Balance tradition with innovation

In this Q&A, Landon’s Assistant Headmaster Charles Franklin discusses progress made in several areas as outlined in the 2018 Strategic Plan, including our commitment to growth and improvement.

Q: One of the items in the Landon 2018 Strategic Plan called for a school-wide evaluation system for faculty that promotes growth and advances consistent and highest levels of teaching practices.  What progress has been made in this area?

A: Institutions that have a great culture allow for people to continue to grow in their jobs, to set meaningful and achievable goals, and to be collaborative and transparent in recognizing how those goals can be accomplished.That’s what we are trying to do here.

Several years ago, our faculty created a set of characteristics around excellence in teaching. Using that framework, we spent the last year and a half creating a faculty evaluation program that promotes that growth and supports our teacher-coach-mentor model.

The program was rolled out with faculty this fall, and it has been very well received so far. People want to hear how they’re doing, and the process we’ve designed has allowed for numerous voices to participate, which has been important. 

Q: What about the administrative staff? Is there a program in place for all Landon employees?

A: Yes, we are about to roll out the administrative staff evaluation program as well. Professional growth is crucial for every Landon employee, and so all staff and administrators deserve to hear feedback on their work as our faculty do. This program will start in 2020, and at that point, we will have a formal, consistent process for all Landon employees to feel supported and energized about their work at Landon.

Q: In what other ways is the school focused on growth?

A: Two other recent developments come to mind. First, we have eight faculty professional growth groups that meet throughout the year to focus on different areas related to the education of our boys. During Late Start times and other professional days, these faculty groups are meeting to research, discuss, and implement best practices around their topic.

Members of the Boys’ Schools Visits Professional Growth Group are visiting excellent boys’ schools across the country to identify and research topics related to our work here at Landon. Karina Gershowitz, our Upper and Middle School theater arts teacher, recently visited St. Paul’s School in Baltimore to examine their theater classes and approach to drama in their curriculum. Upper School history teacher and varsity soccer coach Bill Reed traveled to Virginia to visit St. Christopher’s School and Woodberry Forrest to investigate their respective approaches to the teacher-coach-mentor model, while Form VI Dean Andy Katz ventured to New Jersey to visit Delbarton School and St. Benedict’s in order to learn more about how those schools cultivate a positive sense of community among their boys. 

Finally, Director of Educational Technology and Libraries Laurie Sears has visited the Browning School in New York City and University School in Ohio to learn about their use of educational technology. These visits have allowed each faculty member to both feel proud of the great work we are doing here at Landon while taking inspiration to incorporate new approaches and philosophies that fit our mission. 

Another way we are focusing on growth is with our Performing Arts Department. Landon has a long and proud tradition of commitment to and excellence in the performing arts. Accordingly, we are conducting a comprehensive analysis of our performing arts program school-wide. This analysis will be led by an outside expert, Ms. Prudy Kohler, in December to provide us with commendations and recommendations. Ms. Kohler will speak with boys, parents, faculty, and administrators during her visit, and she will observe classes and performances. Her report will help us ensure we fully support this area of school life. 

Q: Grade 8 (Form II) parents recently received an update about the 1-to-1 computer plan for Grade 9 (Form III). Do you have an update about the school’s approach to technology?

A: For a great overview of our plan to create an integrated, consistent approach to technology in the classroom, I think this article from last spring does a great job of summarizing our goals, and I’d recommend all parents read it over if they haven’t already. 

Form II parents have already received information about the need to purchase a Microsoft Surface computer for their son’s Form III year. The goal was to communicate the plan well in advance, as some families may consider that purchase for the holiday season. More information about the technology roll-out will be available in the coming weeks.

Let me add that this marks another area where our faculty and staff are leading the way in thinking about and doing what’s best for our boys in the classroom, and I’d like to especially thank our Director of Educational Technology and Libraries Laurie Sears for her leadership on this front. 

Q: Finally, how do you think about these concepts – growth, feedback, evaluation, reviewing of current programs, designs of new programs – as part of an overall mindset?

A: This is a really important question, as we always want to make sure we balance tradition with innovation in ways that make sense for our students, our teachers and our school. I think of it as holding two equally true and necessary ideas in my head concurrently – first, that Landon is one of, if not the, finest school for boys in the country. Our tremendous faculty, our commitment to character education, arts, and athletics, combined with our challenging and engaging academic program makes Landon a truly exceptional place for boys to grow and learn.

At the same time, we as faculty and administrators must ensure we are learning too in order to best serve our boys. By focusing on growth, feedback, and improvement, I think we honor the traditions and legacy of Landon’s past as we look ahead. It’s an exciting time to be a Bear!