The Head and the Heart at Back to School Night

For most of us, Back to School Night signals the unquestionable start of the school year. Summer is a distant memory (sniff!); our adjustment to early mornings, uniforms, and packing lunches is complete (almost); and we are fully in learning mode.

At Grace BTSN last Thursday, Grace Head of School Jennifer Danish shared some lovely remarks with our community, while reflecting that she is about to attend her 19th and final back to school night as a parent herself. She shared her excitement over the learning that we are going to be engaged in as a community over the coming academic year, but reminded us not to forget about the daily interactions that make up the fabric of any student’s school experience. Reflecting on what she sees in her office that looks out on the playground and into the halls, Ms. Danish said:

I think these small moments and the impact that they have on the growth of your children are what make our school a place where students belong, where that can be seen for who they are. A place where they can grow into the person they are meant to be. And as an Episcopal School, this attention to the development of the self and of the spirit is core to what we believe is our calling.

You can read the full text of Ms. Danish’s remarks: BTSN Remarks 2017.

Parents in classroom

Mrs. Morrison and Mr. Mazza welcome new Kindergarten parents

Parents in Classroom

Ms. Aponte welcoming Grade 1 parents

And although you, like us, are surely still missing the long, hot days of summer just a little bit, we don’t want you to think that we didn’t bring a lot of engaged learning into our summer break. In fact, the whole Grace faculty and staff worked on deepening their skills in, understanding of, and commitment to their craft of teaching this summer. Here are just a few of the professional development activities our staff participated in!

  • Kristin Smith, Music Teacher, attended an Orff Schulwerk conference that focused on student creativity.
  • Belkis Aponte (Grade 1), Alma Scott (Grade 4), and Luigi LaPietra (Grade 5) attended the Washington International School Summer Institute for Teachers (WISSIT), a weeklong institute designed to connect teachers to each other and to Harvard Project Zero ideas. Students, you’ll be happy to know that all three of them found that they had a heavy homework load each night!
  • Christine Comas, Science & Technology Teacher and Director of Innovation, attended two conferences (no surprise for a teacher with three titles!): a NASA conference for educators about engineering and the design process; and a conference about Design Thinking at St. Andrew’s School’s Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning. A theme in her learning was the idea that we must foster creative thinking in our young people so that they are ready to tackle big problems in the future.
  • Angie Rutledge, PE Teacher, attended the National Physical Education & School Sport Institute that offered innovative ideas about how to incorporate technology into PE. And no, that doesn’t mean that playing Pokemon Go will be part of our curriculum this year — the focus was more on how we can introduce new skills and encourage mastery by using videos and other technology to support our learning.
  • Kate Kelliher, Grade 2 teacher, attended an AIMS reading and writing conference that focused on our Lucy Calkins writing curriculum. The discussion focused on student-driven work and the way that public presentation of their work can motivate and inspire students. So expect frequent Writers’ Teas this year, too!
  • Gloria Green, our new Grade 3 teacher, also attended a writers’ workshop at Norwood school that focused on how to encourage effective student critique of classmates’ writing.
  • Mariano Mazza, Kindergarten Assistant Teacher, and Chris Saffour, Preschool Assistant Teacher, went to a Responsive Classroom conference for teachers. Both have been working in responsive classrooms for several years, and both commented on the fact that the conference was great for helping them understand the whys behind what they have been doing. With a deeper understanding, both teachers are excited about the ways they can use Responsive Classroom methods to set students up for success this year.
  • Gail Kennedy, Division Director for Elementary, had the chance to dive deeply into all things mathematical at the Math in Focus Conference in Pennsylvania. She shared with us that her attendance at the conference made her even more sure that Math in Focus was the right choice for our new math curriculum last year. With her training and one year of implementation under our belt, we are excited to see what heights we reach in math this year.

Grace teachers who did not attend formal conferences did a lot of work on their own: watching webinars, visiting other schools, reading about their craft and areas of focus, and planning for the coming year. It’s going to be a great one!