At New Classrooms, our work is a team effort created by a group of talented, diverse individuals whose unique contributions add up to something greater. It’s grounded in the belief that learning is a lifelong pursuit, and it’s driven by an approach that brings the full force of our curiosity, imagination, and ingenuity.
Perhaps this is best embodied during Home Week, an all-staff retreat and training event we hold twice a year: once in the fall and once in the spring. (Check out highlights from our last Home Week here.) From a code-cracking competition to karaoke, there were plenty of highlights worth sharing from last month’s Spring Home Week.
Getting to know each other
Our team is spread out across the country—from Oakland to New York City—and across departments—from technology to academic design and programming. We can often go weeks before having a chance to meet a new employee or work together on a project.
Home Week is often the best place to connect and this year we got personal with some good old fashioned bingo—with a twist. Everyone received a card with interesting clues that described at least one other colleague. Some were accomplishments (Have you run a marathon?), and some were simple facts (Is your birthday in April?), but some of the best clues were the unique or surprising experiences (Have you lived in at least five different states?).
Learning new skills
During Home Week, we have concurrent learning sessions called Snapshot and Skill Showcase sessions where staff present on topics related to their jobs, professional development, and fun talents. This year’s featured sessions included an in-depth look at the work of our Site Operations Managers, who play a crucial role in supporting our school partners; an interactive session on stereotype threat and its impact on student outcomes and professional experiences; and a training on how to post the perfect Instagram picture. A crowd favorite was Planting 101 where participants planted succulents and got to leave with terrariums for their workspace.
Cracking the code
Our version of an Escape Room was a frenetic game called Cracking the Code. Small groups were led to a conference room and couldn’t get out until they solved a series of puzzles, clues, and riddles that led to the numbers in a lock combination. It was a frenzied, hour-long mental (and, at times, physical) scramble to unlock a specially assigned locker, which held a sweet surprise. The winners got bragging rights and the opportunity to choose a song for the last place team to sing at karaoke later that evening.
Recognizing the field
How can an organization embed its core operating principles that ensures they are part of the lived daily experience? We posed that question to small groups and challenged them to devise a system for recognizing colleague who exemplified these principles. After the teams presented their ideas, everyone voted for the recognition ideas they liked the best. The votes were tallied and are now being incorporated into a recognition system to be rolled out soon.
This Home Week, we had Jeff Wetzler, Co-founder of Transcend Education; Ann Moore, Former CEO of Time Inc.; and Chester E. Finn, Jr., Distinguished Senior Fellow & President Emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute come in to fill us with wisdom and motivation. Each speaker provided us with a new perspective on our work and inspired us to continue being innovative in everything we do. We left with new energy, ready to take on new challenges.
Thanking the teachers
We were so excited about the upcoming National Appreciation Week that we got an early start during Home Week. Led by our field teams who work most closely with school partners, we spent some of our free time creating #ThankATeacher signs with the names of teachers who have had a profound impact on our lives or the lives of students in the Teach to One: Math program. Check out the NC blog for photos, which were posted digitally (on our social media accounts) and now have a prominent place in our lobby to greet visitors every day.
Do you want to learn more about our team of math geeks? Check out our Team Page!