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In the Fall of 2018, our program days at SAITH increased significantly. We had six months before we had trash and recycling service at SAITH, which meant that I was transporting our waste back to school. Yes, this was gross. But it also was a great way to learn how much trash we were generating. I quickly became concerned, not only about the permanent smell in my car but also about our impact on the environment.
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May 1, 2019
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.” -Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher.
When I recently came across this quote, I immediately reflected on the journeys of our 8th graders over both their middle school time and their St. Anne’s careers. They have grown as students, athletes, friends, and leaders, and the progress they have made between where they once were and where they are now is a source of pride for our whole community.
Further reflection on this quote reminds us of two important aspects of growth. First, meaningful journeys rarely are completed overnight. And second, journeys don’t begin until you take that first step forward. There are countless obstacles that can either delay or prevent the start of a journey from perseverating about finding the perfect path to being overwhelmed by the prospect of the whole journey itself. These obstacles can easily derail growth before an earnest attempt is even made.
We’ve all experienced this at some point with ourselves and kids, and I’ve been intrigued by the concept of Kaizen, a mindset and approach used in Japanese businesses to realize growth by overcoming typical barriers to change. Big growth can feel daunting to achieve for a variety of reasons, and sometimes it is actually demotivating.
Consider the following situations as examples. First, imagine a middle schooler who is struggling with organizational skills. For this student, “keeping a clean locker” could seem like a monumental task, particularly if they’ve struggled with it for years or their locker looks like it exploded inside. Now imagine the student who is receiving feedback to participate more in class. It might feel confusing and intimidating thinking about how to go from not participating to being a more active participant. In another situation, we might picture a student going rafting for the first time with a group of people they’ve not gone with before, and the whole thing can feel like a giant leap of faith and cause anxiety.
So, what can we do? Kaizen suggests that instead of spending hours, days, or weeks wondering how to achieve the big growth, identify a small, simple, and concrete step that would represent even the tiniest of growth.
Cleaning a whole locker or room might be a gigantic undertaking that you don’t think you have time for or really don’t want to deal with right now. However, putting in your planner to use the last minutes at BLOC/study hall every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to just collect loose pens, throw out trash, and recycle old papers is simple, quick and clear. It creates visible (hopefully) value and allows for success to be all but inevitable. Doing that every other day even for a few weeks creates a habit that you can then build on. It also keeps it on your mind in a way that might lead to a habit of not putting random loose papers or storing a half sandwich in your locker in the first place. Moreover, it makes the large undertaking of organizing your locker seem less daunting.
I’ve been trying this with my own desk at school that, admittedly, can have papers pile up (my digital organizational skills are far more advanced fortunately). Putting in my Google Calendar to spend two minutes every other day cleaning my desk has actually paid dividends. It has also mitigated the situation of me seeing a desk that would take twenty minutes to sort through. My hope is that it’ll also help me by discouraging me from simply putting a sheet on my desk without a plan.
To close, here are a few other suggestions/applications I came up with that directly relate to how we can use this technique to work for our kids:
1) Instead of trying to just be a regular participant, have a student put one box on the top of their notes every day at the start of class. The student’s responsibility is to check that box before the period is over by participating in asking a question (excluding a bathroom visit request) or making a comment. It’s a simple strategy that is visible, and it is much more likely to be successful long-term than jumping to four or five comments a class.
2) Rafting: Let’s say you’re rafting in Colorado this spring. You’ll want to consider all the possible components for a nervous student that roll into “rafting.” There’s the wet suit, life jacket and giant paddle that might be a new experience. There’s seeing an unfamiliar river and sitting with a group with varying paddle experience. Kaizen would suggest replying to a student who is reluctant to do it by simply asking, “How about we just put on the wet suit and/or life jacket inside and see how it feels? Could you sit in the raft on the ground and hold the paddle?” Just having those experiences before jumping in can make all the difference, reducing the number of barriers and worries.
3) Mitigating negative self-talk: For a student who struggles with frequent negative self-talk, try having them write one compliment to themselves every day or every Friday while eating breakfast. Have a jar at the table and a pencil there to lower the barriers to this task, and consider putting words on the jar as triggers (friend, artist, soccer player, brother, daughter). Again, make it simple, concrete, small, and routine. Start with less frequency to help it be successful, but make it a routine so that the journey can begin.
4) Being more active: Do you have a student who every day goes right to a gaming system when you’d rather see them play outside? Instead of asking for 30 minutes of playing outside, tell them beforehand that they need to be outside for five minutes. Stick with it for a period of time before raising that time request. The first few days might seem like a struggle, but soon they might discover something growing in the garden or a cool bug on the tree, or they kick a soccer ball around. Most likely this will eventually lead to their voluntary staying outside longer than the five minutes you had agreed on together. You may not get to thirty minutes in the short-term, but you can get the student on their way to being outside more often.
Again, these are just a few suggestions of how the principle of Kaizen can be effective. Avoiding the decision paralysis of trying to select the perfect path by instead finding a simple small step that moves you along can make all the difference. In many cases, it makes the bigger change feel more attainable once the first steps have been taken and internalized. In other cases, the first steps can help by getting you some initial information or feedback. This in turn can give you new insights that ultimately lead to steps you couldn’t have imagined at the outset. Whether it is in school or out of school, there are plenty of opportunities to embrace the technique of Kaizen to grow ourselves or support the growth of others.
Head of Middle School
March 29, 2019
Every year the annual National Association of Independent School Conference draws amazing keynote speakers and holds fabulous workshops which inevitably lead to me walking away both with new ideas and perspectives, but also inspiration for our work at St. Anne’s. This year, Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, was among the keynote speakers and his remarks on innovation, prompted me to immediately go out and devour his accompanying text.
In reading his book and listening to his talk, it was encouraging to see several of his essential ideas for fueling innovation be represented in components of the design thinking curriculum we do in innovations to nurture creativity. For example, he noted the effectiveness of using selective constraints around design to actually spark new ideas. I’ve seen this first hand when our sixth graders design circuit games in science with some parameters on materials or while they were creating architecture projects in innovation. Having to design an underwater hotel or ice cream store in a densely populated city requires you consider specific needs of users you wish to engage. Another key point was the importance of the proliferation of a huge volume of ideas in the brainstorming process. Resisting the urge to jump on the first idea and instead produce more ideas can ultimately help you arrive at an even more innovative creation!
However, what has most stuck with me from the talk and book has been the specific insights and examples he shared highlighting a direct link between diversity and innovation, two areas that have been passions of mine for many years now. In his talk, Johansson shared memorable anecdotes such as how surgeons were able to improve patient care by reviewing organizational practices of race car pit crews. He relayed the journey of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s who was born in Ethiopia, adopted and raised by a family in Sweden, and trained in France, before opening a Michelin star restaurant in NYC with flavor influences drawn from around the world . His willingness to combine flavor combinations in unique ways has led to him pushing the food industry forward. Perhaps my favorite story shared was how architect Mick Pearce in Harare, Zimbabwe found solutions to design the Eastgate Building, a climate-controlled building, by looking at the way termites built housing for themselves in the same climates. It involved using an intricate system of gradients and vents to keep the temperature constant around 30 degrees celsius while the outside temperature fluctuates between 0 to 40 degrees. What was clear from each of the three cases, innovation and creative solutions occurred at the intersection of seemingly disparate worlds.
As I consider my experiences working with students and teams at various schools I’ve worked at, I’ve seen first hand how a central barrier to creativity is the tendency to fixate on one solution. That tendency is the product of associations our brains develop from the sum total of our experiences and the voices and perspectives that surround us every day. The more homogenous those experiences and voices are, the stronger the associations that get built between ideas. The stronger the association between ideas, the more likely we ignore other alternatives in designing solutions or thinking of possibilities. Yes, strong associations in the mind can be helpful, making for a simpler, more efficient approach for our brains to manage lots of information. However, too often they are inhibitors to innovation.
So how do we mitigate these associative barriers that naturally exist for us all? Below are a few measures that I’ve been a part of and which are shared by Johansson.
A)Diversity in group composition: At St. Anne’s I’ve been part of different critical friends groups, taskforces, committees and think tank sessions. I’ve found when you get people together who bring diverse subject expertise, prior school experience, or backgrounds together, the discussions often yield more complex and sometimes even surprising solutions. This is because they bring their own perspectives which helps mitigate associative barriers that would arise from a homogenous group. At Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Aquavit, his 100 employees come from countless different countries around the world. For our students, this provides a great case for intentionally seeking out and working with different people in classes on projects, rather than just your close friends who might think the same way as you. That goes double for our 8th graders who are heading off to high school and will have opportunities to expand their social circles in their increasingly diverse communities. Yes, some norming and agreements may need to be laid as foundation for successful collaborating, but the different perspectives are likely to yield more creative solutions.
B) Designing solutions from the perspective of the user, rather than your own- This is a principle that is at the core of design thinking and is an essential stage in creating solutions that actually work for the users for whom you are designing. Over the years we've had sixth graders interview preschoolers and kindergartners as a step before building prototypes for the outdoor classroom. We've done an empathy exercise simulating what it's like to have limited mobility when we were designing everyday solutions for the elderly. As a staff when we’ve been building our program at St. Anne’s in the Hills and trying to iterate the program, curriculum, and logisitcs, we’ve been conscious to interview and survey students and faculty about their experiences. I have also found that by faculty doing training that has put me on the low ropes elements, we all have a greater appreciation for the experience and feelings of our students, thereby better allowing us to scaffold and design our trips.
C) Nurturing divergent and alternative uses for objects to overcome the cognitive bias of functional fixedness - Functional fixedness refers to the mindset of being unable to see other uses for an object beyond its primary use. Alternative use exercises like finding ten different ways to use a paperclip help counteract functional fixedness. For example, a paper clip can be used beyond clipping papers together such as a tie for a bag or screwdriver for a loose screw on glasses to even jewelry! While the practice of generating lots of ideas is important, ultimately what is more important is to simply not have one chain of thinking.
D)Exposure to a variety of experiences: Part of what is so impactful in our students’ experiences is the breath of classes they get to take at St. Anne’s. Beyond science, social studies, English, and math, are students can take world language, learn about world religions in chapel, support various communities outside St. Anne’s through outreach, and education at St. engage in cultural competency curriculum. Add in the outdoor education and a robust art offering and are students are put into a variety of environments from which to draw inspiration and make connections. When I see the creative content our 8th grade students are producing as artists, musicians or actors on stage, I’m reminded of the role of variety of experiences they are gaining are influential in the creative process.
In a world where content creators are becoming increasingly more valued than content consumers, helping students see the value and role of diversity in innovation is essential to their growth. It is also vital for us as adults to keep in mind as design and provide experiences for our students to nurture their perspective.
