Welcome back from what I hope was a splendid week with your families and loved ones. We could not be more thrilled to have our students back with us. Thank you to all of the families who shared pictures of their Thanksgiving Day tables with me. I’ve included some of these lovely photos at the end of this note. Take a moment to enjoy the ways we define family, and celebrate our customs and cultures through food.
As a reminder we are currently in the midst of our annual fund. We cannot do the amazing work of educating our young people without your support. Please consider donating to the annual fund if you haven’t already. Any dollar amount counts!
Believe it or not, we only have about three weeks before our winter holiday break. Our school year is flying! As you prepare for a family vacation or just some quiet time at home, continue to engage your children in learning experiences. Keep your children’s minds “warm” over break by having them read to themselves or to you. Have them tackle a project that requires the use of multiple skill sets as a way to extend their learning from school. Think back to earlier notes where I described the importance of different types of materials in a child’s learning, and how you can utilize those things at home.
Despite the rainy weather, we welcomed many families at an Open House today where we shared how Montessori principles, social justice, experiential learning, and community underlie our progressive approach to teaching and learning. Every time I walk prospective parents through our school, I am struck anew by our incredibly rich, holistic learning environments. Consider having your friends whose children do not attend Ancona visit one of our open houses. You are all essential conduits for sharing the richness of our school with others, and as such, our most powerful recruiters! Your voice matters.
In other school news, we are looking forward to parent-teacher and student-led conferences next week. Conferences are a great opportunity to hear about how your child is learning and growing. Look for progress reports to be sent home at the end of this week.
Looking ahead to the upcoming holidays, I invite you to share with me what you and your family are thankful for. For those of you observing Thanksgiving, consider sending me a photo () of your dinner table to share with the larger community. I find that one of the things that truly makes our school so unique is how hard-pressed you’d be to define what family looks like here at Ancona. Food is a unique and powerful way to explore intersectionality and, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, a great way to see how that intersectionality plays out on our dinner tables. What are your special sides?
I wish you all a wonderful weekend with your loved ones.
Joy. It’s a word I use often, and a central theme of this school year. As you have no doubt heard me share with our community, happiness is central to our work with students. Though it may seem obvious, we can sometimes lose sight of happiness in our day-to-day activities. Today at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) conference, I had the opportunity to hear from Amy Blankson, a neuroscience researcher and author in the field of positive psychology who reaffirmed the idea that happiness is a critical lever for productivity, satisfaction, and success.
I share this because in our work with children and adults, the attitude we bring matters. Our brain is constantly bombarded with information, and how we choose to process that information also matters. If we actively seek to understand information through the lens of positivity, we can actually rewire our default settings that oftentimes direct us to things we find stressful, rather than joyful. Helping our children reframe information positively can lead to much greater outcomes for them in the future. In fact, there is a growing body of research that shows that happiness actually leads to healthier and longer lives in individuals.
Our work together is enriched when we build meaningful connections between one another, rooted in positivity. I encourage you to think about how you can work with your children at home to build what Amy Blankson describes as, “constellations of positive habits”— i.e. chances to reinforce the good and positive in each of our days. Think about incorporating journaling as part of your nightly routine with your children to give you and your family a chance to reflect on the things for which you are grateful; encourage your children to think of something different each night. Come up with “conscious acts of kindness,” where you and your family do something thoughtful for another person each day.
Community, and caring about others, is one of the hallmarks of our school. However, community is not something that sustains itself. Rather, it has to be nurtured and cultivated through conscious behaviors that seek to include everyone. As I visited our fifth and sixth grade students at Nature’s Classroom yesterday, and saw the beautiful way in which they played together as a community, I was reminded how fundamental it is to create spaces for that kind of learning.
With a wonderful Halloween assembly, a visit to the opera, and the launch of our updated My Classrooms pages, this has been an incredible—and busy—week for us at Ancona!
As I travel in and out of classrooms and confer with teachers, I am excited about the ways students are being encouraged to explore a wide range of ideas and topics. Last Friday, I watched as Katrina and Liz facilitated an inquiry-based discussion with 7th and 8th graders using a simple slinky! Students were quite literally sitting on the edge of their seats as their teachers demonstrated an experiment that forced them to conjecture as to what might be happening and why. Check out the video below to see if you can figure it out!
In one of our Creative Expression Lab (CEL) classes, also for 7th and 8th grade, Rodney, our Technology Integration Coordinator, is working with students to explore and define the concept of diversity through photography and digital storytelling.
Elsewhere around the school, we are getting ready to send the 5th and 6th graders off to camp at Nature’s Classroom, where they will build community and explore the natural world around them. These kinds of opportunities we create for students to experience learning with all their senses are central to what we do everyday at school.
Parent-teacher conferences are coming up soon, so do make sure you sign-up. During your conference, I encourage you to talk with teachers about how to extend learning at home. We are, after all, partners in the work. Learning at home, like learning in school, is best when the child is rooted in a context, an experience, or a story. Think about guiding your children to important pearls of wisdom by using your environment, your routines, or your practices as the frame.