This year, the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING is hosting its first-ever Cotsen Alumni Speaker Series. Throughout the course of the year, Cotsen alumni will have an opportunity to participate in workshops led by prominent speakers in the field of education.
The first workshop in the series was led by Kristi Mraz in October. This day-long workshop centered on the research in Mraz’s book, “Kids First from Day One.” During the session, which was divided into four parts, participants learned research-based mindsets that can help them maximize their effectiveness and impact as teachers. Time was spent exploring how to integrate play, empathy, growth mindset, belief systems, and reflections into daily practice as teachers and human beings.
Next, participants explored how to use these mindsets to examine physical environments and their impact on learning and community. Moving from a study of classroom design to the learners that inhabit them, teachers considered the latest research on teaching social skills, building community, helping children with trauma, and supporting children’s emotional needs.
Finally, Kristi turned the topic of discussion to teaching structures and responsive planning that ensure classrooms center on children. Attendees gained practical step-by-step strategies that are appropriate for a range of learners.
Of the day, alumni fellow and now principal at Estock Elementary School, Amanda Heineman said, “I really liked the part where Kristi talked about your rights and beliefs. We need to think about the spaces we set up and how they impact what we believe deep down as educators. I feel like a lot of the times we do certain things in the classroom and think we’re doing the right thing. But then when we step back and really look at what it is we’re doing, those underlying reasons may not be in the best interest of our students.”
Jodi Manby, a senior program officer and coordinator for alumni events at the Cotsen Foundation, commented, “Kristi kicked off our study by asking us, ‘Does the world we’ve built in our classrooms today, reflect the world we want to live in tomorrow?’ Based on the feedback from the day, many teachers said they felt inspired to reimagine ways to bring more joy into their classroom communities.”
Following the workshop, alumni participants were invited to join the Alumni Study Network. The Study Network gathers groups of three to six educators to participate in a closer study of the material presented at the workshop and in Kristi and Christine’s book “Kids First from Day One.”
“There are approximately 115 teachers participating in the Kids First Alumni Study Network; many across schools, and some across districts,” Jodi said. “The energy around the study is exciting, and I’m looking forward to hearing stories of how it transfers to kids and classrooms.”
Study groups meet a minimum of three times per year, either in person or via web chat. Each participant receives one release day for planning and/or observations in one another’s classroom, and $50 for materials pertaining to the study.
The Foundation is excited to offer these new events and opportunities to its growing alumni network. More workshops and study networks are sure to be offered in the near future as the 2018-2019 school year continues.
Kristi Mraz is coauthor with Christine Hertz of the new “Kids First from Day One”, which provides a practical blueprint for increasing the child-centeredness of your teaching practice. She has also helped coauthor several other books including “Purposeful Play”, “Smarter Charts” and “Smarter Charts for Math, Science, and Social Studies.