Heart and Soul of Professional Growth
Mr. Marion Broglie, a long-time participant in the Center for the Constitution’s seminars for teachers, recently took a few moments to share his thoughts on his professional development experiences. Mr. Broglie is an eighth grade civics teacher at Lynnhaven Middle School in Virginia Beach, Va.
I often ponder my good fortune of being a social studies teacher in the Commonwealth of Virginia. With countless historic sites within a day trip of where I teach in Virginia Beach, I am awash in the history of our nation. To be honest, it’s often overwhelming and I never feel that I fully utilize the great resources that are so close at hand. But one of those resources is a must-see for any of my fellow social studies teachers.
James Madison may not be given his full due as one of our founding fathers, even though he was the father of our Constitution, a document that now serves as the world’s longest-serving experiment in creating a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” But the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier is working to restore James Madison’s legacy of self-government through its plethora of resources and professional development opportunities.
Since its creation almost a decade ago, I have probably taken part in as many seminars and trainings sponsored by the Center as anyone. And yet, I truly feel that I have barely scratched the surface of the opportunities afforded me by the Center’s programs. For instance, as I write this in November 2011, I am lamenting the fact that I missed two events at Montpelier in just the last month that I dearly wanted to attend.
One of these events was just last weekend. The Center hosted an alumni reunion for participants in the “We the People program,” with Professor A. E. Dick Howard (University of Virginia professor, Rhodes Scholar, and former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black) as the guest speaker. My responsibilities at school made it impossible for me to make this event, but I truly regret not getting to hear from such a renowned scholar.
More than that, I regret the missed chance to discuss the new insights I would have garnered from Professor Howard’s presentation with my colleagues. In fact, the discussions that I have with other attendees, both old friends and new acquaintances, are the true heart and soul of my professional growth and the beauty of the Center for the Constitution’s offerings. At school, my colleagues are understandably too engaged in the minutia of teaching (progress reports, hall duties, lesson plans, parent conferences, school-based initiatives, etc.) and taking care of their families (their “real-world” lives) to engage in content-rich discussions about the Constitution, history, or current political events. This is not a criticism. I am doing exactly the same thing. However, it is so refreshing to have the time at the Center to delve into constitutional issues and be challenged by the many diverse views brought to these events by the variety of the participants.
I would argue that the Center’s programs give teachers the opportunity to learn, in much the same way as we would like our own students to learn: not bogged down by making sure we cover every objective listed in the curriculum guide or every topic that might be on the Standards of Learning test, but by a free-wheeling exploration of an issue where each participant’s viewpoint is valued, regardless of whether it is in agreement with your own or not. These mature discussions that invariably take place during the weekend seminars and other professional development at Montpelier are the most valuable assets to my professional growth.