A Letter from Tim

  • Kids do better when teachers know them well

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 1/17/2019

    I hope you and your children have settled back into the rhythm of the school schedule. More than one of you commented to me last week how pleased and ready you were to have your kids back at Stanley..

     

    I enjoyed re-reading a May 2018 article from the Hechinger Report, a non-profit education publication focused on inequality and innovation, about the importance of teacher/student relationships. The title sums it up well: “Kids Do Better When Teachers Know Them Well.” The author cites two recent studies involving elementary-aged students that examine the impact of “platooning” and “looping” on a range of academic and social/emotional outcomes. Platooning refers to the practice of allowing teachers to specialize in a particular subject or two, with children spending time during the day with two or more specialists instead of with one core teacher providing instruction in all or most subjects. Looping describes the practice of children spending more than one year with a teacher.

     

    One of the studies, from Harvard University, compared results from schools in which platooning was the norm with results from schools that followed a core homeroom teacher format. Classrooms that retained students in homerooms throughout the day fared significantly better, both in test scores and in measures of positive student engagement such as attendance and behavioral issues. In another study, from economists at Montana State, researchers studied the impact of classrooms in which students spent a second year with the same classroom teacher, and they found that academic and behavioral measures improved. The article also references a number of countries, including Austria, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Latvia, and Israel, in which “not only don’t they use specialized teachers in elementary school at all, the average teacher in these countries stays with the same group of elementary school children for at least three years.”

     

    Naturally, great teachers at any age level are proficient in and excited by the subject matter they teach. But the studies do support what we know about what makes truly effective teaching and learning. The ability to know children is critical. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; teachers need to have the time to understand what makes each student tick, and what’s going on in each child’s life. Who just lost a tooth? Who is worried about a family member? Who is having an easy time with friends, or a hard one? Different from industries that may find efficiencies in specialization of labor, schools work best when they respect that kids aren’t widgets, they’re people with complex lives, hopes and needs. The dedication and the time to understand those lives, hopes, and needs is what makes great teachers. 

     

    All the best,  

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  • Welcome back to school and to 2019!

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 1/10/2019

    I hope your winter break was joyful and restorative. We are excited to be back together as a school community.

     

    Stanley grandparent Joan volunteers in the library We’re jumping right back in to classroom routines with a busy and engaging second half of the school year to look forward to. Next Friday, we’ll hold our annual assembly and celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some years, the program consists entirely of voices from our own student community, and some years we invite someone from the greater community to join us.

     

    This year, we’re pleased to welcome, or actually welcome back, Jeremy Vasquez, a self-described “artivist” and spoken-word poet from the bay area in California. Jeremy spent a few days with us in the fall (see December in the Learning Report blog), sharing some of his writing and leading students in conversations about their own strengths and personal power. He was most enthusiastically received, and we’re thrilled to have him back for two days, including the assembly next Friday, January 18. Parents are welcome to join us, 8:30 a.m., in the ballroom

     

    The celebration continues on Monday, January 21. This year’s day of observance for Dr. King, and as is our custom, we invite all to participate in Denver’s Marade. It starts by the MLK statue in City Park, and we aim to begin gathering at about 10:15 a.m. (We’re usually just to the south and east of the statue, carrying a Stanley banner).

     

    All the best for a healthy and happy new year!
    Tim

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  • Understanding each student’s learning style

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 12/13/2018

    The first part of our mission reads, “We engage, challenge and inspire children to reach their potential and develop their own voices within an inclusive, diverse and collaborative community that values distinct contributions and abilities.” One of our primary responsibilities as educators is to continually reflect on what it means to “engage, challenge and inspire” children to meet the potential that lies within them. We do this by intentional differentiation of both teaching and learning and through ongoing refinement of our classroom practice. Classroom differentiation is designed to meet each learner’s need, from additional support or scaffolding to advanced thinking or problem-solving.

     

    8th graders at Urban Peak Differentiation in the British Primary model starts with understanding each student’s learning style and knowing what he or she needs to progress. Teachers develop that understanding through careful observation of the child, by reviewing assessment to data to support observations, and by collaborating with parents and with other teachers. Teachers build upon a foundation of knowing each learner to modify, adjust shape their own teaching strategies. They use one-on-one time and small group work strategically to address specific needs of students. They design lessons that draw on the many intelligences present in their students.

