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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Mandatory PD day struggles to address controversial topics

On January 2, Jackson-Reed hosted a mandatory Professional Development (PD) Day focused on having “courageous conversations” between students and teachers. The sessions were a joint effort between administration and DCPS Central Office staff, though JR was the only school to host this event. 

The meeting consisted of many small groups of faculty members run by a JR administrator or DCPS Central Office member. The time was broken into two sessions: the first centered on setting classroom norms when discussing difficult topics, and the second on combating challenges that could arise. These discussions were set up in reference to any conversation between members of the school community that could cause tension, according to JR administration.

The PD day’s purpose was to continue JR’s history of growing and developing diverse intra-school conversations about challenging topics. Assistant Principal Camille Robinson said that “the idea was to promote the same norms for everybody schoolwide.” 

Many teachers, however, believed that this training day was in response to the ongoing events and conversations in school surrounding the situation between Israel-Hamas War. However, the meeting’s lack of specificity was noticed by teachers.

Social Studies teacher Dr. Eduardo Canedo said, “I think it’s important that we have those conversations, just I was expecting something more oriented to the specific issues that we’re dealing with at the moment, so I was a little disappointed.” 

Canedo stated that the meeting had “the feeling of checking a box, without advancing the issue in any meaningful way.” He continued by saying “frankly the conversation could’ve been about transgender rights, or BLM. The specifics of what our school needed was not at all brought up…I don’t think anyone said Israel, maybe ASU, but it was just skimmed, as a reference.” 

As a result of this miscommunication, the expectations for the meeting’s outcome and whether they were met was unclear. However, teachers suggested that there would be no concrete impact on their classroom discussions. Health and Physical Education teacher Rebecca Bradshaw-Smith emphasized the need for more conversations to be had, saying, “My biggest concern is that this is not something that can just be a one time thing, this is something that needs to keep happening all year.” She also highlighted her hope that students would eventually be brought into discussions about teacher and school norms in order to make sure the entire community was on the same page.

Going forward, most are in agreement that the topic of courageous conversations is something ongoing, though the way to best address those conversations, as well as the factors affecting them, remain divisive.

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