Education Matters—Sanford School's Private School Blog

Private School Education: A student's reflection

Posted by Justin McLellan'16 on Jun 28, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Private schools will always hit you with the same buzzwords: Small class sizes, rigorous academic curricula, engaging teachers, and accessible extracurriculars. They aren’t wrong. These core tenets of private school education are what make private schools so attractive to parents wanting the best for their children and  for students who are eager to grow. Yet, after being in a private school for twelve years I have come to realize that the most valuable aspects of private schooling are the most intangible ones.

Private school students are exposed to new ways of thinking.
A product of the relationships I have formed with my teachers is the level of respect and maturity they both treat me with and expect from me in return. My teachers do not shy away from delving into conversations about real-world issues out of fear that I cannot handle them. Rather, this type of discourse is encouraged, and with it comes the expectation that the conversation will remain civil, that all perspectives will be regarded seriously, and that the end goal is to learn from one another rather than to prove someone wrong. I’ve learned that different perspectives are not wrong, or offensive, just different, and that all are to be treated with respect. As a result of this mutual comfort I am not hesitant to share my opinions or have in-depth conversations with people much older than I, which is something that I value as I prepare to graduate high school and expose myself to so many different types of people.

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Topics: Education, Academics, Community

What Should My Child Read this Summer?

Posted by Cecilie Zwick Coker on Jun 7, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Earlier this week, I had one of my weekly conversations with my sister. She has two teenage daughters and a younger son named William. Her girls have always been eager readers, impressing me with the conversations around the novels they have read. As she and I were talking, she mentioned that William was sitting right next to her reading a book.

“So,” I asked, “What is he reading?”

“Well,” she paused and answered, "all William reads is non-fiction about world history. I’m sort of alright with it, but shouldn’t he be reading fiction too? He is missing out on so many wonderful stories.”

I answered, “He’s interested in world history, that’s wonderful! Let him read whatever he wants. ”

Find something that your child is interested in
Sometimes there seems to be a whole lot of “shoulds” around reading. In my mind, children should not feel they need to read any particular genre. If children are interested, engaged and eager to read something, let them read just that. 
What many experts recommend is wide reading. We want our children to learn about the world, and we want them to encounter text that will help them expand their vocabulary. The best way to do this is to find the types of books that our children want to read. And, it doesn’t matter what it is.

Local libraries cover a wonderful range of topics and present these topics in formats ranging from picture books, chapter books, nonfiction informative books and graphic novels. Did you know that there are graphic novels about everything from photosynthesis to Louis Armstrong? And, did you know that there are books on everything from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79AD to Marcus Persson’s creation of Minecraft? Interest is such a strong force in engaging readers. As you move from summer camp, to the beach, to cooking, to gardening, engage your children in readings that might spark the interest you’ve seen in them during a summer activity.

Make reading a shared experience with audiobooks
Another way to spark excitement summer reading is through audiobooks. During the summer, many families spend hours traveling from one destination to another. Listening to audiobooks during this time makes time pass more quickly. Listening to stories can also expose your child to new ideas and rich vocabulary. Another advantage of audiobooks is that children can listen to and understand books that might be too hard for them to read independently. This benefits younger readers, reluctant readers and children with reading difficulties. If the topic or story is interesting to your children, the chances are high that they will listen intently, and in turn, might be excited about reading books that are similar to the ones they have all heard read-out-loud.

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Topics: Academics, Summer

Digital Citizenship: Developing Good Character Online

Posted by Sandy Sutty, MA on May 24, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Digital citizenship is a way to teach students how to use technology responsibly and respectfully—and it’s an important aspect of developing good character in our students. Because using digital media is a part of our everyday lives, we teach them how to manage their school Gmail accounts and Google Apps for Education for their learning. We also talk with them about how to manage themselves online, especially when using social media.

As educators, we think a lot about social media and how to use it effectively and responsibly. We work with our students to make sure they know how important it is for them, too. The guidelines our school uses for our own posts are designed to create a positive atmosphere online. We teach appropriate technology use to develop good digital citizens.

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Topics: Technology

Modeling Good Sportsmanship – Everyone is a Teacher!

Posted by Joan Samonisky on May 10, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Too many times, headlines revolve around negative behavior taking place at sporting events involving coaches, players, parents or spectators. As a lifelong athlete and career educator in the field of physical education and athletics, my experiences in sports as a participant, teacher, coach, and athletic director have been many, and varied. I have experienced, and witnessed, winning and losing at all levels. 

Early in my high school career, I became aware that others are always looking to see how those in leadership positions react to difficult and trying circumstances. I watched my team captains and coaches to gauge a proper reaction to trying times on the fields and courts. I have carried this lesson with me throughout my career, knowing that teammates, players, parents, spectators, and other coaches will closely observe my reaction to a “blown call”, a big loss or a thrilling victory. I have learned that the reaction of the leader, in situations good or bad, clearly sets the tone for all of those around him/her.

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Topics: Athletics, Community

Finding the Right Summer Enrichment Program

Posted by Todd Helmecki on May 3, 2016 3:00:00 PM

When the school year ends, there is often a celebration of students’ year-long achievements. But when students walk out of the school’s door for summer, what happens over the next 10 weeks can be just as important. As a parent and educator, I wonder what I can do for my children to keep them academically engaged and not just staring at a screen.  While there are options to fill every perceived need a child may have from day camps, sports camps, overnight camps, religious camps, and STEM camps, summer enrichment programs may be overlooked by parents.  Parents often want their children to maintain academic readiness or continue to move forward.  While younger students collaborate in reading and math groups, high school classes are offered to broaden one’s experience or allow focus on preparing for college testing.  

When looking at an institution to supplement academic gains, there are four items to consider:

1. Consistency 

The reason many parents choose an academic program in summertime is to avoid the ‘summer slide.’ Essentially, this idea is that, without consistent engagement, students will become rusty in math and reading. For over a hundred years, educational experts have been examining and quantifying the loss that children experience when they have an extended break from a consistent learning environment. Statistics support a continued level of engagement, especially in regards to mathematics and reading. In the Review of Educational Research, Harris Cooper reviewed 39 studies that indicated that achievement test scores decline over summer vacation. While this may affect various socio-economic groups to different extents, studies found a consistent academic program alleviated this drop.   

2. Differentiated instruction

Most parents want to know that their children will be engaged, challenged appropriately, and that their needs will be met. Will your child receive individual attention or be a face in the crowd? One factor for evaluating a summer school program is the teacher-to-child ratio. Since you are concerned about your child’s progression, feedback is also important, both informally and formally.     

3. Fit

Knowing what interests and motivates your child to be his or her best is also important. This could be very different for a high school student in an intensive college prep course than for a pre-kindergartener who has never been in a formal class setting. Simply getting your child to overcome the anxiety of walking into a new experience can be a struggle. Positive recommendations from teachers, administrators, and other parents can often help guide your decision.

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Topics: Education, Summer

Understanding Private Schools:  Philanthropy 101

Posted by Janice Payne on Apr 26, 2016 6:00:00 PM

When you choose a private school for your child, you’re not only investing in a rigorous and broad education. You’re also choosing to be a part of a community that will develop your child’s character and leadership qualities. The financial commitment is a serious one, yet it comes with a unique opportunity—the chance to give back to the school and the community. Students and parents, as well as alumni and their families, all participate in “paying it forward” to the school and the greater community.

Community service is part of a strong private school’s curriculum. Students at all age levels benefit from age-appropriate service learning.

Parents and alumni also become involved in the life of the school, with many benefits for all involved.

  • Volunteering in the classroom and at all-school events strengthens the school community.
  • Dynamic and inclusive volunteer programs assure there are opportunities for all interests, abilities, and availability.
  • Drives for clothing, food, school supplies, and other items encourage collaboration.
  • Community service activities lead to natural discussions about philanthropy.
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Topics: Community

Parent Involvement Improves Your Child’s Educational Experience

Posted by Janice Payne on Apr 19, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Students with parents that are involved in their schools are more likely to be successful.

When looking for educational options for your child, it is important to select schools that welcome and encourage parent volunteerism. Look for options that meet your own schedule, whether you are working outside the home or are available during the school day. Schools should share their expectations of parents, as well as opportunities for them to become involved.

