Friday, January 26, 2018

2018! The Future Is Here!

Welcome to 2018! The future is here!

 I am living what I once dreamed of and that is a world with vast ways to communicate. To be honest, this was sometimes a dream and sometimes a nightmare! When I was a child, the place I learned the most to treasure was the public library. In the library you could fill the time learning about space, plants, and many various things… my favorite being horses!  The library was warm and colorful and quiet. It was even a refreshing break from the heat during an intensely sunny summer day. (Alright, I’m showing my age, because our home did not have air conditioning!)

Now the place for children to learn, have quiet time, or simply read has expanded to computers and even phones. Information is right at your fingertips!  So, how do parents navigate this kind of fast paced world of constant information for yourself and most important for your children?

At this point, I am full of questions and am slowly researching through….of course the Internet, but also through conversations, observations, and experiences.

1)   What is important to you and your family?
2)   How can you tell if information learned from the Internet is true? How about from books?
3)   How do you guide children to value reading, studying, quiet reflective time?
4)   How can you teach or guide the difference between real and fake? “Fake News” is getting a lot of attention these days.

Overall, through my own research in various manners: on the Internet, through conversations, through observations, and many of my own experiences, I’ve concluded that learning can be done in many forms. An on-going or perpetual learner does all of the above. All are sources, or learning tools, and we need to use each in balance…multiple sources before we draw or write our conclusions.

1)   For me, it has always been learning through experiences, thoughtful conversation, and careful research. Often I have to reflect on what was learned and what holds true over time. I also enjoy taking a break by reading.
2)   Learning takes time. When so often in this information age we access information quickly, I wonder… “Will it stick with me for when I need it?”
           3)   Should learning to love books continue as an important educational tool?

In my opinion, books should be everyone’s favorite past time. It is a gift we should all continue to be giving to our children. I am trying to pass this on to children of all ages.

On a side note, as a parent and grandparent, there is no better place to experience calm and imaginative learning then while reading in the library. We are so fortunate to have libraries a part of our public systems. When is the last time you have been there or taken a child there? Don’t forget about this sacred space. Let’s not let those beautiful facilities sit idle. The one lesson/habit I wanted my children to have when they went off to college is to use the library. 

Finally, I want to say that I am proud to know Breck parent Mohammed Lawal. He has designed two Minneapolis libraries for the north side communities. Check out Sumner and Webber Park Libraries. And, enjoy all those Little Free Libraries that delightfully have become so popular. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

How do we learn to be leaders?

Prospective parents frequently have asked, “ How do we at Breck foster leadership in the Lower School?”  They ask about our Student Council and how children get elected to serve. I share about how the students deliver written speeches to their teacher(s) who in turn share the ideas to their classes anonymously. The hope is that students vote on the best ideas, without simply picking a friend. Along with answering these questions, I always like to add that leadership is so much more than serving as an elected council official. In thinking carefully about this question, I realize that our young student council representatives, work hard to be the voice of their classmates and model leadership. I also emphasize that leadership comes in many forms at Breck. It is fostered each day within the classroom, at chapel, at lunch, on field trips etc. It is practiced and demonstrated often and in ways you’d never expect.
Student Council Representatives (Grades 1-4)

We at Breck want to think deeper about leadership: What is a leader? What do leaders look like and sound like? Is a leader always in front of the group? Are the leaders always the voice of the group? Through these questions, we have found there is much more to leadership than first thought of:  leaders inspire, leaders like to organize, leaders share ideas openly, and leaders listen to other’s ideas. Along with all of these thoughts, we’ve added that leaders are collaborators. Leaders serve the community. Positive leaders are seen as role models to others.
  Reading With Senior Citizens

Sharing Math Strategies

                 Sharing A Favorite Book/Reading To Others        

 Young children can lead! Even in preschool and kindergarten you can see leaders in the community. The teachers foster leadership by giving their students classroom jobs. They may lead the line or have a special job as the caboose, also known as line ender. They help a friend at recess learn how to climb the monkey bars, or organize a group to rake leaves, or …One student led a whole construction group in the sandbox on a weekly basis. They sifted sand and moved it across the playground in toy trucks. The other children liked the way this friend came up with the idea, created new jobs, and included anyone who wanted to join. First and second graders learn to form teams at recess. They take turns choosing the team, delegating positions, and bringing their friends to victory or humble defeat, ready to take on new positions the next day. These students also have a job as table captains at lunch. They watch for when it is time for seconds, encourage eating a more colorful plate of food by adding vegetables, and delegating table helpers to clean up afterwards. Third graders have reading buddies and begin to serve as lunchroom helpers, called Biddies, with kindergarten and preschool students. Teachers appreciate their service as they set the tables, help younger students make healthy food choices, and model appropriate dining behavior. 

