Born to Learn

Video Music:

“Every year when my students walk into class for the first time, they walk into the greatest opening bars of the greatest song ever,” said Glenn Whitman, hitting play on his laptop and standing back, smiling, as “Born To Run” cascaded down in all its anthemic glory on the Country Day faculty.

His point was a simple one.

“It’s a cue to students” about the tenor of the class, he said. “Even if the kids don’t love the Boss, they still get a boost when they hear it.”

Whitman is a teacher and coach, as well as the co-author of “Neuroteach,” and the director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) at St. Andrew’s School, with whom Country Day has become a partner school. All faculty at LCDS read “Neuroteach” as a part of their professional development in 2017-18. He was here Thursday, Aug. 16, for workshops with teachers, teachers and students, and to deliver an evening talk to the community about helping children achieve their full potential.

“We all win from our time with Glenn and our ongoing partnership with the CTTL,” said Director of Learning Services Rachel Schmalhofer, who arranged Whitman’s visit and is working to incorporate “Neuroteach” ideas into LCDS pedagogy.

Part of our partnership entails sending one administrator and one teacher from each division to a week-long workshop at the CTTL for at least the next two summers. This past year’s group consisted of Todd Trout, Lindsay Deibler-Wallace, Sue LeFevre and Joie Formando.

Classes ranging from Brenna Stuart’s World Civ II to Sheryl Krafft’s preschool have embraced the idea that understanding the brain, the organ of learning, is critical to learning, and they’ve seen it bear fruit. The profound — if occasionally just plain common sense — ideas behind their efforts are a central focus of Whitman’s teaching philosophy, as well as the subject of “Neuroteach.”

“This is just the jumping off point,” said Schmalhofer. “LCDS has made a commitment to staying on the cutting edge of mind, brain and education research and our efforts will continue to grow every year. What we are doing is a really big deal and represents an effort to create a culture of learning not just for our students, but for our teachers and parents as well. We want to practice what we preach.

“It’s different because it’s an undertaking that engages the entire community: teachers working to use current research to inform their practices, and teaching students to become more efficient, effective, motivated learners; parents continuing the conversation at home; students developing their abilities to be reflective about their learning and to approach learning from a mastery orientation rather than a performance orientation,” she said.