Research collected over the past decade by the National Education Association on parent involvement found that, regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to:

  • Earn better grades
  • Score higher on tests
  • Pass their classes
  • Enroll in higher level programs
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have better social skills
  • Show improved behavior
  • Be more positive in their attitude toward school
  • Complete homework assignments
  • Graduate and continue their education

Student achievement is boosted when parents can talk to their student about what is taking place in their classroom. Seeing that their parents are invested in their education creates an atmosphere where education is a priority. Expectations that the student will achieve educationally, as well as in extracurricular activities are reinforced through parent involvement.

When schools build partnerships with families that respond to parent concerns and honor the parent’s contributions, they are able to create the relationships that improve student achievement. In addition, faculty and the school receive significant benefits from parent involvement in the school.

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Topics: Community

Private School: an alumna's perspective

Posted by Ella Wagner '09 on Apr 12, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Now that I’m in graduate school, I find myself constantly using skills and abilities that I can trace back to my time as a private school student. A few are relevant to my discipline, U.S. history, but just as many apply to all areas of my life.

I, like many students, thrived in the small classes that are fundamental to the private school model. Several brilliant and engaged teachers inspired my curiosity about history and backed that up with rigorous instruction in research and writing. Provided with classroom resources and the flexibility to design imaginative lesson plans, these teachers were able to give me an early introduction to complex historical ideas that most students first encounter at the college level. I wrote book reviews and completed projects that demanded extensive work with primary sources—versions of the same work I now do in my PhD program. My high school teachers set high standards, believed in our ability to meet them, and helped us figure out how to do it. I’m still using that knowledge and those tools today.

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Topics: Community

Advantages of a Private School Education

Posted by Mark Anderson on Apr 5, 2016 3:00:00 PM

I spend a lot of time thinking about school, not just my school, but all schools. Education in our country gets a lot of attentionfrom parents, from media, and from politicians. This makes sense, because of course we all want what’s best for childrenand their performance in school will have a direct impact on our nation’s future success. Unfortunately, and sadly, after decades of study, laws, and billions of dollars, the American K-12 education isn’t very good for most of our nation's children, and it’s far from being great.

There is one exception, in my opinion, and that is our private schools:

1. Private schools are great places to work and therefore attract excellent teachers.
The core of great schools is great teachers. Small classes, motivated students, supportive parents, freedom to design curriculumthere is little wonder many teachers covet teaching positions in our schools. 

2. Private schools are safe.
Parents select our schools, and private schools select their students. Students who harm the academic or social fabric of school don’t remain in the school community. Our schools rarely deal with distractions like theft, drugs, or fighting. The focus is on engaged learning.

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Topics: Education, Academics

Sweating the Small Stuff: Helping Kids Handle Worry

Posted by Kelley Gricol, MS Ed on Mar 22, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Worrying from time to time is natural, even for children. As the caring adults in their lives, how do we approach these worries in a way that helps kids develop positive coping skills? Here are the top five tips I share with teachers and parents:

1.) Listen

Sure, this one may be obvious. When children open up to us, we know that they need to feel heard and understood. But once we get the gist of it, it is so easy to jump in and try to solve the problem or offer our opinion. The next time you’re ready to jump in, remember that it is likely too soon for your child.

2.) Bring the child back to reality

Kids can easily lose perspective and make little deals into big deals. Let’s say a child worries that everyone at school thinks he is stupid because he gave a wrong answer in class. Reframe the situation by pointing out an alternative (and more positive) viewpoint.

What do your teachers say about participating—do they say that you should try, even if you might be wrong? Have you heard other kids give wrong answers in class? And you don’t think they are stupid, right? You put yourself out there and took a risk today. I’m really proud of you for trying.

3.) Help the child look for solutions

At times, kids are worried about a situation where some type of action is necessary. Before you make suggestions about what to do, ask some questions to put the ball in the child’s court. 

  • I wonder what might help?
  • What are you going to do about that?
  • What’s one thing you could try? 

Questions like these are empowering for kids—they show that you have confidence in their ability to solve problems on their own.

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Topics: Wellness

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