March, Memories and our Microsite

Blog entry by Nancy Mugele – Head of School at Kent School

Seems like just a moment ago that we gathered in Atlanta for the NAIS Institute for New Heads. Many of us newly moved to unknown cities and relatively unknown school communities. 75 of us learned together, ate together, bowled together, and got overwhelmed together this past July. We left INH with the knowledge that we had forged lasting connections. We were excited, fulfilled, and ready to lead. 

Today, Room 307 at the NAIS AC at the Baltimore Convention Center was loud with the excitement of friends catching up, sharing successes and surprises, and breaking bread together, again. Laughingly, we said all of our instructors looked so youthful while we all looked a little weary. But, hey, it is already March and spring break is right around the corner.

We shared memories of our time together this summer reminding ourselves to be careful or “we may be the fur ball that gets coughed up.” (You had to be there.) We made fun of the microsite this summer yet now it seems to be our lifeline. We rely on its presence in our inbox to remind us of colleagues near and far who are experiencing the same things we are, and whose non-judgmental advice is needed and appreciated.

To my INH cohort – you inspire me. To our INH faculty – we are deeply grateful for your investment in us. Congrats to all of the new heads. We are all still standing!

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The Power of a Strong Sentence

We understand that the child is at the center of the learning process.

It is a succinct sentence that defines our purpose at Kent School. These words, in part describe how we live our mission each day. Our mission statement tells the outside world what our purpose is. The way we live our mission is the effect we have on each student every day.

We understand that the child is at the center of the learning process.

The words, deliberately chosen, illustrate our approach to the way we teach and learn at Kent School. “We” means every member of our employee group shares a belief in our work on behalf of our students. The choice for the word “child” reflects our understanding that Kent School students are children first which helps us create and maintain our joyful learning environment. Stating that the child is at the “center” of what we do means that their success is our ultimate goal. We are driven to do what is best for each child in the room. The phrase “learning process” demonstrates our belief that learning is a process. On a macro level we are moving children forward in their learning but it is a process. There may be speed bumps in the process but in the end those challenges only serve to strengthen the child’s learning.

In practice, we see so many examples of Kent School teachers putting the child at the center of the learning process. Drop in to the First Grade classroom and see Mrs. Plummer’s flexible seating arrangements that enables each child to engage in his or her work where they are most comfortable. Ask Mrs. Plummer, or better yet, ask one of her First Grade students about selecting a “good fit” book from their classroom library.  The children are choosing what they want to read rather than what Mrs. Plummer says they must read. That is child centered, not teacher centered.

Our teachers’ willingness to be flexible and collaborate enable our child centered approach. Just recently, Mrs. Kent wondered if our three year old students might benefit from having Physical Education class separately from our four year old students. She tried it and what a difference she saw. Our three year olds were more active, engaged and just having more fun. As a result, Mrs. Kent adjusted her schedule, adding another class period so three year old children and four year old children can have Physical  Ed. separately. That is child centered, certainly not teacher centered.

Examples of a child centered teaching approach are plentiful in Middle School. In Math for example, students are given frequent opportunities to reassess their understanding and mastery of concepts. Why would we simply give a test and accept a moderate (or worse) grade and move on to the next unit. Clearly that student has not mastered the material. Our goal is mastery not unit completion. Another compelling example of our student centered approach is our teachers’ and advisers’ commitment to work with and on behalf of each Eighth Grade student in their high school application process. Our teachers take the extra step of providing three letters of recommendation rather than the typical requirement of two. They work as a team to provide these Eighth Grade students with the tools to succeed in secondary school.

Throughout our students’ elementary and middle school years, our teachers and staff members are committed to true and thorough success for each student. True and thorough success looks different from child to child. We measure success through academic achievement, social well-being, the ability to self-advocate and successful navigation of the “learning process.”  Our students can find success in artistic opportunities and athletic opportunities. There are opportunities to speak persuasively and write creatively. Surely there are tests, quizzes, homework assignments and yes, speed bumps along the way. And through it all, we understand that the child is at the center of the learning process.

 

 

In Recess We Trust

December 16, 2016

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At Kent School recess is a part of every student’s day, every day. Research shows that recess is an important part of the day for elementary school age children. Of course, recess provides a break from class work and a time for children and teachers to get some fresh air and exercise. But recess is much more than that. The playground is where spontaneous games develop. Rules are created, changed and then thrown away.

Recess is where children overcome fears bit by bit, on their own. Conquering the monkey bars or reaching out to grasp the fire pole are real, personal triumphs. Recess can be about unbridled creativity. Just watch a child work intensely on the creation of a fairy house or stick fort using only what they can find around them.

During recess children start to learn some life skills they will surely need as adults. They learn to negotiate. Only four people can play four square at a time but six want to play. They figure out how to take turns every five minutes so everyone has a chance. They learn to compromise. If the line for tether ball is too long, they move on to something else.

Recess is about choices and patience and sometimes recess is about empathy. We have all seen a child feel left out of a game or be the last picked for a team. We are never more fulfilled than when another student steps in with a pat on the back or some words of simple encouragement. Those gestures, however small, move a child from exclusion to inclusion.

Recess is how we all learn that it is important to walk away from the desk, the work, the phone and just go have some fun for a little while. As we look forward to a few days off during this hectic holiday season give yourself some recess each day. Run, play, be unbridled in your creativity. Support others, choose empathy and inclusion and certainly your recess will be time well spent.

Read more about why recess matters in the following articles

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/12/why-kids-need-recess/505850/

http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/31/yay-for-recess-pediatricians-say-its-as-important-as-math-or-reading/

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=39

Recommended Reading for Winter Break

At Kent School we are committed to developing a child’s love of reading and writing. We think children should always be reading a book of their choice. If a child chooses a book and asks you to read to him or her, be flattered and enthusiastic about the opportunity to open their imagination and inspire curiosity. To guide you or your child, Kent School teachers and administrators have compiled a selection of titles for children of all ages and grade levels. Listed below are our top reading recommendations for the upcoming winter break. School may not be in session but that just means there is more time for READING!

Recommended Reading for Preschool through Grade 1

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell by Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by James Dean and Eric Litwin

 The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tommie de Paola

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

The Miracle Jar by Audrey Penn

Snowman at Night by Caralyn Buehner

Recommended Reading for Grade 1 through Grade 4

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Kringle by Tony Abbott

Recommended Reading for Grade 5 through Grade 8

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

Kringle by Tony Abbott

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle

Recommended Reading for Parents of Children from Preschool through Middle School

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlan

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Essential 55 by Ron Clark

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor