Every year, new BASIS.ed teachers descend upon the desert for an intense, week-long training session designed to be the first stop on their journey towards becoming BASIS Independent classroom champions. In the second part of this two-part series, Co-Founder Olga Block shares her thoughts on teacher training.
Q: How has teacher training evolved since the first time it was held?
"It used to be more like a retreat for all teachers, those who had already been teaching with us and newly hired teachers. When this was the case, we saw that our veteran teachers were dominating the group and the focus was on how to solve the previous years' problems and on how to spread and strengthen the successes of the years prior. The new teachers were then learning by watching. About five years ago we dropped the requirement for veteran teachers and started using successful BASIS teachers interested in sharing their experience with new teachers as trainers. So these informal summer BASIS teacher gatherings evolved into a professional training event just for teachers new to teaching at BASIS, but the 'share the experience' character, I believe, persisted."
Q: What makes teacher training at BASIS so unique? Why is it important?
"This training is held for the teachers by the teachers. This is our way to communicate to the teachers that at BASIS we respect, cherish, and give opportunities to them to develop as professionals. At BASIS, our teachers are defined as people utilizing their deep subject knowledge, employing in thoughtful and creative ways various pedagogical methods to give students the opportunity to acquire knowledge and develop the ability use it to their best potential. BASIS teachers are expected to inspire the students through their passion for their subject and build character of students by exemplary, honest, kind, and industrious behavior. The trainers at BASIS teacher training are the most successful examples of teachers. During the training new teachers have an opportunity to observe and communicate with them, and learn from them. We expect the new teachers to want to emulate BASIS trainers’ behavior in their classrooms, as they are demonstrating exactly what we look for in our teachers and what is ultimately successful in our classrooms. It is clear to all of the participants that there is nothing standing in their way to appear in few years in front of BASIS new teachers demonstrating the best of the teaching profession to their new colleagues."
Q: What, if you could boil it down, is the single most important lesson of teacher training for the new hires? What about for parents to understand?
"Education theory - as is the case with most of the social sciences - is far from consensus on goals and best practices to accomplish said goals.Throughout the hiring processes we strive to bring in people that share the BASIS vision and principles naturally. We do not expect the teachers to convert to our particular philosophy during the training. It is important for our teachers and parents to understand that the purpose of training is to further clarify where we stand and point out the wide space where our teachers can professionally grow and help us further develop BASIS and who we are in the education space."