February 13, 2019
By Kristyna Yeager
The social, creative, and educational opportunities that come by way of digital technology are limitless and, as we well know, not without peril. The two best resources for keeping children safe are their parents and themselves, but a little technological support can be useful. Staying informed, taking action, and communicating openly will help build positive online experiences that will help foster responsible behavior in your household.
Young people interact with digital media in a variety of ways. According to study conducted by Common Sense Media, American tweens (ages 8-12) spend an average of about 4.5 hours on screen media use a day, while American teens (13-18) spend an average of about 6.5 hours worth of daily screen media use (daily averages do not include time spent at school or for homework). It is difficult to believe this is an accurate snapshot within our small SAES community because of the intentions we have behind our no cell phone policy, the non-academic activities many St. Anne’s students participate in after school, and digital guidelines at home. Regardless, the SAES Digital Life survey given last year indicated that “too much screen time” was what concerned parents most about their child’s online life. Digital media plays a key role in how kids function and develop, staking claims on their time and attention. Consequently, it deserves our continued scrutiny. Keep your kids’ digital world safe, fun, and productive by implementing and evaluating some best digital parenting practices while in your home and about.
Good digital parenting begins with acknowledging risks and reducing harms associated with having digital lives, both in ourselves and our children. Being calm, open, and direct when talking with your kids is the first step. The earlier you open this line of communication, the better. Discussions can include age-appropriate content, with whom we have contact, and how we behave while online. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) recommends that parents never miss a teachable moment where smart technology is concerned: first device, turning 13, getting a driver’s license, or when your child wants to try or buy a new app/game/site. Exploring and learning can be a two-way street when it comes to technology. Take time to enjoy digital media with your child, and you may be surprised at what he or she can teach you. If you start this habit at a young age, it may just become routine. Check out FOSI’s tips and resources to educate yourself on some of the most popular games, apps, and social media sites. Additionally, heed social media age limit restrictions when your child wants to create an account. Most sites have a minimum age requirement of 13 so letting your child know your feelings about honoring those guidelines will help curb the notion to join too early.
Fortunately, with many big-name platforms and companies beginning to address digital well-being, using parental controls and safety settings is more accessible than ever. However, choosing a parental control utility can be a little daunting. You’ll have to do a bit of homework to determine the program that might work for your family, but the payoff will be well worth your time. It’s important to consider all device types and operating systems. Also, you will want to keep in mind the filtering and blocking capabilities, social media tracking options, and ease of installation and usage. PCMag, Tom’s Guide, and Top Ten Reviews have comprehensive reviews to help point your family in the right direction. Don’t forget or ignore the built-in options on your current operating systems and devices.
Another invaluable consideration for good digital parenting is establishing ground rules, setting boundaries, and applying consequences when necessary. There are multiple tools parents can choose from, including family media agreements or plans, cell phone contracts, or simply making a list of rules to apply to your child’s digital life. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but these tools are all useful in starting a conversation with your family about how to behave online in a positive way and help keep the lines of communication open. Choose one that works well for your family and make adjustments when necessary.
Do you want to wait as long as possible before you open the door to smartphone usage? A recent movement sweeping the country is the Wait Until 8th pledge, a cause that empowers parents to band together in waiting till their child is in 8th grade or beyond before purchasing a smartphone. The organization suggests skipping the smartphone contracts altogether with a long list of reasons to wait until a teenager actually has a purpose for having a smartphone. This pledge might work well in a community such as St. Anne’s. But do keep in mind that, even if you wait until 8th grade to buy a smartphone for your kids, they will begin to have online activity the moment you put any online device in their hands--be it an iPad, family computer, or Roku.
Here at St. Anne’s, the Technology Department does our part to support community-based digital citizenship. We regularly utilize Common Sense Education’s curriculum to teach students how to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in the digital world. In grades K-2, students are learning how to go places safely online, what kinds of information to keep private versus what information is okay to have in your digital footprint, and what to do when you encounter cyberbullying. In grades 3-6, students are learning how to represent themselves, the effects of what they say about others, media literacy, and how their media choices affect their own well-being. In grades 7 and 8, students are learning how to think before they post, practice netiquette (online etiquette), understand their digital footprint and reputation, reduce oversharing, and find a media/life balance.
Because so much of our children’s lives involve communication via computers, smart devices, and gaming systems, cyberbullying remains an important topic to discuss at home. Following good digital parenting practices such as having open communication and media plans, first-hand experiences with applications and digital tools that interest your child, and using parental control features are key to helping prevent and protect against cyberbullying. But another consideration includes device location. Keeping your home computers, laptops, and gaming systems in highly visible or central locations is a great way to keep tabs on digital interactions. A central docking/charging station for everyone’s device is another good idea. In addition, take time to show your kids how to block, flag or report abusive and inappropriate content and encourage socializing with friends in person. Parents can also discuss using anti-cyberbullying technology such as ReThink, a free app that can help detect and prevent hateful language. It gives users the opportunity to think before posting something they may regret.
One of the most important things you can do to be a good digital parent is to be a good digital role model. Evaluate your own digital habits and curb any bad ones. It is necessary for parents to be aware of their own digital behavior so they can promote positive behavior in their children. You can’t expect your kids not to text and drive if they grew up watching you do it. If you have “no phone zones” or a common docking area, make sure you are following those guidelines as well. Take the lead on setting time to unplug for yourself and your family and find a balance of online and offline activities.
Keeping our children’s online lives safe, fun, and appropriate is on the minds of teachers and parents everywhere. Thinking about it and doing something about it are two different things. A lot of us get stuck on not knowing what to do, and the task at hand can be challenging. But good digital parenting and community-based digital citizenship are all about taking an active role in minimizing risks and maximizing benefits. Check out the list of resources below to take a step in the right direction.
List of resources
Good Digital Parenting Resources:
Parental Monitoring Software Reviews:
Built-in Safety Features for Devices:
CompariTech (Reviews and detailed instructions for various operating systems)
Family Media Agreements:
Middle School Blog
February 1, 2019
November 26, 2018
Books allow the opportunity to see a window into another world, as well as a chance to have a deeper understanding of the world we live in. While reading The Outsiders, seventh grade students had the opportunity for both. The Outsiders, acclaimed for its ability to connect to teenagers, focuses on two rival gangs, divided by social class, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as is told through the eyes of fourteen-year old Ponyboy Curtis. After discussions of what it means to be an outsider, and essays on who was the bigger disgrace to society- the Greasers or the Socs, English classes were asked to find a situation in the news and relate it to the themes they identified in the book. They presented these through iMovies, powerpoints, realistic fiction writings, poster presentations, artistic creations and even in song. As students reflected on the lives of their neighbors, friends, family members and even themselves, they discovered that people felt like outsiders due to autism spectrum disorder, race, sexual orientation, divorce, lack of water, and plenty more. The English teachers couldn’t be prouder of the thoughtfulness and empathy the students demonstrated throughout this project, as well as the connections they made to the novel. While some students took the approach of creating awareness of a social situation, others took to expanding on this understanding by walking in another’s shoes or looking at ways in which outsider groups are included in mainstream society. This attempt at connection is not isolated to English alone, as similar conversations have occurred in advisory, Town Hall grade level time, and with Mr. Bhat in the cultural competency curriculum. We embrace these opportunities because we know that such understandings create a deeper understanding, as well as allow our students to be reflective participants in the world we live in.
-Laura Boroughf- 7th Grade English & Social Studies, 7th Grade Coordinator
November 5, 2018
Throughout this fall, I have found myself immersed in conversations and learning environments that share an unmistakable thread. Earlier this fall, the National Association of Independent School’s quarterly magazine arrived in my mailbox with a spotlight on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work in independent school communities. On October 12, a group of St. Anne’s 7th and 8th graders attended a full-day diversity and inclusion leadership conference where they participated in honest conversations about stereotypes, the media, bias, racism and more. The next day, I attended the CIRCLE Conference on inclusion and diversity at the Colorado History Center, an event drawing over 100 educators from the Denver area. Less than two weeks later, St. Anne’s administrators and board members invited renowned DEI consultant, Dr. Derrick Gay, to lead them in a half-day workshop on Cultural Competency. October 26, Eli Saslow, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Rising Out of Hatred, and son of a former St. Anne’s teacher, spoke to our community about reporting, and what he learned in the writing of a story about a white supremacist who experienced a change of heart and mind. Finally, on Halloween, a group from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival performed an abridged version of Macbeth and held workshops for our middle schoolers around the importance of being an upstander.
The frequency and similar theme of these events have reaffirmed in my mind the importance of the added emphasis we’ve been placing on diversity and inclusion work at St. Anne’s over the past several years. But while our recent efforts from the growth of affinity spaces to the normalization of DEI trainings have served us well, we know that this work must be ongoing and unrelenting for us to continue to be an inclusive community. Nationwide, school communities are realizing this same understanding and are also creating a variety of spaces both in and out of the classroom to have purposeful conversations around race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, identity and more. I firmly believe, though, that those conversations are more successful and valuable for all involved when a tool box of understandings and cultural-competency skills is possessed by those participating.
But what is cultural competency? It is certainly a phrase gaining a lot of attention, and while there are variations in how people define it, I rely on a definition that considers two components. The first is an inward reflection and understanding of our own identities, biases, and privileges, and how that influences our own world view. The second component refers to our ability to communicate and interact with those of cultures and identities similar to and different from our own. I’ll go further and share that I believe cultural competency also should include having a positive respect and appreciation for the differences of people of all backgrounds. With each generation getting increasingly diverse across all social identifiers including race, gender, and religion, it is important to me that as a school we are not only providing a welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff, and families, but that we are also empowering our students to go out and create welcoming environments outside our walls as well.
In the middle school this year, both the sixth grade spring curriculum and seventh grade fall curriculum will include a dozen classes focused explicitly on building our students’ cultural competency toolboxes. This includes doing simulations and activities followed by candid conversations around bias, privilege, identity, and allyship. Prior to beginning each class, we review ground rules around assuming good intentions, respecting differences of experiences, speaking from the “I” perspective, confidentiality, and an understanding that “what’s learned here, leaves here.” Below, is just a sample of the key understandings we hope to instill in our students as part of this curriculum:
1) We all have biases or inclinations that have been formed as a result of experiences or messages from media over time. Most biases we are unaware of, and without reflection, they can have adverse impacts on relationships and experiences we have and could pursue. Everyday bias includes a boy not pursuing a school club because he feel that “only girls sign up.” Not exploring a certain school for high school based on a few people you know that you do not like or because of chatter you heard from someone who went is a bias we try to counter in our 8th grade high school support process. Being aware of one’s own biases allows us to take action, which is essential to having inclusive communities and allowing us to pursue diverse experiences. Examples abound in the real world of anti-bias measures that have led to positive impacts. For centuries, orchestras were entirely dominated by men, but once they used blind auditions and had applicants remove their shoes (the heels, they discovered, made noise on stage that preserved gender bias), the orchestras became much more balanced gender-wise. There are many studies that have shown racial biases can dramatically impact a hiring process, which has led many companies to explore concrete practices aimed at mitigating that bias. Beyond being aware of our own biases, a particularly critical skill today is being able to detect biases from sources of information. Knowing whom the story is coming from is often as important as knowing what story is being told.
