Faculty Support

I am currently working on a Masters in Ed. which specifically deals with how Wasatch Academy is integrating Schools Attuned. There are so many factors that impact the degree and quality of Schools Attuned integration that I find my thesis work quite fascinating! I guess that makes me an official Schools Attuned nerd… – That’s OK though; I’ve been called much worse! 😉

I have recently shifted from Heading the Learning Strategies Department to Being the Schools Attuned Administrator in the Department of Teaching and Learning. What this means is that my work-focus has shifted to training and supporting teachers as they work with differences in learning. So I am interested in picking peoples’ brains about how they are working with teachers.

Here are some starter questions. Feel free to respond outside of them.

1. How is your school supporting teachers (in integrating Schools Attuned) during the school year?

2. What exactly are the expectations for Schools Attuned integration in your school and how do you assess your teachers? Formal? Informal?

3. Is Schools Attuned integration tied to contract renewal at your school? How so?

4. What tricks have worked for encouraging the occasional, “reluctant teacher” to integrate their training into their professional practices? – As we all know, teacher trainings often collect dust on the bookshelves of teachers.

Commmunity-Wide Integration

Wasatch Academy has been integrating Schools Attuned since 2004. The school has seen many changes in how it supports teachers in integrating the principles and processes. As with many schools, initial trainees came away overwhelmed by the prospect of integrating Schools Attuned at the student, classroom, and school levels. – And integration at one level can be complicated by the lack of support for integration at the other levels.

The process of trial and error has not dissuaded Mr. Loftin, our Headmaster. On the contrary, Wasatch Academy is reaching new heights by training all of its teachers. As of last year, Wasatch also began requiring Schools Attuned certification of its dorm parents. Dorm parents are a critical link and, in the unique boarding school environment of Wasatch Academy, hold the potential to make a critical difference in the success of our students. Schools Attuned training now serves as a bridge between teachers and dorm parents. Using a shared vocabulary, tools, and philosophy, the entire community works toward supporting students using Schools Attuned. It is an exciting and heartening time here. New connections and levels of participation/ integration help to define educational excellence for Wasatch Academy.

As our community proceeds with training a new batch of teachers and dorm parents, I am excited to support more outstanding teachers and dorm parents. My job is to train and support our employees in integrating Schools Attuned into their professional practices. But by no means do I think I have it, “all figured out.” The truth is that I am still trying new things and eagerly seeking new ideas. So here are my questions for readers:

1. How are you supporting integration at the school/ community levels? Has it worked? Why or why Not?

2. Has your school trained non-teaching personnel? How did it go? Did it actually help foster collaboration in how, where, and when to use Schools Attuned?

Wasatch Academy Background Info.

A theme that has emerged in my work with teachers, administrators, and various institutions is that integrating Schools Attuned comprehensively at various levels can be challenging. As the SA program is designed specifically to include tools for integration at the student, classroom, and school levels, many participants leave their core course feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of immediate integration… Let alone at what level. Wasatch academy has developed a unique approach to Schools Attuned training, professional practice integration, and teacher collaboration/ support. My hope is that by sharing some of what we have done, others may benefit. And yes, I also hope to get some good ideas from those who respond to this blog. I will start several blogs with this, an overview of the school, and what I believe makes it a prime environment for school-wide Schools Attuned integration.

First it may be helpful to offer readers some historical background information about Wasatch Academy. This post will be a precursor to future contributions that will hopefully get to the “nitty gritty,” of Schools Attuned integration.

Wasatch Academy, a private co-educational college preparatory boarding school, is entering its 133rd year. It is nestled in the pastoral mountains of central Utah. Yes, Utah. Originally founded by a Presbetarian Minister to teach (and maybe convert) the Mormon population in the surrounding areas, it has evolved into an independent liberal arts school. It holds no religious affiliation, however students do attend non-denominational weekly “chapel” sessions that offer a variety of religious viewpoints ranging from Tibetan Monks, to Southern Baptist Ministers. The philosophy of Wasatch Academy’s chapel program is that people benefit from knowledge of and respect for viewpoints that differ from their own.

Clearly the school has expanded its approach to religion and philosophy since its early Presbyterian-supported days. But the school has also grown in nearly every other way too. No longer is it the mission to serve the local Central Utah population alone (although it still loves and honors its local students and patrons). It is currently attended by students from all over the world (22 countries) and has a reputation for maintaining its decidedly academic college-prep mission, while committing to supporting learners of various profiles. Wasatch Academy is not a therapeutic, academic remediation, or second-chance school. Yet it opens its doors to all students who are committed to college entry and excellence in education.

This is NOT to say that our school sends all of its students to Harvard, although it does send some. On the contrary, Wasatch Academy students go on to attend colleges ranging from Cornell to Columbia, to Seattle Community College. And we (faculty and administration) are proud of all of these students equally, celebrating their unique gifts and supporting them as they find their niche. Wasatch Academy is truly a remarkable institution nestled in the high mountains of this often overlooked state.

OK, so having expressed my love of the school, I should admit my bias as the result of my own experiences here. I was a student at Wasatch Academy for four years. As a scholarship student, I found that the school embraced me despite my difficult childhood circumstances and inspired me to become a lover of learning. Now, I am fortunate enough to come back and be of service to this school; a place that is dear to my heart. I rejoice as I watch my children grow in this small quiet town nestled in the high mountains. The community is something really special here. Anyone who comes can see it right away. The diversity and sense community are inspiring. The school embraced diversity of all kinds when I attended as a student, and continues to do so today. Now, however, I grow even more excited by the progress we are making in integrating Schools Attuned at various levels within our little community (200 students and about 50 teachers).

The faculty at this school are outstanding. Nearly all hold advanced degrees in their field of expertise. We have highly trained dorm “parents,” who look after the students residential needs as a full time position. This is not unique among the private college prep schools though. One of the things that makes our school so unique is its commitment to the promotion of understanding and sensitivity to differences in learning. In short, we wholeheartedly prescribe to the mission of the All Kinds of Minds institute. We require that all teachers, student advisers, dorm faculty and many administrators are certified in the Schools Attuned program. This gives us a shared vocabulary, philosophy, and useful tools as we support our students. Our academic interventions are all based on our Schools Attuned training and commitment to its principles. Teachers are recruited, hired and trained based specifically on their predisposition to the principles and philosophies of All Kinds of Minds. The Headmaster is fully committed to making Wasatch Academy a model school, where Schools Attuned is a major defining factor in contributing to the professional culture of the school.

With that background, I hope to engage some conversations centering around schools Attuned integration at the student, classroom, and school levels. We are doing some exciting and innovative things here and I look forward to sharing them with others. I have also asked a few of my teachers to add their commentaries to the blog. Their perspective will undoubtedly add to the quality and dynamic of the conversations. Cheers.