Elementary Corner

She Doesn't Seem to Love Learning Anymore!

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Have you heard this before?

[Insert name here]’s grades are fine; I’m not worried about that, but she just doesn’t seem to love learning anymore.

 

Jessica Lahey has a new book: The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. The book came out earlier this school year, but the topic is evergreen!   

In the The Gift of Failure, Lahey talks about wanting the world for her children. Yet, the very things she has done to encourage the sort of achievement she feels will help them secure happiness and honors may be undermining their future success.

Lahey gives the example of Marianna. 

“She is very smart and high-achieving, and her mother reminds her of that on a daily basis. However, Marianna does not get praised for the diligence and effort she puts into sticking with a hard math problem or a convoluted scientific inquiry. If that answer at the end of the page is wrong, or if she arrives at a dead end in her research, she has failed—no matter what she has learned from her struggle. And contrary to what she may believe, in these more difficult situations she is learning. She learns to be creative in her problem-solving. She learns diligence. She learns self-control and perseverance. But because she is scared to death of failing, she has started to take fewer intellectual risks. She has trouble writing rough drafts and she doesn’t like to hypothesize or think out loud in class. She knows that if she tries something challenging or new, and fails, that failure will be hard evidence that she’s not as smart as everyone keeps telling her she is. Better to be safe. Is that what we want? Kids who get straight As but hate learning? Kids who achieve academically, but are too afraid to take leaps into the unknown?”

Fear of failure also rears its ugly head when children are doing homework. Not long ago, I spoke with a parent who hired a tutor the moment their child began struggling with math homework. This was a very well-intentioned thing to do. Providing a tutor is not an inherently bad idea. It can be one way to avoid power struggles at home when a child, as typical older elementary children do, can resist help from Mom or Dad. Nevertheless, we also have to be cautious about overemphasizing the importance of getting a correct answer. As an educator, I would much rather see a child come in with scratch paper detailing the approach(es) they tried on the homework and a WRONG answer than a right answer without the struggle and creative critical thinking. 

I encourage parents and caregivers to think about how we can foster creativity and diligence in our children and worry less about homework coming back to school with correct answers. Each night’s homework is a form of formative (informal) assessment, and teachers often modify their lesson based on how students do on homework. 

As a school, we have designed our program with emphasis on each student achieving and striving to beat their personal best. It's the reason why we honor character, perseverance and bucketfilling even more than academic achievement. It's the reason why we utilize cutting-edge developmental programs like Writing Workshop, Words Their Way, and the Columbia University reading assessment system. These programs enable students to work for their personal best and receive specific feedback about what to try next. And it's the reason you'll hear our teachers choosing their words with the care and precision of a surgeon!

I think it's safe to say that our shared goal is to help our children develop into well-adjusted, confident, balanced individuals. Getting an occasional low grade in elementary school should not be a source of anxiety or frustration , but rather it should be looked at as a chance to learn something.  As you look over the trimester 2 report cards with your child, I encourage you to look at a B or a C (or an S) as an opportunity to show even more determination and perseverance in the final trimester of the school year. Focus on the process, and the product will be just fine!

 

 

Learning More from Failure

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

I heard a great story on NPR's Morning Edition today about Charles Bolden, the first black NASA administrator. 50 years ago, his hopes of joining the Naval Academy, a first step toward his illustrious career, almost never happened. Representatives in his state of South Carolina refused to nominate Bolden for the academy because of his race. It took the direct involvement and support of, then Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson to launch Bolden’s career.

I think Bowman would argue that how you deal with failure says even more about you than how you deal with success. I try to be mindful of this as an educator as well as in my own personal life. Of course I want the children in our school to experience success! I would also argue that we should place equal importance on learning coping and problem-solving skills to do deal with life's disappointments in healthy, constructive ways. It can be dangerous for children to go into adolescence and adulthood without coping and resiliency skills, and it is our job to help foster these while they are in a safe, loving environment. 

Mr. Bolden's story is a terrific example how grit and determination can trump even the most unfair circumstances.

Take a listen to the story or view it online.

Enjoy,

Seth Pozzi

Asst. Head of School

WHPS Creative Approach to Food Allergies

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Like most schools, Woodland Hills Private School has a number of students and staff with severe food allergies. And like many leading schools we use a word study program instead of asking our students to memorize spelling lists. What do these two things have in common?

