Critical Friends Group Training at CCSC

Workshop leaders Gene Thompson-Grove (L) and Catherine Tighe
Workshop leaders Gene Thompson-Grove (L) and Catherine Tighe

This week CCSC again hosted the Critical Friends Group Coaches Institute, a weeklong professional development seminar offered by the School Reform Initiative, a Denver-based nonprofit with longstanding ties to the school. Twenty teachers and school leaders from across the U.S. spent five days training with SRI facilitators Gene Thompson-Grove and Catherine Tighe to become CFG coaches at their home schools.

Among the participants were CCSC’s Katie Rieser, who on July 1 became the school’s dean of curriculum and instruction, and Mandy Henry (humanities teacher). All CCSC faculty and administrators belong to one of the five Critical Friends Groups on campus, and now Ms. Rieser and Ms. Henry are trained as CFG facilitators. The CFG training complements Ms. Rieser’s duties in her new administrative role, which include overseeing faculty professional development and instructional leadership teams.

This year’s workshop participants also included a contingent from Cambridge Public Schools: Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Maryann MacDonald, Haggerty School Principal Nancy Campbell and five Haggerty faculty. Out-of-state attendees included Principal Indiana Soto and three instructional coaches from PS 71 in Queens (NY) and teachers from Indiana and Vermont.

CFGs are central to CCSC’s commitment to supporting reflective practice and student-centered learning. In fact, the idea of creating professional communities of “critical friends” originated when CCSC Founder Paula Evans and Ms. Thompson-Grove worked together at Brown University and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform in the 1990s. The groundbreaking professional development protocols they developed subsequently spawned SRI, now an independent network comprised of thousands of educators in the US and internationally.

The guiding principle of a CFG is simple: by meeting regularly with a small group of peers to review and reflect openly on their classroom challenges, as well as their beliefs about teaching and learning, CFG members support each other by asking powerful questions, offering multiple perspectives, and sharing effective strategies.

Other CCSC faculty who are trained CFG facilitators are: Becki Norris (middle school principal), Danielle Makarious (director of special programs), Heidi Thayer (humanities teacher), and Corinne Kielbasa (math department chair). Gene Thompson-Grove leads one of the school’s CFG groups during the school year.

Mandy Henry and Katie Rieser with an other participant
Mandy Henry and Katie Rieser with an other participant

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