance and contact trace. 

Several colleagues have expressed excitement about returning to the fundamental questions of why they teach and their purpose in being educators. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the excellence happening here on campus. At the end of the week, we will do a celebration dinner on campus for anyone who has participated to engage in more conversation. In general, I think this is going to be fun and a wonderful way to model lifelong learning for our students and to hone our skills.