Education Matters—Sanford School's Private School Blog

Service Learning: Developing Awareness and Empathy for Others

Posted by Donna Farrar and Tom Whipple on Jan 17, 2017 4:16:00 PM

With all the attention to global issues and STEM in education these days, we can't help but be mindful of the roles of awareness, inquiry, collaboration, and appreciation of diverse points of view when solving problems. These approaches require a degree of outer-directedness and empathy, which any healthy school culture seeks to promote in its student body, staff, and greater school community. Service learning encourages these same attributes as students develop awareness of and attend to the needs of others both locally and globally. Students who participate in service learning develop into ethical, responsible, and caring human beings. They learn the importance of working together to support their communities by giving their time to help others. 

There have been studies associated with the ill effects of self-centeredness and isolation on the health of people of all ages. It's difficult to serve others while succumbing to the restraints of a self-centered lifestyle. True education requires that you explore your world and be mindful of those around you. In a PreK through 12th-grade setting, there are numerous ways to start small and promote the benefits of sharing resources and giving of your time as you continue through life. 

To start, recognize the needs at school and throughout the local community: 

  • Perform random acts of kindness
  • Assist the grounds crew by picking up clutter
  • Organize study groups
  • Tutor at a community center's after-school program
  • Play board games with residents at retirement homes
  • Prepare and deliver meals to shut-ins
  • Volunteer to help at charity events
  • Donate to various service organizations
  • Run a food drive
  • Participate in an all-school day of service
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Topics: Education, Academics, Wellness

Growth Mindset:  Cultivating Growth in our Schools

Posted by Mark Anderson on Jan 10, 2017 4:00:00 PM

Over the last few years, it seems every book about leadership, education, or personal development mentions Stanford professor Carol Dweck and her theory of Growth Mindset. Essentially, “in growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” 

In other words, people are always improving and learning. This is an important value for schools to remember and put into practice. Children, our students, come to us as works in progress. They are growing, developing and learning at their own unique pace. It is up to us as educators to meet them where they are and help them be the best versions of themselveshelping them to rise to the challenges in the classroom, learn from their missteps and celebrate their successes.

I recently learned about a school that separates its homeroom classes based on standardized test scores. This is the ultimate “fixed” mindset one group is smart and the other not so much or at least labeled in this way at this particular school. I imagine this mindset must creep into the psyche of these children. Which group do you think will work harder? Which students do you think enjoy coming to school each day? 

In a growth mindset school, like Sanford, all students should see themselves as skilled and capable. Perhaps their talents are developing in certain areas, but “I can’t…” or “I’m not good at…” is not part of the lexicon. Some may need more time to master skills and content, but with master teachers at the ready to encourage and reinforce, students find their own personal success. 

Below are some ways schools can demonstrate a growth mindset when it comes to their students:

  • Offering No Cut policies with athletics and an athletic requirement that sends the message that you can and will be on a team.
  • Providing multiple levels of core courses – regular, honors, and Advanced Placement, with significant student and parent input as to what is the right level for a student. Class placement is not based on a placement test but on the students' desire to challenge themselves.
  • Creating a culture where students celebrate one another’s success. This is a culture where students do not feel threatened by a fellow student’s success.
  • Asking for feedbackhow is the school doing? How can the school be better? This candid feedback is essential. Just as importantthe school should listen. Just like we expect students to take our feedback and learn from it, we as educators should be learning and growing.
  • Ensuring that students know that their process is as valuable as their product. They should not be judged on their standardized test scores or raw aptitude, but on their work and on how they persevere through the learning process.

The core of Sanford’s culture is growthin our students as well as our educators. Hard work, effort, persistence, and a positive attitude are valued and encouraged. These elements of student success are timeless. This is where good teaching and learning stem from and what parents should expect to see in their child’s school.

Mark Anderson is the Head of Sanford School, a PreK-12 private school in the greater Wilmington, Delaware area.