2) When it comes to identity, we only see and often only know the tip of the iceberg of other people’s identities. Not only are certain aspects of others’ identities not always visible to the outside world, but sometimes people choose not to share parts of their identities for various reasons. The iceberg analogy proves to be a powerful reminder that what we see is only part of the picture, so taking the time to get to know others’ stories can help us have a greater appreciation for the complexities and intersectionalities of our different identities around race, religion, ability, family structure, gender, sexual orientation, and more. When asked how Eli Saslow gained the trust of those about whom he was writing stories, Eli shared, “When you invest time in people and show them that you are genuinely interested in them, they trust you.” Building trust can lead to the foundation of a relationship. When we develop relationships with those that share different identities from our own, it can help us counteract hurtful and inaccurate biases in ourselves and others as evidenced in his story. Moreover, it can build empathy for others and encourage us to make better decisions about our behaviors, comments and humor that shape how welcoming an environment we are creating for all.
3) Privilege refers to more than just having greater economic means. It can include unearned benefits that we do not have to think about in certain situations. At 6’7” and with a booming voice, I do not have to worry about whether I’ll be able to see at a concert or if I can get everyone’s attention in a room if I want to speak to a group. As an able-bodied person, I have the privilege of not wondering whether there is a ramp to get to the front door of a party I get invited to attend. For years following the attacks on 9/11, I began to expect to be selected for additional “random” screening at airports while my white friends would pass by and not worry.
Privilege comes in a variety of forms and plays a significant role in how we experience the world, and very often, we are unaware of both our own privilege and that which others may lack.
4) In order to be an ally to someone who lacks privilege, you must first be aware of your own privileges. The phrase, “Sometimes you’re a caterpillar, sometimes you’re a snail,” has proven to be a “sticky” mantra from this fabulous video which speaks to how all of us have times where we have privilege and other times when we lack it. When we have privilege, it doesn’t mean we need to feel guilty, but it does mean we should be aware of it. After all, being aware of our privilege and how not everyone experiences it can allow us to be better allies. Being an ally means being a good listener, a safe space, and not being a bystander. An ally knows that if they are willing to speak up or take action, it can have a positive impact on how others feel about their identities and the sense of belonging they experience. Allies know that being an ally is an everyday thing, not just when it is convenient.
As mentioned, this is just a sampling of the conversations we’re having as we try to build the toolboxes for ourselves and for our students. We are still learning and have plenty more work ahead for us in our training, our curriculum, and our programming. As a PS-8 school, our students may not leave us with a Master’s Degree level proficiency in cultural competency. However, I do believe the time and space we are providing them will help them have a stronger sense of self, be an ally and supportive space for others, and have an appreciation and respect for differences of all people.
September 29, 2018
On Thursday September 27, the 7th grade spent the day learning about food insecurity in classes and through various experiences. In all of our classes/subjects, we learned about food insecurity which is where people struggle to find consistent access to healthy food, and they don’t always know where their next meal is going to come from. One specific thing that we learned about is what a food desert is. A food desert is when people don’t have access to fresh healthy food. They usually don't live within walking distance of a supermarket that has fresh fruit and vegetables. The USDA says that in 2017 about 40 million people suffered from food insecurity, including over 12 million children. In math, we were given a limited amount of money to spend on groceries based on a lower income. The twist was, we also pretended like we were in a food desert so if you wanted to go to the grocery store and get fruit, meat, and vegetables, you would have to take a bus that cost money. So was going to the supermarket worth the extra money, or is it worth saving the money and walking to a convenience store like 7/11? People who are food insecure may be forced to choose to get things like fast food and junk food from the stores. The problem with that is you could be eating very unhealthy. Lots of people don’t just have to feed themselves, they also have to feed their children. And, when people get sick, they have to spend money on medical costs too which hurts their budget. Overall, food insecurity is a serious issue, and has to somehow be stopped.
At lunch on Thursday we also participated in the first ever hunger banquet at St. Anne’s which allows students to get a window into the differences that exist around food access around the world. Each 7th grade student got a card at random which assigned them to a developed country or developing country. I got a card that allowed me to only a serving of rice and beans while sitting on the floor. Others had access to a meat and vegetable and others could eat everything plus got a nice table cloth and other perks. I was fine with the rice and beans, but when I saw the one group eating cake, soda, and other luxurious foods, I started to feel empathy for the people who have to eat this everyday or have limited options. It was also surprising to hear that only a small percentage of the world enjoyed the kinds of meals we get everyday at St. Anne's. Overall this was a truly humbling experience that expanded my horizons and experience what people have to face everyday.
In the afternoon, we divided into different action project groups. Some students worked on making posters to put in the halls to raise awareness about food insecurity. Others wrote over 70 letters to representatives and grocery stores asking for help. One group made 150 lunches that went to the organization Impact Locally that supports both kids and adults who are in need of a meal. Other projects included working on presenting to the middle school at assembly, creating a one page document that highlights foodbanks and soup kitchens for those who would benefit from that information, and writing this blog!
It was clear from the day why it is so important that we and others volunteer to work at the soup kitchen, so that people trying to pay bills and support their family that are in need can get a healthy and nutritious meal which does not cost them anything.
*This article was contributed to by 7th graders George, Tristan, Ben and Alex as part of their action project to raise awareness about food insecurity. Special thanks to the Sodexo Dining Staff for all their help running a great day for us!
Head of Middle School
August 24, 2018 - August 25, 2018
Since my days in high school, my father and I have talked about taking a father-son trip to Machu Picchu. Twenty years later, the stars aligned for us to realize that dream this summer and explore a place that is equal parts breathtaking, inspiring and spiritual. It was an unforgettable journey, made more special by the relationship we have with one another. Since returning, I have reflected on countless memories of hiking ruins together, learning about Incan culture, and catching up over conversations at local restaurants. Part of the joy of the trip came from our experience with those who guided us at different parts of our journey. As I consider the school year ahead, I have found myself drawing many parallels between the care and stewardship provided by our guides, Joel and Martina, and the nurturing support of the amazing faculty and staff who will help guide your children’s journeys in middle school this year.
Though our time together was short, our guides’ impact on the trip was unmistakable. I was grateful and most impressed by how Joel and Martina balanced their sharing of insights into where we were traveling with taking the time to get to know both my dad and me. When our guide learned that my dad grew up in a small village in rural India, he continued to seek out my dad’s personal stories. This had a particularly powerful impact on my dad, who felt a greater sense of belonging in a foreign country and was able to draw connections to his own experiences growing up in a rainforest in India. Our guides brought plenty of expertise throughout the journey on everything from geography, to restaurant recommendations, to never-ending content knowledge on the Incans. However, they also were very intentional about giving us some time to reflect and pause, taking in the different places and their meaning, especially while in Machu Picchu. I also appreciated how they considered the different needs and wants of both my dad’s and my experience. From conversing in only Spanish with just me (while speaking English to my dad) to finding an Indian restaurant in Cusco to appease my dad’s withdrawal from Indian culinary spices, the guides were able to differentiate our experiences.
At St. Anne’s, our teachers are far more than providers of content to our students because young people need more than that in their school experience. Our middle school teachers truly love working with middle schoolers, beginning by getting to know their stories so they may have a greater appreciation of them and be able to best challenge and engage them. With classrooms of students who possess such diverse experiences and backgrounds, I admire the ability of our faculty and middle school staff to support the different journey of each child. Part of that journey will involve being there for the "aha" moments and transformative growth that will happen while performing on stage or writing that first research paper. Also part of that journey this year will be helping your child navigate the inevitable challenge that will await them, be it academic, artistic, social, athletic or emotional in nature. Just as they will be there to celebrate and reflect on the successes, our teachers will be there to listen, process and help empower students to problem-solve or seek out the help they need. Though every child’s journey is unique, our experienced faculty have developed a great perspective and loaded toolbox from which to draw for all students. Middle schoolers crave independence as they develop their decision-making skills, and I admire how our faculty provide the encouragement, listening skills and mentorship to push them in safe ways out of their comfort zone.
Over the course of the year, our faculty will serve as teachers, yes, but also as coaches, advisors, club leaders, and literal guides on outdoor trips. As we step into a new era of expanded programming at St. Anne’s in the Hills, our center for outdoor and environmental education, it is such an honor to be a part of a faculty who possess natural skills as guides and understand the importance of how to check in, differentiate, and support a wide variety of students in their growth.
So, as we wrap up an abbreviated first week, here’s to a great adventure ahead for us all!
Head of Middle School
May 25, 2018
During the fall of 2017, the Technology Department conducted a survey (adapted from Common Sense Media) of 4th-8th grade students to measure knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors around their digital lives. The following spring, another similar survey went out to all SAES parents concerning their children’s digital lives. 52% of SAES families responded to the survey, and the major takeaways from the survey were used to make the attached infographic.
The Technology Department looked at data across grade levels to understand media-use trends as children age. We also compared students’ answers with parents’ answers to assess whether students and parents have similar perceptions around media use.
It is clear that SAES parents consider teaching their children to be good digital citizens extremely important. Yet, parents are seeking guidance in finding appropriate ways to address concerns around technology.
April 2, 2018 - April 3, 2018
Right before we left for Spring Break, I was so fortunate to join our 8th graders mid-trip in Washington, D.C. It was my first time on this rite of passage trip with the 8th grade, and what an experience it was! Throughout the six days, our students were “device-free,” a quality that was incredibly uncommon amongst the countless other student groups I saw while we were out there. The unplugged week not only led to our students engaging with one another in new and authentic ways, but it also allowed them to better engage with the history that surrounded them at every corner.
For the non-historians, often our connection to historical events is rooted in remembering where we were when the event happened, whom we were with, and how it made us feel. This is so true for me since I recall both events that were both enthralling and emotionally distressing. For me, those events ranged from my hometown Chicago Bulls winning their first title to the Berlin Wall coming down to watching the events of 9/11 unfold from my college common room. Those events were part of my life experience and bring back feelings of anger, fear, exhilaration, confusion and hope. As I think back to my middle school years, I remember learning about what were relatively recent events like the Civil Rights Movement, which had happened only twenty-five years prior to my learning about it. I had researched it and done a presentation on that period which I remember seemed so foreign and distant from the present-day world I was living in, leading to a more intellectual connection with history for me. No matter your age, I think we have all had experiences like this with both history that we were a part of history and history that we have viewed as a distant observer.