On the surface you might think nothing at all. Enter creative, passionate educator and kindergarten teacher, Marjorie Natal. After a couple close calls this year in which well-intentioned parents sent unsafe food items to school, Natal sprang into action with a clever idea. She developed her own food sorting activity based on the school’s word study program. This week, the students and parents in Natal’s class will sort images of items and food labels based on whether they are "safe for school" or "unsafe for school." And while this is just one step in helping to educate and ensure the safety of our community, Natal’s creative approach to teaching is not only fun but it could help save a life!

 Feel free to download and share this resource with anyone who you think might benefit from it. Thanks Ms. Natal!

Seth Pozzi

Asst. Head of School

 

Upcoming ERB Testing

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

This spring, students in grades 3-5 will take the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) Comprehensive Testing Program. We are adopting the ERB this year, replacing the Stanford 10, which was previously administered to students in K-5. The new ERB assessment system is better aligned with our program because it focuses on critical thinking and goes beyond multiple-choice bubble-in answers. The ERB enables us to compare student achievement with peers in other private schools across the US.

At WHPS, we know that people learn in different ways, and we use the Columbia University reading, writing and spelling assessments, science experiments, math assignments, discussions, portfolios, projects, artwork, and performance to assess the whole child. Our use of standardized test information is viewed as one piece of a complex puzzle which reveals the learning strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, researched the validity of standardized tests to assess student performance. He states, “Most formal testing – whatever the area that is allegedly being tested – engages primarily the linguistic and logical-mathematical faculties. If one has high linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, one is likely to do well on formal testing (from Multiple Intelligences: Theory in Practice).” According to Dr. Gardner and other experts in our field, future leaders and entrepreneurs of the 21st century need to know how to integrate many types of intelligence.

At WHPS, we believe children benefit from a balance between authentic learning opportunities and the experience of taking standardized tests. As students move to secondary school and beyond, they will encounter more tests. We believe a curriculum designed to teach for true understanding, coupled with some experience in taking standardized tests, provides our students with a solid foundation for success in “high stakes” tests, as well as a life full of learning.

You may have some questions about the ERB:  

How is the ERB different from the annual test California public school students take?

ERB test data is different from the test data accumulated by the public schools in California. The state tests are designed to determine if students perform at a set proficiency level, and the percentages reported in the newspaper reflect the percentage of students who are proficient or above. The ERB test is a nationally normed test, which means it compares a student’s performance to that of every other student who took the same test across the nation (students in private schools).

What do we do with the ERB data? 

As a school, we review the data to determine any general areas of school strength or for improvement. We continually evaluate standards and benchmarks in the curriculum, along with information from the ERB tests to ensure that we deliver an exceptional educational experience for each child.

Allergic to Popsicles?

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

Does your child or someone you know have an allergy to nuts? Milk? Eggs? Wheat? Soy? Fish? Popsicles?

Yes, honestly, there was recently a voluntary recall of some Popsicle brand Orange, Cherry and Grape flavored ice pops because they may have been inadvertently exposed to milk, which is not listed as an ingredient on the label.

If you know someone who has experienced anaphylaxis during an allergic reaction, it can be chilling to think we can’t always trust ingredient labels. Studies indicate that 16-18% of school-age children who have food allergies have had a reaction in school. In addition, in approximately 25% of the reactions that occur at school, the student had not yet been diagnosed with food allergy.

This hits close to home for me, not only because I have known numerous students who have life-threatening allergies, but also because my younger sister has a life-threatening allergy. My “little sister” will be 35 year old in December, but I still worry about her. I have seen her face swell up, resembling Will Smith in the movie Hitch. For loved ones who have seen this happen, it can feel very helpless.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Fatal and Near-Fatal Anaphylactic Reactions to Food in Children and Adolescents” indicated that four of the six deaths from food allergy examined in the report occurred in school, and were associated with significant delays in treating the reactions with epinephrine. Several other studies that have looked at food allergy and anaphylaxis management in schools and childcare settings have found inadequate food allergy management plans and inadequate recognition of allergic symptoms and treatment with epinephrine. 

Long story short, we must be educated and vigilant about preventing our children from being exposed to known allergens. We also need to know what to do and be prepared to respond if a child [or adult] in our school has a reaction. While some basic school training is required by the state of California, OUR staff have received a considerable amount of additional training on early recognition and intervention. Even so, you can never be too prepared! I encourage ALL parents to visit the Kids With Food Allergies (A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) and Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) websites. Read about how you can help identify an allergic reaction early and potentially save a life. Our staff receive regular updates from Kids With Food Allergies and FARE on emerging issues and how to save a life. You can too.

Information adapted from: http://www.foodallergy.org/home

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