Additional resources:
Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'
Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck

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Topics: Education, Admission

Sleep routine - one of the best gifts for your child this holiday

Posted by Libbie Zimmer on Dec 20, 2016 3:20:00 PM

'Tis the season to be jolly!
As we plan holiday trips and travel, being mindful of children's sleep routines are equally, if not more important. As parents, the more we protect sleep routines, the happier the holiday celebrations will be. Consider the upcoming holiday hints to keep sleeping patterns a priority:

Be Realistic
Children are resilient and flexible to a point. Consider asking the host well in advance if festive evening events can be scheduled during an earlier family-friendly time. Otherwise, consider a babysitter, or simply make a plan that better suits your family.

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Topics: Wellness, Parents

Choosing a computer or electronic device for your child

Posted by Sanford Tech Team on Dec 9, 2016 12:36:00 PM

Macs…PCs…Chromebooks…iPads…tablets. Which of these devices is the best technology option for your child?

The answer to that question depends on several factors including:

  • Your child’s needs
  • Your child’s interests
  • Your budget

Your child’s needs
If you’re purchasing the equipment for your child to use in school and at home, check with the school to make sure that whatever you buy is suitable and permissible for use in the school. While some academic institutions which offer 1-to-1 programs require that all students use the same model computer or device, many schools allow students to bring the device of their choice to school. Keep in mind that student-owned devices may need to meet minimum mandatory requirements such as installation of a current operating system. Talk with your child’s teacher or someone from the information technology department before choosing a computer to help ensure that whatever device you purchase can be used on campus.

Your child’s interests
Is your child interested in using the device to play games, watch movies, listen to music, and engage in activities beyond academics? Or, will she use the computer for completing school assignments, surfing the Internet and checking email? Students whose computers will serve as media players and gaming stations will need faster and more powerful machines than children who use their devices solely for completing school work, sending and receiving email, and browsing the Internet.

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Topics: Technology, Parents

‘Tis the Season- The Tax Benefits of Charitable Giving at Year End

Posted by Janice Payne on Nov 25, 2016 1:10:00 PM

The holidays bring a rise in giving for most non-profit organizations, including schools. Annually, about one quarter of all charitable gifts are made from Thanksgiving to Christmas, due both to the proximity to the end of the tax year and the altruistic tendencies brought on by the season. Most non-profits invest a great deal in holiday solicitations and efforts such as Giving Tuesday, immediately following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What are the benefits to the donor of making a gift at year end?

If you itemize deductions when you pay your income taxes, your charitable gift qualifies you for a tax deduction.
The amount of the deduction is based on your tax bracket. In some cases, up to 85% of the gift is deductible under current tax laws.

Gifts of appreciated securities allow the donor to avoid capital gains.
If an investor has held an appreciated stock or mutual fund for more than one year, they can donate those securities and receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of the securities, and eliminate any capital gains assessments.

Gifts of depreciated securities are also tax deductible and the capital loss can offset capital gains in the current year and possibly into the future.

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Topics: Parents

Benefits of an Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum

Posted by Lynn Casto on Nov 11, 2016 5:01:00 PM


When selecting high schools, multiple factors weigh into a family’s decision: size, location, strength of program, and programmatic choice, to name a few. The presence of an Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum within a high school signals a respected level of educational excellence. AP courses offer rigorous college-level content within a secondary school setting.

A school with an AP program may provide many benefits to students and families: 

  • Students develop the habits of mind and skills required to be successful in college courses while still in high school.
  • In-depth study of a particular field often leads to students discovering a passion and pursing that field as a major in college.
  • College admissions officers often view students who score well on AP exams as being more prepared than those who have not experienced AP to handle college-level academics thus predicting a higher rate of success in college.
  • Students within the AP program are viewed by college admissions officers as willing to pursue challenge, hard-working, and self-motivated.
  • AP provides a standard measure by which students applying to college can be compared. Students can distinguish themselves within an elite group of students.
  • Students who score well on AP exams may receive college credit for their high school course work.
  • With enough credits accumulated through AP, some students are able to graduate a semester or a year early, decreasing college expenses for families.
  • Earning introductory college credit through AP credits may open room in a student’s schedule that would allow the pursuit of elective courses in an area of interest or room for a minor study.

