Much like new students who participate in a multi-day orientation, faculty new to Loomis Chaffee experience their own orientation. The primary goal of the three-day program that began on Thursday, August 24, is to make Loomis Chaffee’s newest faculty comfortable and prepared to be as successful as they can.
Part of that, says Associate Dean of Faculty Liz Leyden, is “helping them get up to speed on the Loomis-isms, the lingo we have, and the way we do things here, so once students arrive, they are ready to go. We do this in a lot of different ways.”
One way is introducing new faculty to as many people as possible in the three days, so they get to know the person, their role, and who to turn to for various needs. One of the mantras repeated in orientation is “never worry alone” because there is always someone who can help.
“We also want to build a sense of community,” says Dean of Faculty Andrew Matlack. “We want them to feel like a cohort, a cohesive group, that they are part of the community, and we value them. That demands getting to know the folks early.”
Liz describes the Loomis way as “supportive and collaborative but [one that] allows people to find their own path, and it is not so prescriptive that everyone has to be cookie cutters, identical. It is allowing people to have that flexibility in a broader sense of the framework.”
The first day of orientation, Thursday, August 24, was introductory in nature, an overview of the school. Day 2, Friday, August 25, concentrated on what it means to be an advisor to a student. All students have a faculty advisor to support them throughout their journey and the school’s advising system is one of the hallmarks of the Loomis experience.
“We pride ourselves on being whole-person advisors,” Andrew says, “making sure the student is well equipped to thrive and be challenged in an academic program and taking safe risks as they become young people. We're helping them navigate their relationships and helping them come of age at a formative time of their life. … We also have a lot of people thinking about each individual student, helping to steer them to be their best self.”
As Liz says, all faculty members have multiple interactions with students, and that is intentionally designed. For example, a teacher might also be a coach, a dorm head, and/or an advisor to a club or activity.
At the advising session, the new faculty members paired off with instructions to find out something new about their partner, helping them to get to know each other better, not unlike what will happen with new students during their orientation.
At the end of the day, the goal is to never have a student feel alone. And at the end of the three-day orientation, the goal is to never have a new faculty member feel alone.
The final day of the program, Monday, August 28, was devoted to what it means to be a teacher at Loomis. One of the presentations was from Sara Deveaux, the director of the Kravis Center for Excellence in Teaching, and Ned Heckman, the assistant director of the Kravis Center.
One purpose is building relationships, Sara says, “and understanding what the Kravis Center is, who Ned and I are, and who they can go to. We always talk about never worrying alone, making sure they understand whenever they have a question, there are people they can reach out to, and I know Andrew [Matlack] talks about that, too.”
The biggest goal gets to the heart of teaching at Loomis.
“We want to make sure they understand the mindset that we are continually learning and growing, that we are in a continual state of development as educators at Loomis, that we’re never done, as daunting as that seems,” Sara says.
The three-day program also provides opportunities to get to know one another and key administrators outside the various sessions, through breakfast, lunch, and dinner on August 24 at the home of Head of School Sheila Culbert and a barbeque on August 28 for the new faculty and their families.
“The whole program was really well-planned and organized and focused on putting the new faculty at ease and introducing them to key contacts as the school year gets underway,” said Larry Brackney, who joins the faculty from Suncoast Polytechnical High School in Sarasota, Fla. “A lot of content on how Loomis does things was very valuable.”
Larry also said he appreciated the session about the Kravis Center. He will teach Physics and Physics Advanced, work in the PHI (Pearse Hub for Innovation), and serve as head coach of the Robotics team.