There are many opportunities at Breck to develop strong leadership traits and practice positive leadership. Our fourth graders, as the oldest in Lower School are seen as leaders and role models simply by being in the position of the oldest in the group. Teachers have realized that the responsibility of being an active leader and role model needs even more opportunity to practice and not solely a right of passage. Fourth grade has built into the curriculum a leadership program. A kick-off day gets the students aware and motivated for the greater responsibilities that come with leadership and serving the Lower School. Special color groups meet on a regular basis to search for ways to demonstrate leadership, serve the community, and grow as individuals. Fourth graders also work on committees each week. There is the Sustainability Committee, which focuses on the school environment, the Service Committee, which organizes food and clothing drives, and the Chapel Committee, which helps to plan chapel services.

Individuals on all grade levels are welcome to lead and serve whenever the right opportunity presents itself. Felix, a second grader organized a community collection for hurricane relief. His goal was to gather $1,000 dollars in loose change. His classmates helped to count all the coins, which was a good math lesson as well! Mason, a third grader, lives close to Breck. He holds an annual Halloween Haunted House. Entry to the Halloween adventure is food for the food shelf.
Hurricane Relief

Grade Level Counting Coins For Felix's Project

Thumbs Up For A Great Halloween Event, Mason!

There are so many ways to develop the skills for true leadership. It doesn’t develop over night. It is thoughtfully honed and nurtured. We at Breck take pride in developing the leaders of tomorrow.
Admissions Ambassadors

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Awakens!

April 2017

Spring has arrived and as usual I wonder where the year has gone. The students are busy working on special research reports, practicing songs for closing exercises, and getting into shape for field day. Whew! We don’t wind down at Breck…we buckle down and accomplish a great deal!

Parents need a clean calendar to record all the special events that are happening in May and early June. It will be important to know that your child is working hard and will need some down time, or rest during these busy weeks. The overlap of community events, music recitals, and family festivities only adds to a hectic feeling. Let’s have the mindset to spend a few hours a week outside in nature, observing and enjoying the changes of the season. It is such a short and precious time, especially in Minnesota.

Our parent Moving UP events have begun. Although we still have a lot of important time in the present grade, these events will give you parents a little peek or preview of next year. The teachers presenting have worked hard to share the excitement and possibilities in a new grade and will be able to answer your questions. Look at the Breck calendar to see when your grade level meets.
Here is what I have:
April 5th was the kindergarten meeting (Moving Up to First Grade)
April 20th was the second grade meeting (Moving Up to Third Grade)
April 27th will be the preschool meeting (Moving Up to Kindergarten)
May 4th will be the third grade meeting (Moving Up to Fourth Grade)
May 11th will be the first grade one meeting (Moving Up to Second Grade)
May 16th will be the fourth grade meeting (Moving Up to Middle School)

Teachers are also putting together some suggested activities for the summer. These are geared to keep learning present during the summer, in a fun and interactive way. All items are optional. Parents have appreciated ideas for those days that seem to need a boost. We all want to work as a team to keep children sharp in their skills and motivated to make learning connections on many levels.  Even when it is summer, children can play games to practice math skills, read and read some more, think like a scientist, and explore the world around them. Enjoy this time together as a family! It does go by much too quickly!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 2017!

Happy New Year!  There is so much to share! The new initiatives for 2016-17 are going well. Our students are eating more healthily at lunchtime. Discussions in classrooms when planning ahead seem to be the best arena for thinking about the good choices of food we are given at Breck School. Students are trying foods from all the food groups. More salad choices have been given and students are taking advantage of trying new foods. The preschool/kindergarten salad table is a hit. Even the students in grades 1-4 like to see what new foods are being offered and willing to try kale, beets, and couscous.


The STEAM initiative has also taken off. Students have shared that STEAM is one of their favorite parts of the day. Today I walked by the STEAM room and saw students building with wood, hammers, and nails. Of course they were wearing their safety goggles and earplugs!  (Photos of this activity to come.)

Coding continues to be popular among students Preschool-Fourth and beyond. The Hour of Code or our own Breck Code-In was a hit. The fact that it was also pajama day was a double reward. (The whole school had Pajama Day, which was from earning points for all the food collected back in October during the Breck Scares Hunger. ) Way to go Breck!


