Creative Schools

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

One of the greatest, most revolutionary educational experts of our time is Sir Ken Robinson. Perhaps you saw his now ubiquitous Ted Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity? In it, Robinson contends that creativity is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. He tells an amusing story of a little girl drawing. The teacher asked her, "What are you drawing?" And the girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." The teacher said, "But nobody knows what God looks like." And the girl said, "They will, in a minute."

The point of this anecdote is that the little girl was not frightened of being wrong. Robinson argues that if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. And, he says, we're now running a national education system where we drill children on rote learning and mistakes are the worst thing you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. This at a time when the top 1,500 business leaders from eighty countries say what they need most in their staff (and what is lacking) is: adaptability to change and creativity in generating new ideas.

This is why student creativity and ingenuity is an essential, everyday ingredient of learning at WHPS. We are a school that believes our students have original ideas that have value. And our upcoming Winter Show is a great example of how this creativity is cultivated and embraced. I was struck by this last week as I watched teachers and students rehearsing together; several students came up to demonstrate their dance and performance ideas. The teachers watched intently and actively incorporated the children’s ideas into the show.

When you attend the Winter Show this year, know that it is not just an amazing performance, but performing and visual arts are a proven pathway to student creativity, academic achievement, enhanced critical thinking skills and improved long-term memory. I believe Sir Ken Robinson would applaud our school for its emphasis on academic excellence while also inspiring students to examine and display their passions.

“All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
-Pablo Picasso

Fake News

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Pizzagate!  Russia! 

Unless you have been living under a rock (without Internet access), you have probably heard a lot of the recent buzz about fake news. It doesn’t seem like fake news and misinformation are going away. And according to today’s All Things Considered, many schools are not doing a great job preparing children to deal with fake news.

Why would that be a surprise, when many adults are having trouble sorting through what’s factual, what’s hyperbole, and what’s completely made up? Nevertheless, according to today’s story, The Classroom Where Fake News Fails, "How do they [children] become prepared to make the choices about what to believe, what to forward, what to post to their friends when they've been given no practice in school?" What this says to me as an educator is that it is incumbent upon schools to teach children Informational Literacy.

Informational Literacy: A set of abilities to recognize when information is needed and the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

It’s no longer about sourcing information, but rather children need to become connoisseurs who can validate information in a wide variety of ways. And if you think the fake news mainly pertains to topics we adults will encounter, think again.

While this has previously been reported by several news outlets, one of the top sites that (unfortunately) you’ll find on a Google search of Martin Luther King, Jr. is martinlutherking.org. The text on the search page says it’s “A valuable resource for teachers and students alike.” But once you click through it explains that MLK was a communist, wife-beater, plagiarist, sexual deviant and all-around fraud. There are flyers a child can “download, print and bring to school.” There is even an “educational video” that I didn’t have the heart or desire to click on.  

With the increasing prevalence of misinformation and fake news, especially online, great schools must continue to evolve. In a preschool classroom, this could be a simple as helping the children come up with a Google question of the week, thinking together about what Google might say, and checking the answer at the end of the week. In elementary school, we need to teach children how to: read URLs, see who owns the website, look at the history of a webpage, check the external links, and validate information from multiple reliable sources.

Like many emerging topics in 21st century education, this transcends the 3-Rs that were the primary focus of 20th century schooling. Our school is tackling this topic head-on in our best effort to prepare children for the ever-changing world they will encounter. Remember, as many as 65% of the jobs our children will hold have not been invented yet! What the experts agree on is that our kids’ future success will depend on four main skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Today’s discussion on All Things Considered provides even more evidence in the case for transforming the way we educate!

Are Grades Important?

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

Stanford Dean warns that many parents are overemphasizing grades and scores, perhaps to our children's detriment. Instead of helping children build self-efficacy or thinking about what they might be interested in studying, we create too much anxiety over B's, or G-d forbid some C's. Are grades important? Yes, to a degree. 

Julie Lythcott-Haims:
"What I'm saying is, when we treat grades and scores and accolades and awards as the purpose of childhood, all in furtherance of some hoped-for admission to a tiny number of colleges or entrance to a small number of careers, that's too narrow a definition of success for our kids. And even though we might help them achieve some short-term wins by overhelping-like they get a better grade if we help them do their homework, they might end up with a longer childhood résumé when we help-what I'm saying is that all of this comes at a long-term cost to their sense of self. What I'm saying is, we should be less concerned with the specific set of colleges they might be able to apply to or might get into and far more concerned that they have the habits, the mindset, the skill set, the wellness, to be successful wherever they go. What I'm saying is, our kids need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood providing a foundation for their success built on things like love and chores."

HARVARD GRANT STUDY: The longest longitudinal study of humans ever conducted

It found that professional success in life, which is what we want for our kids, comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started, the better, that a roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there's some unpleasant work, someone's got to do it, it might as well be me, a mindset that says, I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole, that that's what gets you ahead in the workplace. Learn more about the Harvard Grant Study in Julie Lythcott-Haims TED Talk.

Habit #2 - Begin with the End in Mind

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

This year, our entire school community is on an exciting journey exploring Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Last week, our elementary students conducted Student-Led Conferences at which they discussed individual goals they had set as readers, writers, and mathematicians, as well as personal goals. Teachers, administrators and students have also been working on their personal Mission Statements; beginning to reflect on their values (what is most important to them) and their own unique purpose.

According to author Stephen Covey in his book First Things First, a personal Mission Statement is a way of “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.” And research about goal setting and motivation overwhelmingly concludes that the simple act of setting a goal and writing it down or telling someone about it makes us more likely to achieve the goal.
Over the next few weeks, every teacher at WHPS will be posting his/her Mission Statement in the classroom as a reminder of who we are when we are at our best and of the values we strive to bring to our profession. In the Elementary Division, each student will also record their Mission Statement in their own Leadership Notebook.

We are challenging our families to begin crafting a Family Mission Statement to explicitly reflect and convey their own unique values. According the The Leader in Me, A Family Mission Statement is like a constitution your family lives by that helps you all make decisions for your life. It represents the purpose and values of your family, and will allow you to shape your future according to the principles you as a family hold most dear.
A Family Mission Statement sample you might enjoy:

A handout designed to help you create a Family Mission Statement is attached to this email. We hope you will join us in creating a Mission Statement this year, and we invite you to post it to the WHPS Facebook page.

Student-Led Conferences

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

Sometimes a new concept or trend emerges, and you can’t imagine why we didn’t do this sooner! I believe you will soon agree that the Student-Led Conference (SLC) is a transformational and indispensable tool from which all schools and children could benefit. This year, our Elementary Division is launching SLCs, which will be held October 24-25 and February 23-24.

What is a Student-Led Conference?
An SLC is a meeting with the student’s parents and teachers, which is led primarily by the student. At the SLC, the student will use his/her Leadership Notebook as a tool to report on his/her academic progress, articulate goals he/she has set, show his/her parents assessment data when appropriate, and share examples of his/her work. The role of the teacher in an SLC is to act as a coach, mentor, and advocate.

The SLC process is different from a traditional parent-teacher conference in which the teacher does most of the talking and the parent does the listening. Often in a traditional conference, the student is not even present. The SLC process puts the ownership for learning where it belongs, with the student.

See how an SLC compares to a traditional conference:

Our teachers are trained to help facilitate the SLC so that it is productive and positive. Please note that the SLC is not a time to discuss concerns about something that is beyond your child’s control (e.g. you believe your child may have a speech difficulty, a learning difference, etc.) Your child’s teachers will be glad to schedule a separate meeting or phone call to discuss other questions or concerns.

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