What if you had to choose whether your child would learn to understand algebra or be a kind person, but not both? Fortunately, we don’t have to make those kinds of decisions because good schools teach both academic skills and interpersonal skills. Most parents have an understanding of the academic concepts taught at schools and can find more specifics in a curriculum guide or a set of grade-level standards. But, where do you look to find out what schools are doing to help kids grow up to be kind and responsible adults? How do you get a sense of how kids treat each other at a particular school?
Authentic learning is messy, loud, and somewhat chaotic as students grapple with application of their ideas and classroom learning to solve a problem. Authentic learning is active, creative, and fun.
What does authentic learning look like?
Student teams discuss their thinking, develop and implement a plan of action, and get to work. Some plans fail, and students learn to quickly adapt their thinking and craft new solutions as they work within time constraints.
This ebb and flow of successes and failures is part of authentic learning, and students learn more from failures than successes.
Authentic learning develops critical thinkers who are collaborative problem solvers prepared to meet the demands of our dynamic global community.
“What do you do in a makerspace?
The simple answer is you make things.
- Things that you are curious about.
- Things that spring from your imagination.
- Things that inspire you and things that you admire.
Students who have developed a growth mindset expect and appreciate struggle, learn from their mistakes, and value process over product. They embrace challenge and difficulty because they believe that failure is a vehicle through which true learning, growth, and development occur.
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
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 themselves—helping 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 feedback—how is the school doing? How can the school be better? This candid feedback is essential. Just as important—the 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 growth—in 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.
Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'
Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck
'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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.