     

    Teachers also promote student agency. Children develop a keen sense of themselves as learners over their years at Stanley. They reflect on what they need to be most successful- what challenges them, what inspires them, what strategies lead to success – and they also identify what’s not helpful. Students are often given the opportunity to decide how they will demonstrate their learning to a peer, a teacher, or a wider audience.

     

    While our overall approach and objectives of differentiation apply across all the grades, each grade-level division employs intentional strategies to meet the developmental needs of children.

     

    K-1-2

    In our multi-age classrooms, over three years, we come to deeply understand our students – their interests, their identities, their challenges, their strengths where they are in their learning. We develop relationships of trust from which learners are willing to take healthy risks, challenge themselves develop confidence to learn on their own.

     

    From knowing our learners well, we recognize the cusp or brink of where learners are in their growth and then open possibilities for development. We meet learners in their proximal zone, the zone in which learners learn best. At times, we plan differentiation in advance, such as reading just-right books, at other times, as learning unfolds in a given moment. This adjustment may include repeating, rephrasing, abbreviating/or extending. At moments when the students are actively engaged, we observe and listen and, decide how and at what moment to support – posing an open-ended question to extend a student’s thinking, demonstrating a strategy for solving a problem, giving feedback that extends understanding, supplying additional materials, or suggesting where more information might be, or what skills they might use. We adjust instruction as needed for each student to be successful. We also know when to support and when to stay out of the way to promote independence.

     

    With some children, it is more complex to figure out how they learn and what they need from a teacher. To ensure each child maintains his or her confidence as a learner, continues to have a positive self-image and continues to learn, we work as a team. We draw on the strengths and insights of others, including parents, and at times a range of specialists, to help us understand how a child learns best and what we need to do to meet their learning needs – what strategies, what approaches, what resources. Each K-1-2 classroom has a part-time Learning Resource teacher who supports our classroom teachers in meeting the needs of all our learners, challenging and engaging them.

     

    3-4-5

    In our third-, fourth- and fifth-grade program, much of class time dedicated to core academic skills (reading, writing, mathematics) is designed to accommodate individual or small group needs. Teachers confer one-on-one with students around books selected to accommodate each student’s interest and reading level, setting individual goals to help each reader advance. In book clubs or reading groups, content and level of questioning varies, from prompts geared toward building comprehension skills to deeper thinking skills, such as inferring author’s intent. Spelling groups are leveled for all students across all classrooms. Math groups within each classroom are similarly leveled and include challenge options for older students. In social studies and science, much of the work is project-based, allowing room for both differentiation by student interest and the opportunity to demonstrate learning in varied ways suited to each student’s learning style.

     

    Problem-solving, and employing multiple strategies, is a learning objective across the curriculum. It is revealed perhaps most directly in our math program. Teachers continually encourage children to use a variety of strategies to solve problems. This allows students to think at a deeper level than simple rote memorization or following a set of procedures. Teachers often have the children share their strategies with their peers, demonstrating there is no single right way to solve a problem. This creates a learning environment in which differing approaches to a problem have merit and value. In addition to promoting differentiated learning, sharing multiple strategies helps students develop a lifelong capacity to inquire about other perspectives and ideas and to use those thoughts to improve one’s own thinking.

     

     

    6-7-8

    In middle school, learning resource teachers partner with classroom teachers to differentiate instruction across all subject areas. Our Learning Resource Team recently returned from the National Association for Gifted Children Conference, part of their professional development plan to grow our capacity to better meet all needs of our students, from those who need additional repetition or time to those who benefit from a faster learning pace and more abstract thinking opportunities. Learning resource teachers support direct differentiation within classes by serving as a second teacher, working alongside the classroom teacher to address individual and small-group needs.

     

    Following the developmental needs of our students, the middle school program also offers a number of specific programs designed to appeal to, and intellectually challenge, our students. Our Constitutional Law team for seventh and eighth graders draws strong interest each year. Through our weekly “skills class” program, we offer a wide variety of mini-classes targeted to a range of academic needs and interests- such as Creative Writing, Science Fair, Philosophy, Math Support, Spanish Conversation an Advanced Geometry track (6th, 7th, 8th grade). We incorporated an inaugural Geography Bee this fall and are holding a middle school Spelling Bee later this winter.

