I recently visited the third grade classroom and was astonished at the tremendous amount of wisdom in these young minds. Laura Burges, our 3rd grade teacher, asked her students to write what they are thankful for at this time of the year. Each student has been asked to read their poem at some point over the break in front of family and/or friends, but I want to share a few lines here:
I am thankful for the breeze on the trees
I am thankful for the sight of the city of San Francisco
I am thankful for perfectly cooked eggs over easy
I am thankful for black and white cats
I am thankful for the smell of opening an old book
As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday, I decided to tackle the 3rd grade assignment as a way to reflect and share my thanks to our community.
I am thankful for:
I am thankful I can:
But most of all I am thankful for:
Please join me in being thankful for our wonderful SFS community, and thank you for your partnership!
Every fall our Board of Trustees invite parents, faculty and staff to gather to review annual financials and to discuss the state of the school - which continues to thrive! This year, an SFS parent and professional graphic recorder, Giselle Chow, volunteered to capture the meeting in real-time. Click on each image to get the full story.
This week we had the great honor of hosting, John Chubb, the President of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) on our campus. John has recently joined NAIS after many years in various areas of education, and it felt special having our school be one of the first that he has visited in his new role (there are over 1400 NAIS schools total).
As it does everyday, the campus was buzzing with the energy that only children can create – giggling, screaming, singing, dancing, skipping and plenty of balls flying. During his time here, John visited several classes, met many of our students and participated in singing time. Additionally, John joined several Trustees and me for lunch - a classic school lunchtime favorite - sloppy joe’s.
Our lunchtime conversation was extremely provocative as we reflected on several significant issues currently being discussed in private schools across the country, such as: how independent schools are thinking about financial sustainability; creative approaches to developing non-tuition revenue sources; and the evolving role of technology - all topics that are addressed in our next set of Strategic Initiatives.
It was clear that our school made a very positive impression on John, and we look forward to partnership opportunities with him and NAIS to address the matters mentioned briefly above. To learn more about John, please read this NAIS article.
Our campus is once again alive with the sounds of joyful students. Below is the letter that I sent to our parent community the day before we launched our 2013-2014 school year!
Dear SFS Parents and Guardians,
I am incredibly pleased to welcome each and every student and family member to the 2013-2014 school year. I am sure that I join most of you in being astonished and a bit saddened how quickly the summer has passed. But, I am also excited and ready to hand my children over to the teachers and get this school year rolling!
Our campus facilities, faculty and staff are prepared and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the students. When you enter campus tomorrow, you will walk into a newly renovated center courtyard adorned with an olive tree, a wonderful rainwater garden and fresh landscaping. You will also marvel at the 40-foot tall, 14,000 square foot Community Center - it is truly a sight to see.
During the summer, countless time was spent preparing individual classrooms so that students can maximize their learning opportunities. Additionally, our faculty has engaged in hundreds of hours of professional development – refining and mastering new dimensions of their careers. As proud life-long learners, our faculty is constantly striving to become the best teachers possible for your children.
Last school year, we tested the resilience of our students and families, as we constructed our Community Center located in the middle of campus. With the successful completion of the building, I can once again turn toward long-range planning and partnering with the community in building our bright future.
As I enter my tenth year at the school and sixth year as the Head, I am feeling motivated, fresh, and enthusiastic. Having interacted with many students in recent weeks, my sense is that the students share these same feelings. Here is to a fantastic 2013-2014 school year!
It is remarkable that our 8th grade graduation is only 15 school days away! As these last days of the school year fast-approach, I have been thinking about our 8th grade students and parents- some who have been here since they were 3 years old, and others who joined along the way. To the parents, I imagine that it seems like yesterday that these 8th graders were taking naps, reciting the lunch menu, and making hurry-up cake.
I visited the newly hatched chicks (all 17 of them) in the preschool north class yesterday morning and watched the precious interactions between our youngest students and the baby birds. I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that in a blink of an eye, these young students would someday be boarding a flight to Leon, Nicaragua (as our current 8th graders did on Sunday evening) for their culminating trip as SFS students. The wealth of experiences that our children will have along their journeys at SFS will lay the foundation and define who they are. Some of these experiences include stacking milk crates in the preschool yards in order to create a ship that will sail to far off lands, learning tall tales in 3rd grade, using physics lessons in 8th grade to build roller coasters, and ultimately going to Nicaragua...these students are making memories that will last a lifetime.
As I sometimes do on this blog, as a fellow parent, I encourage you to soak up every moment with your child and their experience at SFS. Before you know it, it will be 15 days before your child walks across that stage to shake my hand, pose for a picture, and receive his or her SFS diploma!
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary shook the world, our nation and the educational community at large. As a result, many schools, including ours, reviewed and updated campus safety policies. Already, our school has had several staff and team meetings dedicated to reviewing our procedures. Later this month, we have a mandatory all staff meeting (including extended care staff) with an officer from the San Francisco Police Department who is coming to speak with us about campus safety.
There is much we can do at the individual school level, but conversations and a national dialogue must occur to deal with the root issues of gun violence. In an effort to participate in such a dialogue, I have signed, along with more than 200 other Heads of School, this open letter to the President and our policy leaders. For me, it is not about politics. Instead, it is a conversation that crosses party lines and focuses on the safety of our children – which is our duty. I encourage you read the letter at www.HOSAGV.org.
As we head into the holiday break, I thought I would send along a different kind of 'cell-a-batory' message.
I recently had the opportunity to visit our 7th grade science class 1st annual "cell-a-bration". The purpose of this unit was to introduce students to the "magnificent" cell and its many parts. I learned that these parts work together to achieve the common goal of storing nutrients, getting rid of waste, generating energy, cell reproduction, synthesis and transport of proteins and achieving all of the life functions we do on a daily basis.
While observing and participaing in part of the class, I could not help but reflect on how many essential 21st century learning skills were at play. To name some of those skills:
Ultimately, our 7/8 science teacher helped to make learning fun. These are lessons that the students will never forget and as you can see from the student-produced film (created on an iPad) even 7th graders can act silly in front of one another.
May your holidays be filled with this kind of unbridled joy and much celebration with family and friends.
See you in 2013!!
Growing up with a white mother and a black father afforded me both privilege and powerlessness. My skin was fair enough for me to go swimming with my classmates at the local "white members only" country club but at the same time my father could never come in and watch me and my classmates frolic in the pool. As a mixed-race kid growing up in the 80's, times were complex.
One particular challenge of growing up biracial was that I felt there was nobody who understood what it meant to be me- not even my dad or mom. My mom gave me hope by telling me, “You have the best of both worlds…” but there simply were not many role models with my light skin and kinky hair.
As the years have passed, our country is slowly progressing toward a more tolerant union. I saw this so well represented last week during our school's annual Halloween celebration.
One of our young kindergartners, a mixed race boy, came proudly dressed as a President. The symbolism of this child’s "costume" struck me so deeply. This young boy (and many others like him) now believes that he can someday be President of the United States!
There is still so much work to be done until all of our students can see themselves represented in the Oval Office. No matter where you fall on the party lines, I encourage you to get out and vote this Tuesday. Join the San Francisco School in teaching our students the importance of Democracy and help instill in them the belief that no matter their appearance, gender, socioeconomic reality, or sexual orientation, they too can someday become President!