The AP designation offers a benchmark for academic excellence and teacher professional development. For a school to offer the AP designation, the teachers of the course must complete the audit process and be approved by the College Board. Schools must provide adequate resources to AP students and professional development to AP teachers. In addition, the teacher’s content must be approved by the College Board in order to be authorized to use the AP designation.

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Topics: Education, College Guidance, Academics

Encourage Risk by Taking Some

Posted by Max Schneider on Nov 1, 2016 3:58:00 PM

I’m bleeding down my leg, and my bike shorts are ripped, while I can barely hold onto my handlebars due to the road rash on my palms. My back wheel, untrue because of all the weight (50+ pounds) I have tied on top of it, is rubbing against the brake pads, slowing me down and making a sound like a rusty screen door. At an altitude of over seven thousand feet with a sunburnt neck, I have zero cell phone reception and am trying to stick close to the roadside shoulder as cars and RVs zip by me inches away.

When most people think of vacations, they imagine a beach, book, and sun screen, or possibly an all-inclusive resort with mini-umbrellas in drinks. I get it. That’s the point of vacation: to relax in a different setting. However, to me, the relaxation portion of vacation cannot be truly appreciated without first challenging myself with something outside my comfort zone. That is why every summer, I take a bike touring trip for a few weeks. I’ve ridden across Greece, up and down the Rhine in Germany, through New England, and then just this summer, 1400 miles down through the Rocky Mountains of North America.

 Bike touring obviously gives me time to reflect on the past school year and contemplate ideas for the upcoming year. But it also gives me a basis from which to rely upon when pushing students to the limits of their own abilities. It would be easy for me to do so if I never challenged myself, but by voluntarily putting myself through a difficult task every summer in which I have to calculate risk every step of the way, I have the ability to empathize with the students who do so every day in my class.

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Topics: Education, Academics, Wellness

What Makes a High School Writing Program Successful?

Posted by Brianna Smale on Oct 25, 2016 5:30:00 PM


Writing is the foundation of much of what students will do in school and in their post-academic lives. As such, it is important to find a school that has a good writing program. A strong writing curriculum allows for flexibility so students can learn in multiple ways and encourages them to stretch and reach. We see the following as the key components of a successful writing program.

Writing Is a Process
For high school students writing essays, the process begins with selecting a topic. They look at what they want to discuss, why it’s important, and how they might approach it. Students should use concept maps for brainstorming so they can see the connections between their ideas as they work to build arguments.

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Topics: Education, College Guidance, Academics

Learn about financial aid & affordability options for private schools

Posted by Jaime Morgan on Oct 14, 2016 5:00:00 PM

Private school admission offices across the country often hear the same sentiments...

We would love to have our children at your school. We think they would thrive in this type of learning environment. We just don’t know how we could ever afford it.

High tuition amounts are often the biggest barrier to families who


are interested in a private school education for their child. What many do not realize is there has been a national shift in the types of families who are applying for financial aid and other tuition assistance. More and more middle and upper income families are applying for and receiving financial help with the tuition bills.

It is a good practice for families to call the financial aid officers at the schools they are considering and ask questions about the school’s program. A guide for this conversation may be found here:

 Top questions to ask about financial aid 

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Topics: Financial Aid, Affordability

Capturing School Memories: Taking Better Pictures with your Smartphone

Posted by Ann Manley on Oct 4, 2016 5:24:00 PM

As a professional photographer, I’ve learned that there is so much you can do with your smartphone to capture memories of school events, sporting events, family trips or just candids at the park. But you don’t have to be a professional to be able to get the great shots. You just have to learn a few tricks of the trade.

One of the first things I always check for is the light. Where is the sun? We all love sunny days, but quite frankly when taking pictures, I really do pray for a few clouds. With the earlier fall sunsets upon us, try to make sure the sun is behind the kids. This way they won’t be squinting into the sun, and you’ll get some gorgeous sun flare and backlighting to make it a stand-out snap.

When the sun is in front us we tend to get some squinty eyes, but it can also offer great lighting on our kids. If they can bear with it, try a few this way. Always try a few different angles. A cute, funny sunglasses pic works when the sun is blaring on the soccer sidelines. Remember, it takes more than one shot to get the one you want. I always ask my kids for a redo.

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Topics: Parents