Striking a Balance When Teaching Literacy

DSC09958Last week, I read with interest an opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?” The author makes the case that phonics instruction is the best way to learn to read and that teacher training programs need to do a better job of teaching phonics instruction. On its face, there is a lot of good thought in this article: phonics instruction (learning the sounds of letters and combinations of letters in order to read) is effective and an important component of decoding words, the key step towards literacy. Here at Country School, our teachers do indeed use a phonics approach when teaching reading in kindergarten through second grade. Continue reading

Students Learn Everywhere

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Earlier this week, I spent several class periods in a 7th grade math section.  The classroom, on the third floor of the Stevens building, has a window flanking the door on one side. As I approached the classroom during one of the periods, I saw green marks all over the window.  I soon realized that one of the students was standing in front of the window, writing on it, working on problems while preparing for an upcoming test. As the rest of the classroom came into view, I saw students writing on desks, on moveable whiteboard shelves, on the whiteboard walls, and on notebooks, all practicing problems. The teacher, meanwhile, was moving from student to student, offering tips and feedback.  Periodically, the teacher would exclaim “flash problem” and write another problem on the wall for the students to solve quickly. I entered the classroom and proceeded to help several of the students who were stuck on one step or another. Continue reading

Our Children, Our Hearts

IMG_8394This quote from the author Elizabeth Stone is one of my favorites: “The decision to have a child is momentous – it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I shared this quote at Upper School Parents’ Night earlier this month because while this reality is present throughout our children’s lives, it feels especially poignant when they are newborns and again during the years of early adolescence. Continue reading

Dwarves Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

BQ3A9009aLast Wednesday, we hosted our annual reception for former faculty & staff. If you are like me, that concept raises your eyebrows. What kind of an institution attracts enough of its former employees back to hold a reception for them, much less an annual one? Well, the notion of community at Country School continues to impress me from so many angles. Over two dozen former faculty and staff members returned to campus this past week to reconnect with one another, see the new Dining Hall and the Grace House renovations, listen to the current faculty choir perform, come to our Wednesday lunch, walk the halls of the buildings, and generally bask in the glow that is Country School. Continue reading

The Strength of Community

BQ3A0317Happy October!  As I reflect on the first month of school, and my first three months here at Country School, the strength of this community continues to shine through. I have been talking about this at our gatherings of current parents, past parents, grandparents, and alumni as we kicked off the Annual Fund. I did so last night at our Early Childhood Parent Night, as I related the beginning of their journey at Country School to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Just as much, last weekend’s Cougar Run showcased so many wonderful aspects of this community meaningfully.

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Wisdom from the Secondary School Admissions Panel

“It is the process of falling in love.”
“They’re not soft skills; they ARE the skills our students need to navigate this world.”
“Incredible opportunity and privilege”
“In some ways they are more coddled; in some ways they are more adult.”
“Educate and legislate.”

Secondary School Admissions Panelists BQ3A9606These snippets of wisdom came from six secondary school admissions directors to parents of 8th and 9th graders during a panel discussion this week about the high school application process. The panel was led by Drew Casertano, 29-year Head of Millbrook School who we are fortunate enough to have as a Country School trustee.  We also welcomed representatives from Greens Farms Academy, Greenwich Country Day School, Miss Porter’s School, Phillips Andover Academy, Rye Country Day School and Westminster School as members of the panel.

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Lessons from Baxter, our New Puppy

IMG_1419This week, our family got a puppy.  Baxter is our first dog. We have not had one in the past for several reasons. Kara is allergic, so we had to find a fairly hypo-allergenic breed (Baxter is an Irish Doodle – part Irish Setter, part Poodle), and we have not lived in particularly friendly dog-owning situations in the past. When we moved here this summer, we knew it was time. We have been looking for a dog for several months, and we finally found the perfect option. Needless to say, we are all beyond excited to have a new member of the family.   Continue reading

The Self-Driven Child

Last weekend, a friend sent me the article, “To raise independent kids, treat middle school like a dress rehearsal for life, from the Washington Post. The article is about the importance of ownership for children. The author talked about taking too much control backstage for a middle school drama performance and watching the students perform more poorly than in previous ones where the students oversaw the backstage work. Continue reading

Leave it Better

What a great first week of school it has been! In addition to welcoming 600 wonderful students and many of their parents to their first days of the 2018-2019 school year and officially dedicating the Susan Haigh Carver ‘51 Dining Hall and Commons, I had the opportunity to address each of the divisions at their weekly assemblies. I introduced myself, talked about my hopes and dreams, acknowledged the emotions of the first days of school, and, in the middle and upper schools, provided an exhortation for the year.

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Shoshin or the Beginners’ Mind

As I sit here this Labor Day, I am reflecting as I do every year on the past summer and eagerly awaiting tomorrow morning when our students finally return to campus and it springs to life. The faculty, staff and I had a productive and inspiring time last week preparing for the opening of school and meeting many of our new students for their orientations. We have all enjoyed watching the reactions of joy, awe and excitement to the new Susan Haigh Carver ‘51 Dining Hall & Commons, along with the renovations in Grace House. It has already started to become a great community space and hub at the center of campus; we cannot wait to dedicate it on Thursday and officially open it to students.

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