Part of my great enjoyment of the D.C. Trip can be attributed to the frequent opportunities for students and me to foster more than that aforementioned intellectual connection with history. At the Newseum, we had a chance to walk through a gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs from major events in our history. The ability of these personal photographs and their accompanying captions to capture the raw emotion for events that I was not alive for had a palpable impact on me, bringing me closer to moments which I know carry meaning and have shaped the lives of so many in ways that I can only hope to comprehend. Watching news footage of people covering this event and seeing their reactions also provided new windows into these historical events, which I am grateful for.
On the day we walked on the National Mall up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we were able to pass the exact location where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.” I was ableto pull up on my phone pictures of the countless supporters MLK was looking at when he delivered his speech, which struck a chord with the few students who were around me at the time. Given the lack of social media to spread the word, the gathering to fill such a large space spoke volumes of how important it was for people to be there.
War memorials also proved to be powerful experiences for our 8th graders. While you can certainly read and remember a fact about the number of lives lost in a war, seeing the number of names listed on the wall and standing feet away from the relatives looking for a name helps bring those numbers into a human context. We, too, had multiple 8th graders look for relatives at different memorial sites and at Arlington Cemetery, but even those who didn’t seek a relative walked away with a sense of scope for the magnitude of these wars.
Near the end of the trip we visited the Holocaust Museum. Our 8th graders had already been provided exposure and some key background knowledge to help them in the processing of the experience that would await them. However, the photos, letters, personalized stories and artifacts provided a glimpse into this painful part of history. Many students who finished somewhat early also took the time to talk with an actual Holocaust survivor who had set up a table in the atrium of the museum to share his stories. The number of survivors is dwindling by the day, but hearing from someone who survived the Holocaust reminds us just how recently it really happened and that it is not a part of ancient history, despite the black and white photos that capture this time period (or how much we wish it to be so). The intensity and forced traffic flow of the museum does leave an indelible mark on a visitor. I felt equal parts solemn and shocked that the Holocaust could go on for so long.
Now that I’ve been on the trip, I can see why our students remember it well beyond their years at St. Anne’s. In fact, at a recent St. Anne’s alumni event, there was no shortage of stories and moments remembered, even amongst those who graduated well over a decade ago. Yes, there will be plenty of stories documenting the chocolate fountain at the Golden Corral, staying up to watch epic March Madness games, or even the souvenirs students picked up at any and all gift shops. However, having been on the trip, I am confident that our students will also take away with them a greater appreciation and connection to our history, therein setting them up to more readily take in the intellectual content that awaits them in their future studies of history.
March 5, 2018
On Wednesday of last week, our St. Anne’s community witnessed our first ever original musical. To see so many middle school students confidently belting out songs on pitch in front of hundreds of people will be something that neither I, nor anyone who was in attendance, will ever forget. Less than twelve hours later, we returned to the dining hall on Thursday morning where we had our Middle School Winter Sports Assembly. This provided a forum for us to celebrate two undefeated 8th grade basketball teams, a feat that has never been accomplished in school history. We also celebrated 6th and 7th grade teams. This included our 7th grade boys basketball team who suffered heartbreaking losses all season before putting it all together to win their last game. All of these are noteworthy in my book. As I’ve reflected back on what I saw on stage Wednesday and in the gym all winter, I found myself marveling at the manner in which groups of kids have come together to accomplish great things, but also considering a few of the factors that it takes for these teams to come together to accomplish what they did.
1) Hard work and effort on the little things: There is no question we have talented students, but without consistent effort, talent is not always realized in full. So much happens outside of normal class/practice time, from a coach working one-on-one at break to tech crew and cast coming in on weekends and staying after school. What I’ve also noticed is that the effort is not only placed on big things, but also on little things such as where to stand on defense or on stage and reflecting on how to respond when a mistake is made. The effort and attention to little details often can be the difference between good and great performances!
2) Contagious positive energy: I am a big believer that energy is contagious, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Having members of the group that are relentlessly positive and a coach/teacher who constantly expresses belief in what the group can accomplish is powerful. It allows them to survive setbacks and move forward. Whenever I see a team huddle or walk by the drama crew’s pre-show pump-up ritual, the positive energy is palpable (and usually loud!). Furthermore, it carries on to the start of the performance.
3) Trust: An environment of trust at any level is so critical, whether it is on the floor or on stage. However, at the middle school level, it’s even more important. It's incumbent on the teacher and coach to get buy-in, and that requires honoring and trusting student voice. It also requires creating a culture where everyone understands that their success is reliant on the success of the others in the group. When someone stumbles on lines or struggles to shoot the ball, sticking with them and continuing to believe in them nurtures a trust that strengthens a group in powerful ways. I’ve seen so many examples this year of students helping one another with a line or continuing to pass to an open teammate, and it ultimately pays off down the line. Looking back on the musical, clearly there was a safe and trusting environment created by Mr. Lemire in his drama classes to engage in dialogue around bias, stereotypes and differences, which we saw play out on stage so masterfully.
4) The Presence and Overcoming of Obstacles and Conflict, Not the Absence of Them: All groups go through a series of highs and lows. It is a natural and inevitable part of the process. This winter we had a rash of injuries and sickness that took its toll on teams and the cast. Differences in opinion also factored in, and at times, the group didn't hit the bar on an individual day. However, the growth continued to happen each day. Individuals on the teams and cast not only had to take care of themselves and persevere, but they also had to look out for one another. Often, it is the overcoming of these obstacles that ultimately most helps groups come together faster and more tightly in positive ways.
The impact of the confluence of these factors is unmistakable. It builds enduring connections between students that last beyond the days of St. Anne’s. How else could you explain the number of alumni who come back to watch the play each trimester? Yes, they want to see an awesome show, but it also brings them back to a space where they accomplished something wonderful together. The memories that they form together after putting in time together, trusting one another, and overcoming obstacles are impossible to forget.
December 21, 2017
Creak. Thud, thud, thud.
“Abby, wake up!” Henry said excitedly.
I opened my sleepy eyes just enough to see out of and flinched a little. Henry was so close to my face I could count his eyelashes.
“What do you want?” I asked him sleepily, still not fully awake.
“It’s Christmas, come on!” He responded, a hint of desperation in his voice.
I checked my bedside clock. It read in large, red letters, 6:30 a.m.
“Henry, are you crazy?” I asked, “It’s 6:30!”
Finally, he yanked me out of bed, throwing the warm sheets off of me.
I timidly pushed open my door and looked around.The hallway was quiet, and shadows of furniture fell across the wooden floor in the sitting room. A faint whir could be heard from the heating unit. Outside, I could see snow falling slowly, twisting and twirling like beautiful ballerinas. As we rounded the corner of the hall, I felt my stomach flutter with excitement. Christmas was here!
Finally, we found what we were looking for. Nestled under the tree and piled by the fireplace, on chairs and the coffee table, were presents of all shapes and sizes. Packages with glossy wrapping paper, delicate bows, their silky folds tied into perfect knots, shiny tins promising delicious treats, stiff bags decorated with Christmas trees, fairy lights, and Santa hats, and finally, four knit stockings bulging with tiny treasures.
I looked at Henry. A smile crept across his face, making the edges of his mouth crinkle a little. As I stood, I realized how lucky I was to be there, snow falling outside, a warm house to live in, and presents of all kinds in front of me.
December 12, 2017
The Season for Giving
The Lower School has been awhirl with gift giving this season. We started with all-school projects like the canned food drive and mitten collection and then most of the grade levels had their own special projects during this time of year.
Kindergarten students exercised their new writing skills by sending letters to the servicemen and women overseas. What could be more fun in a far away place away from home than receiving an individual letter in invented spelling from a five year old with a kind message!
First grade stayed closer to home and sent Angel Letters to their first grade friends. The sentiments were very thoughtful and reflective of the individual students. What gift could be better than knowing that someone else appreciates who you are!
Second grade has had a flurry of projects. In November and December they decorated lunch bags for Meals on Wheels and stuffed socks with toiletries and goodies for homeless teenagers.
The Christmas trees in their classrooms were hand decorated by the students and will be donated to two needy families. Throughout the rest of the year classes will take turns visiting the Clermont Park Assisted Living Community once a month. Our community is certainly brightened by second grade kindness!
Third Grade participates in the Jared Project. Students pack up boxes full of games, toys and other exciting items for children of various ages who must spend the holidays in the hospital. These gifts send messages of joy and add some happiness to what could otherwise be a "less than fun" experience.
Fifth Grade has been busy over several months with their readathon; collecting money from sponsors to go to books for 1st and 2nd grade students at Bishop Elementary. With their efforts many of the Bishop students will be able to take home their own books to read over the holidays. We certainly know how important it is to all students to be able to practice those early reading skills in order to be proficient readers! I am sure that they appreciate all of our fifth graders for their gift of literacy.
Last, but not least, some of our fifth graders in the Changemakers Club have been collecting new socks and gently used shoes for the homeless. In 2016 we gave over 300 shoes to Clothes to Kids, a local charity. This year the goal is 400 or more. They are collecting new socks for Sock It to 'Em, another local charity that supplies thousands of socks yearly to homeless children and adults. Changemakers is also making what they call Gallons of Love. These are handmade packages with a bottle of water, a food bar, hand warmers and a note. They keep them in their cars and hand them out to people asking for help. These are the projects Changemakers are involved in for the season, but they sponsor many other projects throughout the year.
As you can see, we take every opportunity to encourage our students to give of themselves to others now and throughout the year. All of us in the Lower School would like to thank you for the irreplaceable gift you give us everyday; the opportunity to work with your precious children. What they do and who they are fills our hearts with joy on a daily basis. Have a very happy holiday filled with special times that stay etched in memories. Sincerely, Dr. T.
December 10, 2017
As two players on the St. Anne’s basketball team that played during halftime of the Denver University Basketball game on December 5, we wanted to share a recap of the St. Anne’s Night event. Before the game started, the Denver University coaches gave us a tour of the locker room. We learned a lot about athletics at the college and got to see the cool facilities. A couple of minutes before the game started, the St Anne’s Middle School Choir came onto the court and sang the national anthem! They sounded really good and had practiced a lot on that really difficult song! Five minutes before halftime a Denver University staff member came and brought us courtside. When the first half was over, we took the court and began to play five on five on the actual court! We were nervous, but when the game started, it all went away. The team made quite a few baskets for the time we were given. It was really exciting when we made two three point baskets. I think that we put on a good show for everyone in the crowd. It was tiring running up and down the extra long court tons of times, but it was also lots of fun.