     

     

    Valuing the Individual and the Community

    Driven by our educational philosophy and our values, we also put differentiation in the context of learning to be a member of a community. Our mission calls on us to help students reach their potential certainly, but also to reach that potential “within a diverse and collaborate community.” We want children to find individual challenge in their work and we also want children to see their role in supporting others. Sometimes the needs of others take priority. A good example might be a second grader reading with a kindergartner. The focus for that moment may be on mentoring a younger child, not on challenging the second grader, yet critical learning goals for both students are clear.

     

    The younger child benefits from the mentorship of the older, and the older student practices empathy and care while consolidating skills by teaching them. The same philosophy shows up on the sports field in middle school. Some athletes bring years of experience to Stanley teams, and for others it’s the first time they’ve tried a sport. Experienced athletes are not necessarily challenged at the level they might be in a program that that includes only similarly skilled players. But what they do get on a daily basis is the chance to mentor others, to be a model of positive sportsmanship to provide leadership that makes others better.

     

    Like much within our British Primary philosophy, we ultimately look for balance between a student’s individual needs and the needs of the community. We don’t see the two as existing in tension but rather in complement to each other. Returning again to our mission, we strive to truly value “distinct contributions and abilities,” and we know that one’s potential is reached only when one finds purpose and connection with the lives of others.

     

    All the best,

     

    Tim

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  • A school's moral purpose

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 12/6/2018

    “Our world has been so tremendously enlarged and complicated, our horizons so widened and our sympathies so stimulated by the changes in our surroundings… that a school curriculum which does not show this same growth can only be very partially successful. The subject matter of the schoolroom must be enlarged to take in the new elements and needs of society.”

     

    Midsummer Night's Dream I think few would argue with this premise. One of our core obligations in schools is to continually think about and evolve our practices to make sure we’re helping our children successfully navigate the society we live in as well as the one they will experience as adults.

     

    It seems never more important than now, yet John Dewey wrote those words just over one hundred years ago, in "Schools of Tomorrow." In the book, he identifies schools from around the country that he feels are getting it right, schools that “have a tendency toward greater freedom and an identification of a child’s school life with his environment.” He also articulates what he finds to be core flaws in the way schools go about preparing children for living in their communities. One critical issue he finds is that the school’s basic curriculum often misses the mark. “Schools take the accumulated learning of adults, material that is quite unrelated to the exigencies of growth, and try to force it upon children, instead of finding out what these children need as they go along.” “To a very large extent the schools overlook, in the methods and subject-matter of their teaching, the social basis of living. Instead of centering the work in the concrete, the human side of things, they put the emphasis on the abstract, hence the work is made academic- unsocial.”

     

     

    In these comments, he returns to a theme that runs through much of his work, the idea that learning is essentially social in nature and must be recognized as such. If one the purposes of education is to prepare children to engage productively in the working world, the interpersonal aspects of learning must be brought to the forefront. As Dewey notes, “work is essentially social in its character, for the occupations which people carry on are for human needs and ends.”

     

     

    Ultimately, Dewey finds a strong moral purpose in schools. He argues that a school’s success in the end should be measured by how much students are encouraged to build their paths toward supporting the greater good. And in building those paths, Dewey knew that students need to do more than just learn about morality in abstract, removed ways; they need to practice it every day, though regular social interaction. I think about the fundamental nature of our mixed-age homerooms and about the many opportunities Stanley students K-8 have to interact with peers and with those either much older or younger. As important as traditional academic skills are, we must always keep our focus on providing intentional, meaningful opportunities for children to interact with one another, and on their terms, not always on ours.

     

    As we say in our values statement about Community Responsibility, “We cultivate in our students the ability and desire to be responsive and contributing members of the world.” As Dewey would certainly agree, the key is in the “cultivating” bit. It comes through regular practice, from habit formed by ongoing commitment, and from observing adults and mentors demonstrating genuine care and respect for others. Dewey understood that school is at its core a place where children learn how to live positively and productively with others in society. It’s a responsibility we take to heart at Stanley.

     

     

    A note of gratitude

    Every non-profit has high hopes for reaching their goals on Colorado Gives Day. This year you – our generous parents and alumni families – helped us jump-start annual giving for The Stanley Fund by contributing over $143,000 on Tuesday. We still have a way to go to reach 100 percent participation, but this Gives Day turn-out shows the value you place on what we are doing here every day. On behalf of the faculty and staff – and our students! – thank you so very much for your enthusiastic support and generous contributions to making Stanley a great place to work, and learn and grow.

