Professional Development

What is professional development?

  • Setting the standard and then pushing that standard forward
  • Teaching scholars to advocate for their social/emotional learning needs
  • Offers trainings for all layers of the Orca community (staff, scholars, families), so that all of our language is aligned
  • Facilitation of more effective, honest communication between the layers of the Orca community.
  • Unpacks the Seattle Public Schools’ Policy #0030: Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity
  • Power with, not power over.

Professional Development Sessions for Orca K-8 Staff (2019):

  • Student Engagement: Youth Culture in the Classroom (1-9-19)
    • Written by Lexi Easter (8th Grade) and Xavier Johnson-Mitchell (8th Grade):

So the training the teachers attended on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 was based on professional development, led by James Miles and three of our current students, Xavier, Lexi, and Heaven. We asked the teachers about their relationships with their past teachers and the lessons they learned from their least favorite and favorite teachers, and they all opened up. From what was shared, all of their past relationships are reflected in the way they teach today. Most of the training’s purpose was centered on modern language and connection. It was about the way kids today use emojis to describe our emotions, as well as our wording and connotation. Lately in some schools there has been a lack of professional development, meaning there has been no change in teaching and understanding of students. Here at Orca, our school is working to change the way students feel at school.

  • School Climate Data: Procuring the Narrative (3-27-19 & 4-24-19)
    • Facilitated by Gail Sehlhorst (SPS Visual & Performing Arts Manager)
    • 14 Orca teachers interviewed students who they do not usually work with
  • Trauma-Informed Practices: James Norris (Matumaini Childhood Counseling Director) – community forums about mental health on July 12th, September 13th, November 1st, 2019 at Seattle University.
  • Whole Child, Whole Day: Social & Emotional Learning Symposium: August 9th, 2019 – Highline College

Liberatory Questions (generated by Creative Advantage workshop):

  • Once a month, middle school educators collectively reflect on the following questions. South End Stories also distributes these questions to community partners as an expectation for how our students’ voices must be valued, nurtured, and incorporated during programs, field trips, and projects both inside and outside of the school building.


  1. Does this allow space for student voice (to create curriculum)?
  2. Does it allow creative response from youth?
  3. Is there opportunity for revision?
  4. Does it spark thought?
  5. Can students see themselves in this? Are they (and their experiences) centered?
  6. Is it collaborative?
  7. What are my real or perceived limitations, and how might I get around them?


  1. Who is the author?
  2. How does this support my own cultural worldview? (or detract from it?)
  3. Is this cultural appropriation?
  4. Am I willing to not be the expert?  (to empower / inspire my students?)
  5. Am I willing to ask questions?
  6. Am I willing to be vulnerable? (as vulnerable as I’m asking my students to be?)
  7. Am I willing to give up power? (power with, not power over)


  1. Does this push assumptions?
  2. Does this broaden the narrative created by the dominant culture?
  3. What stereotypes does this perpetuate? How will I address them if it does?
  4. Does this engage + encourage joy?
  5. How is this relevant to youth culture now?


  1. Are the student’s voices in the content planning?
  2. Are there multiple entry points?
  3. Am I making space for students to show up in all their identities?
  4. Does this support shared goals of our community?
  5. How is the material dialectical thinking?
  6. How can I examine my hidden biases while planning?


  1. Does this reflect the diversity in the classroom?
  2. Is there a multi-modality approach to teaching it?  
  3. Am I valuing my students’ knowledge and experience?
  4. Does the work provoke serious questions and encourage examination?
  5. Am I creating a non-hierarchical setting?
  6. How am I encouraging students to “dare greatly”?


  1. How do I stay open to creativity?
  2. Is this content or exploration unveiling oppression?
  3. Is this complex and nuanced enough for students to be challenged?
  4. Is this content empowering / inspiring action?
  5. Does this material speak to me, but exclude others?
  6. Am I bringing in this material because I want my students to think about me in a certain way, or because they will learn from it?


  1. What biases do I bring into my classroom?
  2. Do I understand my own authentic relationship to this content?
  3. What perspectives am I already including?
  4. Am I remaining open to emergent strategies and ideas?
  5. Why are we doing this? What’s the real point?
  6. How is the focus being framed or synthesized?
  7. Am I open to critique?


  1. Is the content critique-able?
  2. Does this content have multiple interpretations?
  3. Does my timeline allow students to grapple and ask questions?
  4. Can the students own this content, as “experts”?
  5. Is this in my student’s vernacular / language?
  6. Is this “High Quality”? (and how can we define that for ourselves?)


  1. Does this promote [uncensored] self-expression?
  2. Am I asking more questions than I’m answering?
  3. Is my intention to open minds and leave them open?
  4. What kind of response reaction might this inspire?
  5. Is our institution ready to support us?
  6. Are students ready to be liberated?  Are WE?
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