Month: December 2015

Learning Walks are Scaling Up

More and more parents are expressing their interest in the daily Lower School experience. So far we have had three successful learning walks with parents. The goal is to share the open-door culture and practice of classroom observations with our parent partners. We also seek to receive feedback and grow from this process. Observing the flow of learning kindergarten through fourth grade brings many “I likes” and “I wonders” to an engaging debrief.

Some of the insightful feedback we have received includes:

I like

  • “Learning at Mount Vernon is extremely different than my school experience. It is so respectful of children.”
  • “I was surprised to see that learning is tactile all the way through fourth grade. I saw lots of math tools and lots of connections being made between math and science.”
  • “I saw how students were encouraged to think differently and allowed to enter the thinking at different times or using different methods: verbally, on ‘spider legs,’ or on post-it notes.”
  • “The centers in first grade. Everyone was doing something different, but they were all engaged and learning.”
  • “Rich vocabulary was everywhere even for the classroom helpers like electrician and tailgunner. This makes kids feel important.

I wonder

  • “Why do you teach nonsense words?”
  • “Why do some fourth grade classrooms only have math resources and others only have Language Arts?”
  • “What is this?” (a rekenrek)
  • “When do we start teaching US History and wars?”

We are excited to continue this practice with more learning walks being offered in the second semester.

Connectors Build to Last

Multipliers build to last because they are curious, and they are connectors. We are designing learning experiences with your children that connect foundational skills to real-world opportunities and future possibilities. As you know we launched a new schedule prototype designed by our most fabulous maker, Jim Tiffin,  this year to experiment with extending the minutes and build continuity in connections classes (i.e. music, art, maker, science and Spanish). The previous model allowed for about 30 minutes every week. The new model provides connections teachers with 300 instructional minutes for one full week for deep project work. Classes then rotate every five weeks.

This extra time provides more opportunities for student curiosity and passion to drive learning. It also enables our teachers to have increased ownership over their own curriculum. Our outdoor playspace Frontier and newly renovated STEAM wing [the art studio, science lab, and studio(i)] are also inspiring creativity in all of us. Teachers are thinking more innovatively with five-hour chunks of time rather than 30 minutes.

Piper Hendryx, fourth grade Mustang, describes her love of maker classes in studio(i), “If I had to tell someone about studio(i), I would tell them they will have the time of their life here! It lets your creativity go wild. It sets you free!” She goes on to explain her maker project with four magical objects and how she writes computer code in Scratch to manipulate those objects. She also loves working with PicoBoards, and its various sensors like light and sound, to help her programs interact with the physical world. This connects to the science and engineering happening in homerooms as well as the science lab. Next, Piper plans to bring one of her stories she wrote in her literacy block to life using the tools in studio(i).”

The Worst of Me

If you work closely with a team, you would benefit from some of the exercises that our strengths coach, Elizabeth Payne, has used to build the relationships on our team. We believe that relationships are foundational for learning, and they are also foundational for leading. Taking time to reflect on your strengths and your passions, as well as the strengths and passions of those on your team, could help you go much further faster.

Understand yourself. Develop your strengths. Develop your team. Ask your teammates for feedback on what they see as your strengths. Consider completing and sharing two transformational statements together:

  1. You get the best of me when…
  2. You get the worst of me when…

When you are ready to take this team building to the next level, consider exploring these two statements:

  1. You can count on me for…
  2. I need you to…

This process should empower individuals on a team and accelerate growth.