     

    All the best,
    Tim

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  • Ongoing reflection is a cornerstone of learning

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 11/8/2018

    We were pleased to share your student’s progress with you during our fall conferences last week. The conversations we have with you are designed to be collaborative assessments of where children are, academically and socially, and how we can help them progress. As with all forms of assessment, we believe that the purpose of the conferences should be less about evaluation and more about illuminating specific ways students can improve and grow. Towards this end, our assessment process begins with mechanisms for children to reflect upon their own learning, in age-appropriate ways.

     

    Framed In the earliest grades, children respond to such questions as What is your favorite thing about school? What is the hardest thing? At the 3-4-5 level, children identify areas of strength, areas to work on, and goals for themselves. In middle school, students complete self-evaluations in each area of study, again following a format that notes specific strengths and areas for improvement. Our goal is to help our students take ownership of their progress and discover that the habit of non-judgmental self-reflection is a powerful tool for learning. The first of our 7 Goals for Learners focuses on “Self-Awareness – including self-advocacy and confidence in one’s beliefs and abilities.” We strive to find ways within our program for students to learn about themselves – their strengths, their challenges, their passions, and their hopes. The current conference and progress report cycle provides such an opportunity. We know that our students graduate from Stanley with a deep capacity for self-reflection and a heightened self-awareness. In high school, this translates into better decision-making, an ability to set formal and informal personal goals, and an enthusiasm for meeting those goals with confidence.

     

    Ongoing reflection is a cornerstone of learning at Stanley. We know that when students, or any of us for that matter, are given time to reflect about what they’re doing or what they’re learning, they understand more fully why something is the way it is, not simply that it is, and I think this distinction is critical. For learning to progress beyond basic recall of information, or application of a rote procedure, to the level of true understanding, we must give our students chances to reflect upon how the learning connects with them or with our previous knowledge.

     

    Two reminders:

    Parent Association Meeting -- Tomorrow, Friday, the 9th at 8:30 a.m. in the lunchroom. Division Heads Joanna Hambidge, Stephanie Collins, and Greg Chalfin will lead a discussion on homework, including why it’s part of Stanley student experience and tips for helping children manage this responsibility.

     

    Multicultural Feast – Saturday, November 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the ballroom. Hope to see you there!

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  • Equipping students with a foundation of commitment and fortitude

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 11/1/2018

    I hope all enjoyed the various Halloween activities in and out of school and emerged relatively unscathed. As always, the creative energy of our students and staff was on full display in the gym yesterday, and I appreciate that we can take the time to celebrate the playful side of school- with a reminder that it’s good not to take ourselves too seriously every once in a while.

     

    I personally found the festivities a needed diversion from some of the recent events in the news. As I reflect on the state of our society and the stark divisiveness that seems to pervade, it seems to me that our mission of providing an “inclusive and collaborative community” and our vision of graduating students “prepared to make a positive difference in the world” has never been more urgent. Recent hate crimes around the country, including last weekend’s horror in a Pittsburgh synagogue and the execution of two African-Americans in Kentucky, are awful reminders of the racism and prejudice that exist in our world.

     

    Our job as a school goes beyond teaching tolerance and respect for all people. We want to equip our students with a foundation of commitment and fortitude to take action in the face of bigotry and discrimination, in whatever form it takes and whoever the target. I hope, and expect, that our students will insist on a society that lives up to George Washington’s vision, expressed in his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport in 1790, of a country that “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

     

    Multicultural Feast November 10 Looking ahead to next weekend, I wanted to put in my personal plug for our annual Multicultural Feast. Our Parent Multicultural Affairs Committee sponsors the event, one of our school’s great, family-centered traditions, on Saturday, November 10, starting at 5:30 p.m. in our ballroom. The Feast provides the opportunity for some community togetherness and the chance to share food from the many cultures that shape who we are. In the process of sharing food that has been lovingly prepared, and that has meaning to who we are, we offer something of ourselves in a most fundamental way.

