|My name plate from conference|
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Sunday, November 15, 2015
|Uke performance at All School Assembly|
|Graphic Design Activity Period|
|Zumba Activity Period|
Amidst all the programming and curriculum design aimed to provide choice, what should not be overlooked are the daily conversations and approach our faculty bring to working with middle schoolers daily. Regardless of the nature of the challenge, middle school students benefit from the opportunity to have autonomy and choice in working through it. This impacts the way we as adults engage students of this age to support them. Even though we might have the exact right answer, because middle school aged kids are craving independence, they may be resistant to embrace a strategy or suggestion from a parent or teacher. This is why when a student is struggling in a class, an advisor might ask, "Well what strategies have you tried already?" or "How do you think you could go about improving?" It may take more time to arrive at the same idea, but at least it was THEIR idea, and THEIR choice.
When it comes to the ability to self-advocate and come up with strategies to address challenges, students are developmentally in very different places. In those cases, it's often best to provide a few options and then let them pick. Not only does this still provide the opportunity for choice, but it also opens their mind to different possibilities which they can then generate the next time.
To really make this process effective, following up to cultivate self-reflection and help make the connection between a choice they made and the result that happened is essential. This is helpful regardless of whether their choice leads them to success or not. Often at the outset we will set up a "trial window" (e.g. two weeks) for them to pursue their approach and then set up a time to check in to evaluate the success. "It sounds like you're going to try looking up videos on Khan Academy when you are stuck. Let's plan to revisit in two weeks to see how it is going for you." This approach both gives them space and trust, but it also provides an opportunity or out to re-direct if it doesn't work. It's much easier to have a student go seek out a teacher willingly after they've discovered that going online to watch Khan Academy videos did not translate into increased success. Their receptiveness to other ideas than their own expands once they have had the opportunity to explore a choice they made.
A final piece that can help this process is to start with agreed values, boundaries or hoped for outcomes. Academically, agreeing upon an expectation for effort grades is a great place to begin rather than setting the expectation of getting all B's or A's for example. Perseverance is a core value at St. Anne's, so for a student who is looking to improve a grade, an advisor will encourage the kid to aim for a "2" on their effort grade. From there, a conversation on what the effort should look like, what choices the student can make on a daily basis and then setting up the trial window can ensue. This same approach works coaching when trying to decide about weekend activities. Agreeing upon boundaries or expectations and then revisiting them after allows for both reflection and support of their independence.
All students entering middle school need to work on self-advocacy and decision making. High school and college educators and parents say the same. No matter how old I get, my parents will likely say the same as well for me I am sure! This is partly because as we get older our world continues to expand. For kids this age, it happens more rapidly as they gain access to cars or friends who can drive in years to come. Students at a given age do vary developmentally and require subtle differences in their coaching. However, we must remember that their desire for more autonomy is also rooted in their desire to have us put trust in them. As adults, we cannot possibly be there all the time to hold them back or prevent them from failing. We can though provide opportunities to help shape their decision making and reflect on the consequences good and bad after the fact.
Monday, October 5, 2015
I have lost track of the number of times that I’ve heard people use the phrase “It takes a village…” as it pertains to nurturing student growth. The accuracy of this statement is absolutely true and part of the reason families choose St. Anne’s is because they know there is a real strength in the partnership between home and school. I hear regularly from parents about how impressed they are with the countless hats that faculty wear as advisors, teachers, coaches, trip leaders, dance chaperones and more.
|Mock interviews with faculty and staff|
|SAES faculty, staff and students climbing 14,000 ft mtns together!|
Friday, August 21, 2015
|Officially the Bhats|
|Henna at the Mehendi|
|On a horse for the Barat|
|Courtney & I at our Mehendi celebration|
Thursday, May 7, 2015
|Taking the plunge together as a group!|
Pushing Your Limits: "Step out of your comfort zone." Our students hear those words all the time from the adults in their world to the point that the phrase itself has become a veritable platitude. Last week, our students did not need to hear it because they were thrust in it at some point. For some, setting up their tent and camping outdoors was a challenge. For others, trying to summit the Colorado Sand Dunes or rafting the Arkansas proved to be a taxing or anxious task. Even sleeping in different beds and having different routines ended up being an important and significant stretch for many kids. Ultimately learning to recognize and be able to work through the feelings that arise when one arrives at the precipice of our comfort zone is an invaluable understanding to develop. From taking on a new job responsibility that you might not have experience in, to speaking in front of a crowd, throughout our life we find ourselves on that edge time and again. To be on this trip and see this growth first hand was both incredibly rewarding, but also inspiring.
|Solo journaling in peace and quiet|
In our debrief, most every student commented on how much more they heard and observed by having this time to reflect. There was a common theme of appreciation for this opportunity and how much faster it went by than they expected. While they might not be able to capture forty-five minutes at the base of a mountain with regularity, it's possible to sit outside free of distractions for even ten minutes in the pursuit of mindfulness.
Empathy: When you spend 24/7 with other people in small spaces like rafts, tents and bunk beds, you get to know one another in a different way. At some point we all show our vulnerability when we are exhausted, sunburned, nervous while running rapids for the first time or struggling to sleep in a new environment. Recognizing the impact of pushing buttons at this time and the value in being supportive and encouraging is an invaluable interpersonal understanding. It is no surprise that students gain greater appreciation for one another and that new friendships get cultivated on these trips.
Having led plenty of experiential education trips in the past, I know that these experiences have galvanizing effects on groups. This past week was no exception and our kids really deserve a lot of credit for their willingness to engage fully in all the activities and be so positive to one another. But a big kudos also needs to go to the remarkable team of chaperones. As is the case with all SAES faculty who go on trips to St. Anne's in the Hills, DC, Winter Park and more, this group brought positive encouragement, a willingness to seize teachable moments on the river or around the campfire, and a unique understanding of each of our kids. The result was learning and growth that are enduring and a lifetime of memories, all without a pencil sharpened or a laptop opened!
Friday, March 13, 2015
Over the course of this year, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to blog about and hold coffee chats at St. Anne's on an assortment of topics such as taking risks, student leadership and digital citizenship. However, the reality is no topic or aim of education is more important to me as an educator than that of cultivating empathy in students. It's the title of my blog. It is written in our mission in the form of enriching hearts and broadening horizons. It is reflected in the faculty who work with our students every day. It is what drew me to St. Anne’s. It is what makes me most proud of being a part of this community.
|6th Grade writing|
valentines to their buddies!
|Designing for needs of |
another user in Innovations
|Middle School |
COMPASSION CIRCLES: Today, in the 7th Grade Hallway, over 160 circles of paper went up in the display case as part of our Compassion Circles activity. Every student and teacher in the middle school spent time in the last few weeks brainstorming appreciations for others in the community. While the end result of having a visual display and reminder that we value all members of the community is in itself powerful, the process of finding the good in one another during advisories was a fabulous experience for our students as well. Plus, it's a reminder of the power of small gestures and the impact they can have on others. Be sure to check it out next time you're around!
Check out this great video by Brene Brown on Empathy as well as the "Give a little Love" video at the top on the power of small acts of kindness!