We really enjoyed this experience! It was so cool to be on the same court that Division 1 teams play on. Plus Denver University ended up winning the game against San Jose State. Overall it was very fun, and we hope future grades can do this too!
November 8, 2017
STAMP, which stands for Students Taking Action and Making Progress, was a conference this year in Denver, at the History of Colorado Center. The leadership conference was run by high school students, and the conference was for middle schoolers. The conference aimed for creating inclusivity in schools and leadership skills. This year, in 2017, STAMP had close to 200 middle school students at their conference, and they had students from private, public, and charter schools. St. Anne’s had 13 7th and 8th grade students attending this year. STAMP also features a different keynote speaker every year, and this year’s was Stephen Brackett, a musician, motivational speaker, and activist. Each student that attended could choose two workshops prior to the conference, and those workshops were all interesting and provided all different types of discussions and advice. Finally, the keynote speaker from last year, hip-hop artist and activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, made a surprise appearance. He’s a teenager and indigenous activist, as well as a director for a climate change organization. At the end, Xiuhtezcatl performed two songs about both current events and political news.
There were a lot of different workshops for us to choose from that focused on a variety of topics. One workshop was on confidence and self esteem around body image. A key takeaway was that you don’t have to be or look like what others expect of you. Just be your own self and take pride in being different. Another workshop was on standing up for yourself and how to get your point across. We need to not get caught up in stereotypes. A third workshop some of our St. Anne’s middle schoolers went to was on understanding how different people have different perspectives on the same situation. Important to honor different perspectives because it helps our society when we take them all into account.
This conference was a really great way to meet new kids from new schools and make new friends.You always felt included! There was always someone to talk to all day. Another wonderful benefit was that you learned how to handle a variety of different situations that happen so often in life. I think that since the conference was run by high schoolers it helped us understand more because we are so close in age. Plus they have been through many of the experiences that we encounter on a day-to-day basis.Overall, we really enjoyed going and are hopeful to go again next year!
By Abby, Bella and Adie-Morgan
November 3, 2017
For every middle school student, there are myriad experiences ahead for them both in school and out of school that will be new and push them out of their comfort zone. From going downtown to the Soup Kitchen, to working with a group of people at the Memory Care Center, to selling Holiday Greens for their 8th grade DC trip, these new experiences provide different levels of challenge for our students. The importance of cultivating risk-taking and courage to be successful in these situations seems to be frequently highlighted, but another critical key is the quality of the framing that occurs prior to that experience.
What do I mean by framing? Framing is the scaffolding you provide prior to an experience to set a student up for success. A good frame provides basic information about where, what, who and why. Though I prefer to have more time, I’ve found that even a few minutes of discussion, highlighting of key information, and listening to questions from them can make a radical difference for my students.
Framing an experience is so important when working with young people because it provides a focus amidst what can be a new environment with a lot of new faces, surroundings, stimuli and feelings. As adults who are often providing the frame, we can sometimes forget what it was like to NOT know and to go through something for the first time. As a result, things we think will be challenging for our kids might not be, while things we don’t anticipate to be challenging become real sticking points. When we provide a frame and give a space for asking questions that are actually on the mind of our kids, we can help alleviate stress and anxiety that is often unnecessary but that exists nonetheless. We can help prevent them from getting stuck on certain aspects that make truly immersing themselves in the experience more challenging. Prior to going to the soup kitchen for the first time this year, we shared with kids information about what soup kitchens were and the population they serve. We told them what jobs they might hold, how long it would be, and why we give up time in our school day to participate in this program. However, we also shed light on questions that middle schoolers would be worried about like what they would do for their own lunch since they leave during middle school lunch hour. This, coupled with stressing that our time was about focusing on the people we serve and not on one another or who gets to hand out the dessert, really set the table for the experience.
This afternoon, we had a group of ten 8th graders who chose to give up part of their lunch hour and all of their study hall time to spend time with autistic students from the Joshua House as part of a socialization program to help their kids get ready to enter a more traditional school environment. Our kids were patient, enthusiastic, positive and very supportive. They deserve kudos for stepping out of their comfort zone and showing courage in this new situation. However, I also know that having faculty from the Joshua House come over twice to share insights about autism, help them gain empathy, show pictures of the kids they would be working with, talk about tips and the kinds of activities we would be doing, and answer questions our students had, played a huge role in the success and enjoyment of the experience.
So, the next time you have the opportunity to frame an experience, here are a few additional suggestions:
1) Find the balance between sharing enough info to give them a frame without getting so granular that the focus gets lost.
2) Be sure to ask them what questions they might have after you share some details. Don’t be surprised though if they ask a question that seems less than essential. It doesn’t mean they are not taking it seriously or are committed to it. Honoring what is on their mind and addressing it can ultimately help them better focus on what is important.
3) If you’ve got another child or a friend’s child who has been through a similar experience, have them share out their experience when appropriate. Whether we like it or not, hearing from another peer the exact same thing as what we would say as adults can prove more impactful. We use this model at school at times, bringing an 8th grader in to talk with sixth graders on a topic like responsible use of technology.
4)You don’t need to say, “Don’t be nervous.” New situations are bound to lead to nerves, and you can help lower them by honoring the feelings they may have. You can mention how you understand how they might be nervous, but that the value of what they are going to do/the difference they will make is worth that initial butterflies. Sharing a similar experience where you were nervous too but persevered and were grateful for having done so, also can be effective.
5) Follow up the experience with a reflection, feedback, and a pat on the back. Using the initial conversations about the frame as reflection points can really help shape growth and what they take away from the experience. It doesn’t have to be that day as often middle schoolers might not be ready to have processed it and will resist initial prying. Perhaps the next day over dinner!
I’ve found over the years of working with middle schoolers that they are so capable of reaching the bar, even when it is set quite high. We must not underestimate them, but we must also provide the framing so that they are well-positioned to get the most out of their experiences. Simply saying, “Be on your best behavior,” or “Do you best” does not provide the information they often need to be successful. We cannot only place expectations on our kids. We must scaffold their learning as well.
October 9, 2017
What could be more fun than fourth and fifth graders enjoying a variety of activities in the out of doors! Groups participated in rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking and a group challenge called the Spider Web. Hear about their adventures in their own words.
Kayaking by Janie McGawn
Splish splash my shorts were soaked already and we had just gotten on the water. I knew the surprise we were in for. It was slightly breezy and at first I thought for sure I was jumping in. But now that I felt the water, I wasn't so sure. We were in kayaks and the surprise, I knew from past experience with Avid, was piano keys. We rafted up and I waited and waited for my turn. Finally, it was my turn. I would be the only one to run in my group so I got up and out of my kayak and sprinted across. On my third step I slipped, and fell in. Although it wasn't as cold as I had
expected, it was freezing! As soon as I hit the water, I scrambled into the closest kayak, ran back across, jumped back in, and went back to shore!
Field trip to Bear Creek by Gabriella Brower
It was a super fun day. We did rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking. I was good at the rock climbing, but when I tried doing it blindfolded with my legs tied together, it did not go well. We were the fastest group to make a square in canoeing. So we got to explore the lake. The counselor said five minutes, but we only got two. We called ourselves the Fat Assassins. We would also slap our bellies. Whenever our instructor said, "fat," we would say, "assassins." People also tried bottle flipping of the rock climbing wall. Nobody made it, but it was a good day!!!!!
Avid Was Very Fun by Tate Ritacco
I had a very fun time at Avid. I did the spider web. The spider web was where they tied ropes together up against three posts. There were slots. You and your team had to go through one slot each and, if you touched one rope you and your team had to start over. Finally, we went rock climbing. It took me a few tried to get to the top. My counselor really encouraged me to get to the top and, finally, I did it.
Avid 4 by Brooks Wiley
I loved Avid 4 because my guide was really nice to us. It was also fun because Mr. Bredar fell in into the lake running across the kayaks. Canoeing was great because we did a scene from "Pirates of the Carribean."
Avid for Adventure 5th Grade 2017
by Lucy Nadolink
This year I had a great time at Bear Creek Lake Park. We did team building, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing. I love the rock wall! I especially loved rappelling down it. It felt almost like you were flying as the thing gently lowered you down as you pushed off the rock wall. I pretended that I was a different thing each time. One time I was a bird and I flew down. Another time I was an eagle. Finally, I was Superman (which I crashed into the rock wall doing). Canoeing was also really fun. The couselor said our group did all the challenges in record time. We even played sharks and minnows in our kayaks. I loved our counselor, Cyrus. He was really funny and super nice and helpful. I had a really great time. I hope we can go next year.
"The Accidental Fall" by Ryan DiTanna
“Okay everybody, you can get into the kayaks now,” the counselor said. Everyone rushed to the kayaks and got in. Everyone started to paddle off and follow the counselor. “This is gonna be fun!” I say. We paddled for about five minutes and lined up side by side in the kayaks. The counselor told everyone how to turn and stuff like that. “Can we play piano keys?” I ask. Piano keys is where we all line up side by side. One person gets out of the kayak and crawls, walks, or runs across the kayaks. “Well if we're gonna do that then we should move more toward the middle of the lake.” he says. The majority wanted to play, so we paddled toward the middle of the lake. “Now everyone, the water is really cold.” my counselor says. “So if I were you, I wouldn't jump in.” “Okay,” we all said in despair. But I thought to myself, “This is the last time my grade is gonna come here so might as well just jump in.” “Okay, who wants to go first?” she asked. I slowly raised my hand “Okay, how about Ryan?” “Okay,” I replied. I slowly got out of my seat. The kayaks were pretty wobbly so at first I walked but then I ran across them. But at the end when I was turning around I pretended like I fell in. “Whoa, Whoa!” I exclaim. I fall “accidentally” into the water! Wow that water was cold. I swam as fast as I possibly could back to the kayaks. “Is it cold?” everyone was asking me. “Duh” I say. “Its freezing!” “Alright who's next?” the counselor said. “I will,” Julia said. She made it to the end but she actually fell in not “accidentally.” A bunch of other people went but the only other that fell in was Katherine. Ward was next. He made it all the way to me and Julia's kayaks. He was stepping from my kayak to Julia's when she suddenly pushed off my kayak! Ward was slowly going down into the splits! Five seconds later he was doing the complete splits. He tried to jump to my kayak but the bottom half of him got soaking wet. I was laughing so hard I was pretty much crying it was so funny. That was definitely the funnest thing I did all day.
October 6, 2017
As the world of technology expands and becomes more and more accessible by everyone, we find it to be more and more important to have open conversations on how to manage everything that goes along with it. What device is right for you? What computer is right for your children? When is it appropriate to use a device? These are just some questions that we ask ourselves. One question or topic that comes up in conversations quite often is about ways to monitor, protect and keep children safe while using the Internet. We put together the following findings from our research on this topic. If you have additional resources that should be shared, or if you have found success using any of the monitoring and blocking parental controls listed below, please let us know. In addition, we will continue to BLOG on topics of interest to you, so be sure to email us with suggestions on other topics.
Technology at Home – 10 Considerations
1. Define your family’s Technology Principles – What are the main reasons we want to have balance in our lives regarding screen time and other activities?
2. Talk weekly with your children about their technology use.
3. Designate device-free family time.
4. Schedule device-free social activities such as sports, lessons, and volunteering.
5. Consider taking devices out of the bedroom during sleeping hours.
6. Create a screen time or media contract. (See resources below.)
7. Be an educated parent. (See organizations below.)
8. Stay abreast of the latest trends through email newsletters. (See recommendations below.)
9. Share and connect with other parents.
10. Deploy monitoring and blocking strategies in your household. (See resources below.)
Screen Time Contracts
Common Sense Media - Empowers parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.
Family Online Safety Institute - International, non-profit organization that works to make the online world safer for kids and their families.
Psychology Today's Parenting in a Digital Age - This blog explores how parents and children might live together meaningfully in a digital age.
Richard Freed, Ph.D. - Child and adolescent psychologist, speaker and author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age.
Safe Smart Social – Monthly social media tips and updates
Screenagers Tech Talk Tuesdays – Tuesday emails with conversation starters about social media, research, tech tips and much more to incite a dynamic conversation with your kids
Common Sense Media - Age-based movie reviews, app recommendations, and more
Monitoring and Blocking
ARTICLE: Everything You Need to Know About Parental Controls – Great overview of how it all works
Microsoft Family Safety – Block sites, set time limits, and see activity reports
Circle with Disney - Filter content, limit screen time and set a bedtime for every device in the home
OurPact - Mobile guidance for your family, available for iOS and Android
Screen Time - Parental controls for iOS, Android and Kindle devices
Curbi - Parental controls for Android and Apple mobile devices
ParentKit - Control and schedule what is on your child's iPod, iPad or iPhone
NetSanity - Parental controls for iOS
FamilyTime - Parental controls for iOS and Android
Net Nanny - Parental controls for Android and iOS
Mobile Fence - Parental controls and GPS tracking for Android devices
Verizon Family Base - Monitor wireless activity and set usage limits
AT&T Parental Controls - Manage internet and email activity on computers
T-Mobile Family Allowances - Manage minutes, messages and downloads on phones
St. Anne’s Technology Department
August 27, 2017
Read Middle School Head, Sumant Bhat's latest blog.
May 2, 2017
At St. Anne's we currently have Macbooks, iMacs, Chromebooks, and iPads. We often get asked the question: What is the difference between a Macbook and a Chromebook?
A Chromebook is a laptop that runs Google's Chrome OS while a Macbook runs the Mac OS X operating system. Chromebooks are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud. As a result, Chromebooks don't have a lot of onboard storage, and they cost between $150-$350. Macbooks have faster processors, better screen graphics, more memory, and can do more complex tasks like video editing. The cost of a Macbook is between $1,000-$2,000. The lifespan of a Chromebook is estimated to be around three years while the lifespan of a Macbook averages around six years. A Chromebook only allows the user to use the Chrome browser while multiple browsers can be used on a Macbook, such as Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.
Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children
Technology should work for you and work within your family values and parenting style. When technology is used thoughtfully and appropriately, it can enhance daily life. But when used inappropriately or without thought, technology can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime, and sleep.
3 Places Families Should Make Phone Free - This article is about how technology can interrupt our most treasured family moments. Sure, our devices keep us connected, informed, and engaged. However, meals, bedtime, and even time in the car are the three times when we need to just say no to using devices. Click here to read the article.
April 20, 2017
Last week at Founders’ Day, the whole school gathered in the amphitheater for the bell to be rung sixty-six times, one for every year of the school’s existence. Prior to that moment, Mr. Smiley asked that we all take a time to pause and reflect on our year. Like me, many of you likely feel that reflecting is a practice we do not do nearly enough as we should or would like to do.
As an educator, I believe that cultivating a spirit and habit of reflection in our students is critical to both their academic and personal growth, but also to the nurturing of healthy decision-making skills. Through reflection, students can learn causality between choices they make and the outcomes.
In the classroom, at different points of the year (e.g., the mid-trimester or trimester), after projects, and prior to tests, teachers and advisors often engage in reflective conversations with students. Asking students what study habits they will try or have tried, or what they could have done differently in class discussions, is intended to help nurture metacognitive skills. Recognizing actions that led to success or identifying ones that did not lead to success can help shape future behavior.
Outside of the classroom, being reflective is equally as important, particularly around technology. Frequent meetings and discussions in middle school on digital citizenship are focused on building a habit of reflective self-questioning prior to hitting send. Always asking Is it kind? Is it necessary? or How will this impact others? can lead to better decision-making on devices. Twenty years ago, adolescents had the luxury of time and countless opportunities to reflect on a poor decision because of how long it would have taken to take a picture on a camera, develop the film and then put it in the mail. Having time to consider the feelings of others and alternative actions was enough to deter a poor instinct. For better and worse, today our world provides our raw emotions and thoughts instantaneous access to an infinite audience for all our tweets, photos and posts.
As adults who are eager to support our kids in becoming more reflective, there are several tools we can employ to counter natural walls or reluctance we get from them. Active listening and holding off problem-solving for them allows kids to talk through their challenge, reflect, and often come up with a solution on their own. Teasing out a student’s intention and then helping that person understand the impact on others and oneself is another powerful approach. Another practice I like to use is asking students to use a numerical scale to quantify feelings like frustration, fatigue, or pain that they felt prior to making a decision. Not only does it give the listener some context, but it also helps the individual have comparison points for the future to put things into perspective. Finally, finding time to identify alternative choices and pondering possible outcomes of those actions can help broaden the kids' minds to a multitude of choices they have in the event they find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
As a middle school, we hope that encouraging reflection provides students a pathway to build scholarship and good habits that will serve them well beyond our walls. Being reflective is also necessary for our kids to overcome the pressures of peers egging one another on while gathered around a device, or the perceived expectations of being active and current in social media. However, just as using a stress ball only in times of crisis proves less than effective, we must practice reflection routinely and on a daily basis. Only then will we be equipped to be reflective when we need it.
March 13, 2017
Two weeks ago, I was in Baltimore presenting at the National Association of Independent Schools Conference on the topic of “Making Your Core Values Visible.” It was a great opportunity to share so many of the ways St. Anne’s makes a concerted effort to holistically inculcate many values, including respect, kindness, integrity, perseverance and honesty, through programming, curriculum and teachable moments.
One part of our approach includes proactively promoting values and finding opportunities to practice them consistently through experiences such as outreach, writing appreciations to staff and one another, and working with younger students through our buddy program. Daily practice of values builds muscle memory that fosters St. Anne’s graduates who are empathic and kind citizens that enrich their next communities. For those that have not read it, I would highly recommend the book Unselfie which amongst other things, speaks to the many ways we can help nurture empathic kids through daily practice.
Perhaps the strength of our approach, though, lies in a community of teachers, advisors, staff, trip leaders and coaches who are all committed to talking about core values in every aspect of school life. Respect isn’t something that should be limited to advisory or a character education class. It is an essential part of the education that happens on trips, such as the 6th grade end of year trip to St. Anne’s in the Hills, where Mr. Bird teaches respect through trail etiquette, not disturbing nature and leaving places better than when you arrived. Watch a basketball game coached by Ms. Jordan or Mr. Amend and you’ll not only hear an emphasis on defensive schemes, but also lessons on playing with sportsmanship and treating the other team with the respect they deserve. Even in the dining hall you’ll see our staff, led by Ms. Jones, reminding students to say “please” and “thank you.” At school, at home, or over spring break, we always have opportunities to have conversations with our kids about values, helping build their understanding of these lofty terms through practice and discussion.
Regardless of where the conversations happen, as adults I believe we must be mindful of the way in which we have those conversations. A major tenet of my presentation to other educators was that we must not rely solely on a list of “Do not do’s” to guide and grow adolescent behavior. After all, it is impossible to remind and direct kids of every single thing they should not do. And when we tell them to not do something without proper rationalization and context, the reality is we have merely piqued curiosity of the developing adolescent brain. None of us wants to raise kids who are going through life worrying about all the possible missteps they can make. So, we must cultivate an understanding of values so that our kids may use them as a road map to navigate the many new situations that await them in the world.
There’s no question that it is much easier to teach from successful demonstrations of values. But when you have a school that brings together over 400 children in the same space for eight hours each day (or a home with one or more kids in your family), the reality is there are going to be instances when our kids fall short of embodying those values. While we must enforce boundaries, we must also view these instances as invitations to discuss our core values. “Inappropriate uses of technology” is listed in our handbook as a violation of our student expectations, but when a student makes that mistake, how do we help them understand why it is written in our handbook? Empathy and our core values provide the key.
There are several tools that our faculty use frequently in our conversations with our students that help shift the focus from a “don’t do that,” to an opportunity to construct meaning and understanding of values. The first is the use of intention versus impact. Asking a child about what their intention was or to share what factors motivated their choice accomplishes several things, the most important of which is the deferring of judgment and opening a channel for dialogue. Second, whether the response is “I was trying to express that I was mad at them,”, “I was trying to raise my grade,” or “I was looking for attention from my friends,” it leads to an opportunity for us to help them make a connection between their choice and the values that the choice might not live up to, whether it was kindness or honesty. It also can sometimes provide us a window into feelings and emotions the child is really experiencing. Finally, it tees up a couple of natural follow-up questions: “What do you think the impact of your choice was on your peer/friend/teacher/you?” In most cases, there’s also an opportunity to shine light on how others not considered might be impacted. Considering the impact on others nurtures empathy and helps them realize how their choices impact more than themselves. “What is an alternative choice you could have made that might have addressed what you were feeling and would be respectful/kind/honest?” Asking this question helps students understand that there is almost always more than one option. Considering the likely outcomes of those alternative options can also provide good conversation and a chance to correct misconceptions and coach good decision-making.
Embedded in all of this dialogue is the notion of separating the child from the choice. Rather than saying “you’re a bad kid,” saying that they made a bad choice reminds the that they had control over their decision and that you see they make lots of other choices every day that are good ones. This kind of phrasing supports a growth mindset where a student can make progress other than a fixed mindset of being incapable of making good choices because they are a bad kid. Our children need to know that we believe in their capacity to be good.
