Faculty Attend VAIS Conference

Twenty St. Anne’s-Belfield School faculty members from the lower, middle and upper schools traveled to Richmond on Nov. 1 to attend this year’s annual VAIS (Virginia Association of Independent Schools) conference.  “Embracing the New Essentials,” the theme of the conference, relates to our challenge to meet the needs of 21st century learners.  Ashley Merryman, co-author of the book NurtureShock:  New Thinking About Children underscored the importance of reviewing traditional predictors of student success and understanding the current brain-research that teaches us more about intrinsic motivation.  Following the opening session, teachers dispersed to sessions ranging from hybrid online classrooms to how learning disabilities impact the entire family.    STAB teachers shared that they gained much from having the opportunity to share ideas with other educators and spend the day immersed in their own development as teachers and learners. Please see the thoughts and reflections from some of our faculty below:

Janet Moore-Coll
The highlight of the VAIS conference for me was a special tour of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Led by VMFA’s Twyla Kitts, our tour highlighted the beautiful spaces of the renovated museum and took us through a range of exhibits, from contemporary painting to traditional Indian sculpture to American fine and decorative arts. The museum is designed with brilliant sightlines that let you see the artwork juxtaposed with interior and outdoors views–it’s all about looking, with surprises around every corner. I’m excited to work on field-trip plans and to head back to the museum for my own enrichment (bonus: non-flash photography is allowed throughout the permanent collections).

Fred Chandler
Pat Bassett, the Head of NAIS, spoke of trends in independent schools.  I was particularly struck by his emphasis on the upcoming mass-retirement of older teachers and the need to take a hard look at how schools will replace those teachers.  He spoke emphatically about Teach for America candidates and how that cadre of potential teachers is a good pool to try to draw from.

Michael Loret
I enjoyed David Sousa’s presentation on how the brain learns.  I took away form that a greater appreciation for the way biology shapes some of the academic successes and failures my students experience.  As a 9th grade teacher, I was particularly interested in the biological factors underlying performance disparities between boys and girls early in adolescence.

Karen LeMaire
I went to two presentations by Dr. David Sousa.  His first presentation was about translating brain research into classroom practice:

“More young boys acquire visual, spatial, and temporal skills faster and easier than more young girls.  More young girls acquire spoken language skills faster and easier than more young boys.”

His second presentation related brain research to the teaching of math.  He described the reasons why individuals with language processing problems will have arithmetic processing problems.

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