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!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 2016

March 2016

Lower School chapel services demonstrate a great deal of leadership from our students: grades one to four. Students help with prayers, reading scripture, plays or bible story reenactments, music and even technology. Many of our fourth grade students have a very special role in planning chapel services with our Chaplain, Ms. Nan Zosel. The photo shows that chapel is often an active experience for our students. The direct involvement in sharing spiritual connectedness and community prayer is a wonderful experience for our young students. The chapel is such a beautiful space that everything from peaceful prayer and meditation to roof raising song fills the space. We are fortunate to be at a school that recognizes the power of prayer and community sharing.

Our gr. 4 Chapel Committee is not in this photo, because their work is more "behind the scenes".  Those committee members help select stories, nominate songs, and offer fun ideas such as letting the 2nd graders wear their animal hats to portray the animals getting on board the ark, which is pictured above.  They also serve as cantors, lectors, and run the Power Points and soundboard. Fourth grade students' work and leadership helps us all stay engaged during our time in Chapel.  As Ms. Zosel says, “They are an imaginative and reliable crew!”

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Reflections

 January 2016

Students have been a special part of our admissions process for many years. We began with Upper School as select leaders for this process, but each year more and more students wanted to invest their time into highlighting the school for prospective parents and student guests. Now, opportunities for leadership start in the classroom P-4, during our admissions season. Lower School students welcome adult visitors and child guests equally.  A couple of students are selected as classroom guides throughout the day, showing a visitor the classroom routines, lunch, and basically assists during each transition. The welcoming spirit makes the day flow smoothly for a classroom guest and appreciation is demonstrated with smiles all around at the end of the day. 

Our admissions open house was Sunday, January 10th. The select fourth graders in the photo were well prepared to lead groups of families throughout the school. They answered questions, entertained little ones, and shared special Breck memories. Our adult guests were highly impressed with our student ambassadors. We appreciated their poise, articulate answers, and general enthusiasm for the school. Each student ambassador contributed to a very successful afternoon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December: Thoughts on Leadership

When we speak of leadership opportunities in the Lower School, we have to highlight our Student Council. Our Lower School Student Council has representatives from First Grade to Fourth Grade. Council members are elected by their class, and meet on a weekly rotation. Members of the Student Council board take their position of leadership very seriously. They model for all of us what a community should look like: demonstrating respect, working together, planning, and taking on new responsibilities. Just one of the many examples of this was when we met as a Lower School last month in the theater to share our hopes for a good community. Classrooms from P-4 came to the meeting with 3 expectations that they felt were important things for a community to do, to become, and to practice on a regular basis. There were themes that went along with the general expectations of: responsibility, respect, safety, belonging, and maintaining a green/clean environment etc. The student council representative read the class expectation into the microphone and the class gave a shout out to their theme. Our Lower School Student Council president and vice president worked hard to help organize the yellow sheets. Hearing out community expectations out loud, seeing the yellow sheets with those same words written on them, spread across the floor, and watching community work in action all solidified for our students how we take being a strong community seriously. It is one thing to say we are a community and it is another to learn to act on that. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to raise positive leaders throughout the Lower School. Each member of the greater community has the opportunity to shine in their own right, from speaking up in class, in chapel, in the theater etc. to opening doors for another person or greeting guests on Grandparents Day. Student Council is one of those important ways in which we model active and humble leadership.  And, which leads us to be better individuals and connect to the greater community each day.