All of these tools require patience, empathy and time, precious resources which, I realize, are not always available to us on a given day. At the same time, our kids are receiving inconsistent messages from media, the internet, and even travel sports teams, amongst other places, which demand that we spend time talking about values.
While there is certainly a space and need to be brief and direct with kids about what is and is not appropriate behavior, finding the balance is necessary, as is keeping perspective. It is important for our own health that we remember that, despite our modeling, efforts and reminders, adolescents will learn from making both good and bad choices at different points in their lives, just as we have done. They will also ask questions, push boundaries and challenge us. Values, after all, are ideas we wrestle with still today as adults, and there are definitely circumstances when two important values may come up against one another, such as being kind versus being respectful. Expecting our kids to be masters at this right away is unreasonable, but it is worth our time. Being thoughtful about how we have conversations with our kids not only can help build trust and empathy, but it also provides a means to teach the values we hold dear and hope to pass on to them.
February 2, 2017
Digital Citizenship is a major topic in the St. Anne’s Technology curriculum. The overall goal of this part of the curriculum is to educate the students about the basics of going online and to help them to become safe, responsible, and respectful digital citizens.
Digital media and technology are evolving at a dizzying pace, bringing with them extraordinary opportunities as well as real risks for our students. On the positive side, students are using the immense power of the Internet and mobile technology to explore, learn, connect, and create in ways never before imagined. On the negative side, harmful behaviors aided by digital technology, from cyberbullying to copying online materials without citations, are surfacing in schools and in homes across the country.
At St. Anne’s the students learn about their connections to others through the Internet and to think critically about how they treat others given this great responsibility. The topics the students are introduced to are:
Digital Life: Students in grades 1-4 learn that the Internet is like a neighborhood. They reflect on their responsibilities to this community and to the community members, both online and offline. They also learn the importance of being a good digital citizen and how to be safe on the Internet. We discuss always asking for permission before using a computer or going on the Internet, only talking or sending messages to people they know, and only going to websites that are appropriate for kids their age.
Students in grades 5-8 learn the importance of having a positive digital footprint, how to find a balance between technology and unplugged time, and how to maintain appropriate boundaries so devices do not impact sleep or relationships.
Connected Culture: Students in grades 5-8 discuss what happens when children gang up on one another online and what to do if they experience cyberbullying. Group messaging is covered in grades 6-8.
Digital Communication: Students in grades 5-8 learn how to communicate effectively using online tools by thinking before they post (considering permanence, unintended audience, and replicability). MS students in grades 6-8 use social media apps like Edmodo to let students use social networks in their classes and learn by doing. They also discuss the right medium to communicate/resolve conflicts and what kinds of conversations are better had in person than via text or social media.
Digital Etiquette: Students in grades 6-8 discuss the concept of oversharing and what kinds of posts are considered too personal, bragging, or trolling (making a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them).
Respecting Creative Work: Students in grades 3-8 learn about the basic concepts of copyright and how to create online citations. The issue of plagiarism is framed as a matter of respect.
The curriculum emphasizes a balanced approach and celebrates the positive aspects of digital life while teaching students to avoid its potential threats. The Digital Citizenship curriculum is rooted in a model of ethical thinking that starts with the self and moves outward to encompass the entire community. Through hands-on activities, role-playing, and classroom discussion, the students are asked to reflect on how their digital and online behaviors affect themselves, their friends and family, and the communities of which they are a part.
February 2, 2017
Digital Citizenship is a major topic in the St. Anne’s Technology curriculum. The overall goal of this part of the curriculum is to educate the students about the basics of going online and to help them to become safe, responsible, and respectful digital citizens.
Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children
- Pause: take a moment and remember to breathe... children make mistakes.
- Open-minded: keep a dialogue going; try to see all sides of the issue.
- Information collection: take time to collect all relevant information before reacting.
- Seek that teachable moment: use their mistake as a teachable moment.
- Empower kids through education: they can’t become responsible without having responsibility.
December 9, 2016
Lower School Outreach
by Deena Tarleton
Although there are projects all year long, several Lower School grade levels are taking the opportunity to reach out to others at this time of the year. Beginning with Veterans Day, second graders made packages of candy and wrote special notes to soldiers overseas. This also gave them the opportunity to talk to grandparents and relatives that were veterans about what it was like to sacrifice so much for their country. Many of those experiences were reflected in the kids’ writing that week. Currently, second graders are decorating a Christmas tree for their classroom with ornaments made by hand. On the 16th this tree will be donated to a needy family that might otherwise go without a tree this Christmas.
As usual the school wide can drive was very successful. Some of the preschool and kindergarten children built up their upper body strength dragging in sackfuls of cans and other nonperishables for the food bank. The food bank workers always bring extra barrels to collect the St. Anne’s contributions.
At the end of December third graders will be making craft projects to contribute to nearby shelters. In the past we have seen sleds and reindeer made from toiletries or other useful products. What a great way to express their creativity and do something kind for someone else!
Fourth graders fill Christmas stockings with items appropriate for boys, girls or adults. Every year the stockings make the holidays a little more special for families at Warren Village. They also walk to Christ Church and sing some carols with some of the older members of the congregation.
As a part of their participation in the new Changemakers Club sponsored by Kelsey Smith and Stephanie Bakken, several girls from 5th grade initiated a Shoe Drive for the organization, Clothes to Kids. They had been inspired by a presentation from that group and leaped to action by initiating a school-wide shoe drive for children in need. The response has been very gratifying. The girls were so excited that so many “like new” shoes that have been outgrown and were sitting in closets are now on their way to children who greatly appreciate and need them.
One of the many things that makes St. Anne’s such an unusual and special place is the excitement all of our students feel when they are a part of helping others. These projects are happening currently, but many others are a part of the experience of our children throughout the whole year.
December 2, 2016
If you went back in time and asked the middle school version of myself if he believed he was creative, he would probably have balked at the statement. No doubt he would respond that creativity was a gene he was not born with and a talent possessed by only those who were artistic. Fortunately, I’ve since learned otherwise and am always seeking ways to pay it forward as an educator, encouraging kids to see creativity as a process which everyone can tap into and access.
To cultivate creativity in adolescents or people of all ages though, there are often many obstacles. Many share the same perception I held as a kid that a creativity binary exists. People either are or are not creative. When generating ideas, there can be an instinctual desire to fixate on one solution and one right answer, rather than explore a wide ranger of possibilities. Social pressures and fears can lead to someone filtering their wild and crazy ideas, undermining a true creative process. A final hurdle is dispelling the notion that creativity is just a spontaneous, unpredictable and individual event, making it unreachable for can be generated through an intentional process.
Changing our thinking is not easy, but as I wrote last month, I believe fostering a growth mindset is an integral foundational piece for students to understand so they can learn to be creative, rather than requiring a specific gene to be creative. Flexible thinking can be cultivated in a variety of ways through exercises like the 30 Circles test or simply having to use a variety of everyday materials like buttons and pipecleaners to build prototypes.
Providing kids tools and an environment for how to brainstorm is also a vital skill in order to ensure that a proliferation of ideas is produced rather than a singular initial solution. Creating ground rules for those brainstorming sessions that defer judgment and encourage unique ideas is critical to overcoming the social fears of looking silly by saying what is on your mind. An important component to that environment is a patience and commitment to providing enough time for multiple ideas to come through as expressed in this fun video.
In the middle school innovations program, we do a combination of robotics and design thinking which offer a wide variety of skills that nurture creative and divergent thinking. However, both curricula also teach creativity as a process rather than a spontaneous event. A great example of this came last spring for our sixth graders. The school was in the early stages of exploring the possibility of creating an outdoor classroom for the preschool and kindergarten students. With the Head of School’s blessing, we set forth to dive into a design thinking project to generate some new ideas.
In the first stage of the design thinking process, our sixth graders spent time observing our youngest students play at recess.Then they had the opportunity to interview and ask questions of them and their teachers which provided empathy and insights about the needs and wants of the primary users of the outdoor classroom space. After a little bit of additional research, they brainstormed ideas to meet the needs and built model prototypes. On the final day of the process, we had our students share their prototypes and explain their ideas to the preschool teachers, maintenance staff, and several administrators.Having participated in this process at every stage including the final presentation, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and diverse ideas our kids came up with that reflected the ways our youngest students play. There was an empathy and understanding for those needs which is at the heart of the design process. Over the summer, we were able to share some of the ideas that students came up with the actual outdoor classroom designers. While certainly not all of their recommendations were implemented, when the final designs were made, there were elements that you could point to that appeared in some capacity in some of our students’ designs as well. This fall, when the beautiful outdoor classroom had been built, it was such a treat for those same kids to visit. Now seventh graders, they could see a space that did not exist before and that they had a hand in shaping, a powerful educational experience. Furthermore, they have been involved in changemaking, having a positive impact that would enrich the daily life of other students.
Though this specific design thinking process happened in innovations, the reality is that many of the design thinking elements occur throughout a kids’ days. It happens everywhere from drama students writing a script and considering the needs and wants of a set of characters, to students designing and executing a lesson plan to teach verbal irony to their classmates in English. There is no doubt that being content creators and having the opportunity to brainstorm ideas to meet a solution is a powerful experience, but perhaps even more valuable is the opportunity for students to cultivate empathy and thinking about the experience of others. It is the sum of these kinds of experiences that help our students be more comfortable and confident in the creative process in ways that I couldn't imagine when I was there age.
Here are the steps I took to help build these communities:
1. Remove the furniture. Before desks and chairs prohibited my students to move freely and pair up with a maximum number of different partners or groups. By speaking to various people during the class period, students can move outside their comfort zones and use different vocabulary to find out about each other's interests, thoughts, and experiences. Students write in composition books, on post-its, or on index cards while in the circle which allows for more sharing, and ultimately, growth.
2. Encourage silly games, touch, and movement. While silly games encourage students to take risks and see one another in a different light, they also provide an opportunity to take a necessary break from the intensity of an immersion experience while remaining in French. Touch pushes the students to challenge their comfort level, and movement keeps their minds sharp while encouraging other forms of communication. Acting out a vocabulary term is one of the three skills taught in the class to stay in the target language, along with drawing and circumlocution.
Creating a community that applauds mistakes, encourages students to laugh at themselves, and supports a safe risk-taking environment has pushed my students to embrace a growth mindset. They understand that in order to achieve their language proficiency goals, they have to get messy with the language, ask for help, develop a persistence for understanding, and figure out new strategies to communicate their thoughts and opinions. The class community is the safety net that supports each student in the process.
Thank you for your continued support. Merci beaucoup!