     

    The PMAC works in parallel with a staff-driven Multicultural Affairs Committee to further the inclusiveness and equity goals that are fundamental to our school’s mission and values. The year, our staff MAC team is focusing on developing our schoolwide anti-bias curriculum. When completed, the curriculum will capture what we do currently to ensure our inclusiveness and equity goals are met as well as help us identify in what areas we can be more consistent and proactive. Essentially, the curriculum is organized four major themes: Identity and Self-Awareness (Who am I? What makes me unique?), Valuing Diversity (Who are you?), Understanding Dynamics of Discrimination and Prejudice, and Becoming an Agent of Positive Change. We’re working on articulating how each of these themes are woven into our classroom curriculum, in developmentally-appropriate ways.

     

    Together, the PMAC and MAC teams comprise a valuable resource for all our families. One of the core purposes of these groups is to provide a connection for families who may wish to discuss any area of concern related to inclusiveness or equity. We advise parents to initiate conversations with homeroom teachers, advisors, or division leaders to address academic or social concerns, and we also recognize there may be some issues related to inclusiveness practices of which you would like the school to be aware. Learning Resource Teacher Leneta Jones and Middle School Counselor Stephanie Bender are leading the staff MAC team and are available to hear and discuss any issue and will bring them to the appropriate school administration.

     

     

    All the best,

    Tim

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  • Reaching new summits

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 10/18/2018

    Like all independent schools, Stanley BPS is governed by a Board of Trustees, whose fundamental role is to oversee and protect the mission of the school. The Board has the ultimate fiduciary responsibility for the school, beyond the financial implications usually associated with the word. “Fiduciary” actually means “to hold in trust,” and that phrase does a good job of capturing the Board’s full charge. The Board’s function is strategic, with a forward-looking approach to the school’s challenges and opportunities. We are fortunate that Stanley has a tradition of being governed by Boards that have demonstrated thoughtful, caring stewardship of our school. Despite incredible growth and change in Stanley over many years, our Boards have kept us true to our mission and core values.

     

    2018-19 Board Last week, six members of our Board of Trustees and several members of our senior administrative team attended the annual ACIS Leadership Conference. The gathering provides school leaders with the chance to discuss current independent school challenges and opportunities with others from all over the state. This year’s theme of “Shaping a Culture of Innovation and Engagement” prompted reflection on how we’re continuing to prepare students for a world that in many ways is hard to imagine. There were also a number of breakout sessions on elements of Board functions- governance, marketing, and development in particular.

     

    This year’s conference keynote speaker was NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Chief Innovation Officer Tim Fish. Using a mountain climbing metaphor, he talked about the importance of continually setting clear, ambitious goals (“reaching new summits” in his model) to keep schools moving forward. It’s easy for schools to become complacent and stuck in the way we’ve always done things, particularly in the absence of an immediate impetus for change. One “summit” on our current journey is how we’ll implement the vision captured in our Strategic Plan 2020. Specifically, the core challenges of our ascent will be how we’ll best support our faculty, compensation and otherwise, how we’ll ensure the integrity of our British Primary philosophy in the future, how we’ll evolve programming to enhance the student experience, and how we’ll continue to shape our physical space to meet educational objectives. We’ll have plenty more to say about each of these, though it was affirming to reflect on Stanley’s priorities in the context of Mr. Fish’s remarks and his perspective from our national association.

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  • Meaning & Happiness

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 10/4/2018

    When we’re pushed to think about what we really want for our children, often we come up with some version of just wanting our kids to be happy. We want them to be productive, find fulfillment in relationships, work and play, and ultimately find happiness in this gift of life. I enjoyed re-finding a piece in the Atlantic from 2013 written by Emily Smith, called “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.” In it, she draws a careful distinction between the pursuit of “happiness” and the search for “meaning.” In doing so, she argues, backed by research, that those seeking simple happiness in which “things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” often feel less long-term contentment with their lives. A study she quotes found that 60% of Americans feel happy, though another study found 40% don’t think their lives have a clear sense of purpose.

     

    Family Group Smith references the life and work of holocaust survivor and author Viktor Frankl, who articulates the importance of meaning in human existence. In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms, - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” He found that often those who survived in concentration camps were able to still find meaning in the midst of suffering, to realize that “life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them.” Once a person understands the “why” of his or her life, Frankl argues, that person can bear almost any “how.”

     

    Another study Smith examines showed that people who find a high level of meaning in their lives often seek meaning even when they know they might be less “happy” while seeking it. She uses the example of having children, which tends to provide meaning but not necessarily happiness as described above. She quotes the author of the study as saying, “Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us happy.”