We have a lot to share with prospective parents and students during our admission season. Thankfully we have the help of fourth grade leaders. This group of fourth graders has proven to be very passionate and articulate when sharing their own Breck experiences.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Reflections

November was an interesting month. It began with the election, which generated a lot of conversation. Teachers did an amazing job keeping the focus on the branches of government, citizenship, and the right to vote. Opinions about different candidates were redirected into positive ways we can support our community with words and actions.

The C.A.R.E. tee-shirt that we wear each Lower School Community Meeting says it all. I forgot how powerful the words were until I was wearing it while running errands after school. Several strangers nodded at me with smiles, and one woman placed her hand on my shoulder and said, "That is a wonderful shirt...what a powerful message." I went home and looked more closely at the back of the shirt and the words: participation, responsibility, tolerance, stewardship, courage, and collaboration had new meaning, especially all as pillars to the big idea...CITIZENSHIP. Wow! It made me proud to be a part of the Breck community. A community that cares!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Wow! Where has the time gone?

October 31, 2016

This week brings October to a close. Each year, I hear teachers and parents saying, “October can be a challenging month.” Often I think about what makes it such a challenge? And, what are the good challenges that we embrace each year, and where are the rough roads traveled as teachers, parents, and students, that we want to smooth out.

School begins with everyone refreshed from a nice summer hiatus from traditional work and school routines. Everyone seems to have a story to tell about a summer adventure, connection with a loved one, or discovery of a new interest. School brings back old friends to share those new ideas and adventures with, and a time to plan and move forward. With that being said, each week the pace picks up a little more and a little more, until we can feel a bit overwhelmed. Helping our students and one another manage this stress or challenge in a positive way is another area of focus.

Over the summer, I was able to ride my horse, play with my grandchildren, swim, spend time in nature and rejuvenate. I was also allowed the time to read! Reading brings joy and new adventures, as well. Often I like fiction, and more or less what is coined beach reading, but this summer I chose to read non-fiction and learn something different. The many books suggested on the Breck Professional List appealed to me, and it was hard to choose. So, I just started reading and ended up almost completing four titles: Growth Mindset, by Carol Dweck, The Gift of Failure, by Jessical Lahey, Quiet, by Susan Cain, and…finally The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal. (I have to admit that I did cut some corners when reading by finding several of these authors on Ted Talks.) The books, the author lecture, and the time to think really changed how I looked at teaching and learning.  I also thought about being a parent and the lessons involved in that, too. I highly recommend these books and the Ted Talks by these amazing authors!

Now since being immersed in school routines, activities, and special events, I see how Breck teachers are incorporating the overarching tenets of these books/authors. I have witnessed new and challenging math curriculum being presented with teacher enthusiasm and a can do attitude by students.  No one said that this was going to be an easy task. This is a challenging curriculum, but the teachers and students are embracing the challenge and finding a great deal of success in the process. Are they making mistakes? Absolutely! Are they embracing the mistakes and learning from them at an even deeper level of academic connectedness….a whole hearted, YES!

Initiatives in schools across the national include: Growth Mindset, Yoga Calm, Mindfulness, and The Power of Quiet. What does all this tell you? It tells me that we are a busy society that is overflowing with activity, energy, and many choices. Learning to balance a busy schedule, one needs to learn how to set priorities and make choices. Too many things, even really good things, flip a switch and make things go wrong. In this feeling of imbalance, there can be confusion and disappointment. Then… it is hard to think, appreciate the lessons in life, and find joy in day-to-day activities. Working through challenges is a good stress. It is an area that can stretch you into new levels of learning and later understanding. Without it life and learning can fall flat. Of course too many challenges all at once are frustrating and defeating. A student needs the opportunity to grow, but also time to reflect and have some fun. This year, I am making a conscious effort to encourage the excitement of learning new things; supporting my students through the opportunities that come with mistakes; and celebrating each step along the way. I encourage everyone to work hard and play hard, but I don’t want to forget that ever important part of the equation…rest hard!

November is such a good month for quiet and reflection. The weather is getting cooler and brings us inside. And, the holiday in focus is Thanksgiving. It is an important time to think about what we are grateful for, and to appreciate family. This should not be a time that we forget or move past too quickly into the hurried activities that go with December. Enjoy the moment of peace, the moment of quiet thinking, and the moment of much deserved rest.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer Fun

Dear Families,

It has been another wonderful year! I must say that if you are looking for something to do as a family, the puzzles are the way to go. Puzzles seemed to be seen as some good old-fashioned fun. In reality, puzzles provide an arena for memory work, thinking, and problem solving. We have had puzzles set up in the third and fourth grade Commons area all year long. And…everyone wanted...

to get into the act!