October 6, 2016
Throughout elementary and middle school, math came very easily to me, and I excelled in class. I relished how quickly I could compute answers, delighting in the speed with which I could complete my work. I ended up being accelerated into an Algebra II class in seventh grade where things changed, and the material got hard, fast. I found myself being challenged in ways I had not before in a class where others around me were still thriving. I remember being fearful of asking for help, questioning my abilities in math and beginning to dislike the subject matter. Math had always come easily, but not anymore. By sophomore year of high school, I had completed AP Statistics in less than stellar form and decided I was done taking math classes in high school or college.
A decade later in graduate school, I remember learning about the research of Carol Dweck around the notion of the growth mindset vs. the fixed mindset. For those unfamiliar with the idea of the growth mindset, I highly recommend this RSA Video by Dweck. In short, Dweck’s research finds that students who possess a fixed mindset, hold the belief that they are born with a set amount of an intellectual trait or talent and that’s that. Others hold a growth mindset where they believe that intelligence and talents can be grown by effort and learning. Looking back on my math experience, I immediately recognized in myself a fixed mindset that limited my growth.
The challenges with having a fixed mindset are many. In my case, I associated having to exert effort, asking for help, and struggling to understand a concept, as a sign that I was not good at math. I figured no one who was bright asked for help, so I didn’t. I did this in part because I was worried that others might think I was not smart. For many students, this misguided view of effort and concern about how they might look in the eyes of others are primary reasons they shy away from self-advocating when they need help from a teacher. The fixed mindset also causes students to “rule out” activities and interests because they view themselves as not having ability. Unfortunately this is it based on what is usually limited life experience and preconceived notions, shortchanging kids of opportunities for growth.
This fall in our before school meetings, our middle school faculty spent time as a group delving into the idea of the growth mindset and discussing how we might cultivate it in our students. Not surprisingly, many noted that we must first be sure to model it ourselves. Some ideas included sharing examples of perseverance in our own lives, embracing our own mistakes when they happen, and being willing to learn new things ourselves no matter how confident we were in our abilities, experience, or curriculum.
In advisory and middle school meetings, we’ve shared this idea with all of our students and teachers and explored examples of each mindset. Teachers have also followed up by having conversations in their own classes. We’re all working hard to correct kids when they say phrases like “I can’t do this…” by responding “You mean, you can’t do this yet.” This applies in all cases from a student trying to hit an overhand serve in volleyball over the net to nervous students ready to zipline or a challenging hike to a pesky math problem they can’t quite solve.
Our innovations curriculum in design thinking and robotics is also perfectly suited to cultivate a growth mindset where students learn about the iterative process and how to grow from setbacks. In the arts, it is with intention that we expose students to a trimester of art, music and drama for all three years, ensuring that they do not write themselves off too soon in an area without proper exposure.
In all classes, showcasing multiple approaches to success for a given problem or assignment helps promote an open mind.
With a mid-trimester now under our belts, goal setting can be explored through a new lens. In their reflection of the start of the year, students can look at mistakes and struggles not as a definition of them as individuals, but rather they become places for them to learn from and stretch themselves. Praising effort over intelligence and pointing to specific strategies and actions helps engender a connection between effort and success.
We are also making an effort to make it visible in our halls. The core value of perseverance you will find on our Middle School Constitution, a copy of which you’ll find in each room. A new display has been put up in the staircase proffering ways to change their mindset by changing what they say and how they respond to challenge. While we do not expect students to walk by, high five and instantly adopt a growth mindset when they see it, we do believe it helps in recalling all our conversations we’ve had. What’s on your walls is a good reflection of what you values I believe.
As parents, you can do several of the same things we’re trying to do as faculty. In particular, modeling a growth mindset and interest in tackling challenging endeavors, praising effort over intellect or talent, and encouraging reflection over the efforts that made students successful all are good measures to consider.
A growth mindset is not fostered overnight, but our hope is that our consistent efforts and conversations in a variety of places will help shape and re-shape our students’ mindsets so that they are poised to enjoy success and make the effort required to achieve it.
October 5, 2016
Our New Outdoor Classroom
By Deena Tarleton
If you have passed by the preschool classroom recently and found it empty, you might not find the kids in specials, but rather “working diligently” in our new outdoor classroom. This classroom is intended for all students, but preschool has launched it’s early use and developed their first play theme, CAMPING.
We consulted with experts from the Nature Explorer group and received recommendations for various areas. The water play center is a big hit. Students experiment with the flow of water as they fill the top areas and watch the water flow through aquaducts down to the “muddy” area. Often dams are improvised to check the flow. The play takes considerable cooperation and creative experimentation.
This is only one area. There is a center for art, for constructing with log and wood pieces, for gathering as a group, and we are in the process of developing others. Eventually there will be space for a small theater area with a grassy knoll for the audience. We are anticipating the creative poems and writing that may come from this idllyic place of contemplation. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
Next time you are on campus walk back behind the Preschool/Kindergarten playground and take a look. You might even wish that you were a kid again!
September 2, 2016
Self-Regulation in Preschool Children
St. Anne's Preschool is adding more strategies to their teaching this year to help their students develop self-regulation through play. Of course one condition for developing self-regulation is through regulation by adults and others. Children learn to follow rules and routines. Adults tell them what to do. Adults model appropriate interactions and problem solving strategies. Eventually, these behaviors become internalized. Children learn to follow directions from other peers. Because there is a bit more choice about doing this, this puts them a bit higher on the developmental continuum.Unfortunately, neither is sufficient to fully develop self-regulation. Kids also learn by helping others to understand the rules. Often this appears as tattling. It is easier for me to tell you what to do than to tell myself. I may appear a bit bossy, but I understand what to do and am “helping” others understand as well. Applying the rules to myself requires that I can overcome any negative feelings I may have about complying. This happens in the third stage of development.In the last stage of development, the child chooses to follow the norms because he/she knows how and wants to. Make-believe play designed into the thematic centers in preschool encourages self-regulation because children can act out roles and learn to comply with the rules established by the group in a safe environment.For example, if a kid chooses to play “cooking” in the playhouse and decides to bring in horses from another center and play outside of the “rules for kitchen” established by the group, members of the group may remind him/her that “that is not how you play cooking.” If he/she wants to continue to play with that group, he will have to follow the lead of others. This naturally occurs when children play and helps develop that third kind of self-regulation. At its best no adult intervention is necessary. In a make believe situation kids can practice self-regulation in a safe environment.When you come in as a parent volunteer, notice the situations that support the three stages of self-regulation:
- Being regulated by others
- Regulating others
They take lots of time and practice on a child’s part, but it is well worth the effort to set up a classroom so that children can play and have fun while we help them develop these important life skills. If you have time, take a look at this video about the Marshmallow Test and some of the implications for helping your child delay gratification and become self-regulated.
August 19, 2016
As many of you know, my wife and I recently started our adventure into parenthood with the arrival of Rowan Leigh Bhat on June 9th. In the months leading up to his birth, family and friends showered us with well wishes, but also invariably shared the phrase, “Your whole world is about to change.” And change it has. In the last eleven weeks, my definition of a good night’s sleep has certainly become different. My phone camera roll and social media posts have shifted from panoramic mountain summit shots to a montage of smiles and tummy time from our baby boy that quickly is threatening the storage capacity of my iCloud somehow.
However, of late, I’ve felt that a more accurate description of my experience post-birth of my son has been that my world has expanded rather than changed. After all, I’ve been put in new situations from middle of the night feedings to learning to navigate the airport while juggling considerably more luggage. I’ve added the title of “Parent,” though I have only begun to scratch the surface on that job description. My perspective and decision-making have expanded to consider the needs of the newest Bhat. I’ve gained new vulnerabilities and could never have guessed the pains I would experience when I had to be away from my son and wife for the first time for a week. My expanded world has brought with it expanded emotions and nerves, but also love and support from family and friends. It has also served as a good reminder of the experiences of our kids.
On Monday, 135 will walk (or perhaps storm) through the doors of the middle school on day one of the year only to discover their world is expanding as well. They will likely feel a similar amalgamation of feelings to the ones I described feeling earlier. For 6th graders, the physical space has grown as the previously rarely used middle school becomes home now, bringing with it their own locker space, a new set of teachers, and routines. Though not new, our 7’s worlds also grow in many ways. Whether it’s the time they spend at the soup kitchen throughout the year, first time experiences rafting on the Arkansas or camping at the Sand Dunes, the exposure to new opportunities will bring with it new discoveries about themselves that they never could have known. Eighth graders return to campus meanwhile to discover that the campus now expects them to steward the community, asking them to lead assemblies, teach character education classes to younger students, give tours to prospective families,and wrestle with complex issues around race and gender in their curriculum. Even our recent graduates can relate, heading off to a new community this fall with a larger network of classmates and opportunities to grow as individuals.
Broadening horizons is part of St. Anne’s mission. So as teachers and parents, how do we then support them as they navigate their expanding worlds that are filled with both opportunities and obstacles?
We can begin by acknowledging and supporting their need and desire for growing independence. While they will still follow us at times and seek approval, they increasingly crave the opportunity to be in front and the autonomy to make decisions that will lead to successes and failures. When we give them those opportunities, it sends the message we trust and believe in their maturing abilities.
This will mean, however, avoiding the urge to swoop in and rescue them at every problem or possible misstep, such as when they forget a homework assignment at home, wrestle with their digital lives, or experience conflict with a classmate. At times they will need to learn through experience that their actions have consequences both good and bad. When they come to us with problems, we can listen intently. We can lead with questions to clarify how they are feeling, what they feel their hurdles are, and then let them brainstorm solutions to their own problems. Considering possible impacts or outcomes of those decisions helps them think through their plans. Discussing a possible backup plan or agreeing to follow-up in a few days to revisit alternatives if that plan does not work helps cultivate an understanding of causality. This type of planning and reflection will nurture the independent decision-making they require when they are outside of our watch and will help them internalize the lessons they have learned.
Does this mean we cannot offer tips and insights? Of course not! But we should know that not all of the pearls of wisdom we impart will stick. My dad, a neonatologist, has undoubtedly experienced that with me as of late. Since the birth of Rowan, he has tried to offer me every possible best practice needed to raise a baby well. There’s no question I’ve found myself employing much of that advice, but there are days I have called him expressing confusion to which he has surely thought, “I’ve told him that before! Why doesn’t he remember?” My hunch is this will be the case for you at some point this year. Know that there is a lot going on in our children’s every day lives, and despite their efforts, they won’t always recall all of our advice.
Ten weeks with a baby does not an expert make, but I can say with certainty that successes and failures await me in parenthood. The same is true for your middle schooler as they explore their growing worlds this year. Being a good listener, providing opportunities for reflection on choices they make, and encouraging them all will help them gain the most growth. Thank you in advance for partnering with us each day, and here’s to the amazing growth that awaits them all.