A key area of focus this year has been on re-envisioning the specialist programs going forward, and more specifically, how to more intentionally attend to the whole child and create opportunities for students to engage deeply, fully, and frequently with the sciences, arts, and holistic wellness practices.
One of our main goals at PKS is to foster a lifelong passion for learning and exploration, not only among our students but also among our parents, faculty, and staff. A few weeks ago, however, the pedagogical team wanted to try something innovative and engaging to provide our faculty and staff with a different type of professional development (PD) opportunity; something we call “Pinterest Live” or “Old School Pinterest.”
In our parenting journey, we model, we scaffold, and then we take off the training wheels and let them go.
As many of you know, I have a P3 student here at PKS, and a 2 year old son whom I hope will join us when he is old enough. Both kids were in the car with me on Thursday morning as I tuned in to the Judiciary Committee hearings in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford courageously told her story. I found myself feeling confused, and a bit helpless, as I tried to balance my civic impulses and my fatherly impulses.
Almost ten years ago, I wrote an article titled "Academic Rigor and Student Engagement: A Perfect Match." While many feared that they would need to sacrifice student engagement in the service of academic rigor, I argued strongly that academic rigor could ONLY genuinely come together with student engagement, and that truly rigorous learning at its core needed to be about exploration, discovery, creativity, inquiry, and pattern recognition.
Service learning is a core component of progressive education, and being of service to our larger community is a core value of PKS.
Teachers weave in opportunities to integrate service learning into the units of exploration that they develop with their students. For example, as a part of the first grade’s work learning about habitats, they partnered with the San Francisco Parks and Rec department to work on a habitat restoration project in Golden Gate Park. Learning matters more when we get to apply and extend our knowledge and have a positive impact on our community.
There is no instruction manual on how to teach children. Children don’t need to follow anyone to explore the world. Instead, we focus on children’s learning processes and experiences, not on pushing children to remember all the academic material. Teachers and children observe, find questions, search for the result and solve issues together; building knowledge and gaining new experiences while learning from each other.
Every time I have a game, I have one thing I tell my team every single time. I tell them, "Do I care if you win or lose?” And they know the answer -- I honestly don't. Then I ask them “Do I care if you try?” And the answer to that is definitely yes.
As we begin the new year, and as we take a moment to look back and reflect on last year, I want to highlight one unifying thread from our children's experiences in the preschool over the first few months of the school year.
Orff Schulwerk is an active child-centered approach to music education where you take what the kids are already doing when they're born, playing, singing, dancing, speech, games, drama, and beyond. You use that to teach the concepts and the skills in music, which makes so much more sense than anything. Also, music class is not just about teaching students to be great musicians, we are teaching them to appreciate beauty, work cooperatively, and use creativity, while developing their motor skills and often performing tasks requiring independence and higher order thinking skills.
On a typical day, every student at PKS brings or buys their own lunch, and each student brings their own culinary and cultural traditions to the table. About four years ago, a PKS parent saw a golden opportunity for learning and sharing. Could we create a regular occasion to share family traditions with classmates? How would students react to sitting down together for a joint “Formal Lunch” -- could they even motivate each other to learn and practice table manners?
Last week, our students began their next Habit of Character study. In November, we are focusing on being generous (乐善好施).
We all know that “education” is more than the gathering of facts and knowledge (and in the case of PKS, two languages). Social and emotional development are equally fundamental, and multiple studies demonstrate that integration of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs in school pave the way for better academic learning: they teach children skills that are intimately linked with cognitive development, helping them be focused, attentive, motivated, engaged, and confident in their learning.
October’s Habit of Character focus was Independence (独立自主). In order to develop children’s independence, we must trust them. Sometimes they will make mistakes and experience challenges both socially and academically.