Once the last students have left the dorms, the last minutes of faculty meeting have come to a close, and the last period placed at the end of advisor letters, Middlesex faculty are officially on summer vacation. Yet some faculty members barely leave the classroom at all; rather, they move to the other side of the chalkboard. They sit at desks, listen to experts in their field, complete coursework, and spend time as students in order to become better teachers.
This summer faculty span the globe, from Spain to China to Maine, in pursuit of professional development opportunities. According to Assistant Dean of Students, Brian Smith, “the summer is the perfect time to attend professional development opportunities. You have the time to reflect, then take what you've learned from the experience and start to build ways to integrate that information into your work for the upcoming year.” The work ranges from graduate degrees to AP preparation to very specific courses, such as English teacher Geoff Hilsabeck’s class on The Tragedy of Macbeth. Hilsabeck’s goal is to “spend a week reading Macbeth, and become a better student of Shakespeare's plays in order to become a better teacher of them.”
How do teachers like being students? “It’s amazing,” says Smith. “Absolutely fantastic,” says Chinese teacher Annie Ku, who traveled to Shanghai, China for the AP Chinese Summer Institute. You’ll find that all of the faculty at Middlesex are lifelong learners; it is the mark of an excellent educator to always be learning, experimenting, and growing. Chantal Jordan, French Department Head, reports, “For me it is always a humbling but exhilarating experience. When I find myself in the position of a student I always think of my students; it is a divine experience. I am a learner and I love to learn!”
As one might expect, it’s both invigorating and challenging for teachers to relinquish control of the chalk. “There are certainly moments when I would do things differently than the instructor,” admits Hilsabeck. Science teacher John Bishop agrees: “It reminds you of the experience of being a student. It makes you very critical of the teaching process.” Ashok Pillai, a computer science and math teacher completing his Master of Science degree, describes the feeling: “It's definitely a change of pace. For six straight weeks, I'm spending 8 - 12 hours a day doing intense math work, and it's making me relate better to my own students' challenges. Having the student's perspective has also provided insight into how my own students view me and my teaching.”
Even though not every faculty member pursues coursework during the summer months, they are certainly all preparing for the fall in their own way. As Smith puts it, “the best teachers are spending their time reading, learning, studying, planning and even enjoying personal experiences that will only help their craft. Teaching is truly a craft, an art. It is only through the incessant planning, reflecting, building, deconstructing, adding and subtracting from lessons that we become Master teachers.”
The Middlesex faculty are eager to get back into the classroom this fall and put their learning into practice. It’s what being a teacher is all about!