     

    I wouldn’t suggest that we as parents give up on wanting our children to be happy. Though I do think about what responsibility we have as parents and teachers to help our children discover purpose in their lives, even at a young age. Clearly one’s sense of purpose and meaning evolves throughout life, though it seems that helping children see the role they have in taking care of others (family, pets, environment) is essential in building the lifelong habit of reflecting on one’s purpose and meaning.

     

    This article also made me reflect on the nature of teaching or parenting, and the parallels between them. Just as many of us would admit that parenting doesn’t always make us “happy,” we recognize that every classroom moment and interaction doesn’t necessarily contribute to a teacher’s experience of happiness. But it sure provides meaning and purpose, and in end that’s what really matters. In Frankl’s words, “The more one forgets himself- by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love- the more human he is.”

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  • From Tim: Partnership with Parents

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 9/20/2018

    Last week, I spent some time at the Parent Association meeting reviewing some important policy improvements included in our new Family and Parent Handbook. I greatly appreciate and admire the work of our PA, under leadership of new chair Rebecca Olgeirson, for the way the organization puts into practice the essential partnership with parents we value and rely upon. The slides that accompanied my presentation can be found here.

     

    K-1-2 Coffee While some may understandably view a handbook as less than scintillating reading material, we’re proud of the way our policies, guidelines and procedures have been reworked to support the positive school culture of Stanley BPS. While of course the focus of all we do is on the children in our classrooms, much of what is in the handbook is about behavioral expectations for all in the community, students and adults alike, and it’s about the stuff that makes the “joyful, lifelong learning” we talk about possible. At the outset, I want to thank you for what you do on behalf of our school. The Parent Association truly embodies the partnership we talk about- you model the collaborative spirit that makes Stanley work.

     

    As our board and staff working group began the process of reviewing and improving policies over the summer, we were mindful of Stanley’s core values, such as Positivity, Community Responsibility, Diversity, and Relationships. We understood that good policies protect our school’s values. We also considered our “7 Goals for Learner,” such as Collaboration, Respect and Curiosity, for guidance into how to shape new language and ideas. And finally, we reviewed the simple expectations for student (and adult) conduct that we describe in the Parent Handbook, captured in the acronym “RISK” (Respect, Inclusion, Safety, Kindness).

    Taken together, you might think about our values, our goals for learners, and our expectations as forming three legs of a stool supporting what is essentially the culture at Stanley BPS. My guess is no one chooses to send their children to Stanley because of policies; it’s how these policies show up in the life of the school that matters. And that’s one of my core goals as head of school this year that I’ve developed with the Board: Ensuring these values are understood and embraced and reflected in how we conduct ourselves, students, parents and staff alike. It’s up to us to model the behavior we want to see in our children.

     

    As far as specific changes to the handbook, one is captured in more thorough attention to matters related to campus safety and security. We have evolved, and continue to grow, our safety procedures in line with best practice and with what supports our community values. We’ve also been working on building strong relationships with organizations like the Colorado School Safety Resource Center for advisement and for help with staff trainings. We’re currently forming a new board-level Child Well-Being and Risk Management Committee, which will oversee the school’s ongoing efforts to manage risk and to promote student safety.

     

    We made significant changes to the section of the student conduct sections of the handbook that deal with response to major violations of behavior expectations. What remains unchanged is that our conduct policy starts with the expectation of “RISK” and we frame conduct in terms of what we positively expect from members of the student community. Demonstrating Respect, Inclusion, Safety and Kindness is what it means to be a student here; that’s what we do here.

     

    We’ve improved the sections that have to do with how we respond when core behavioral expectations are not met. There are of course a range of potential actions that run contrary to school values and expectations or that violate the RISK standard. Some of those, which are some of the more significant, rise to the level of discrimination or harassment (as a subset of discrimination). We’re careful to define what we mean, because when harassment occurs we need to name it.

     

    Because these are serious matters, we have established new protocols for how the school will respond. Core to that response is a new structure, called the Review Team, that will be activated when any incident, K-8, rises to that level of harassment or discrimination. The purpose of the review team is to ensure a consistent and thorough response to these sorts of incidents, and also to provide a regular process for debriefing situations. We will look for any patterns and assess where we might need to continue to add additional resources, trainings or support. This year, the review team consists of the three division leaders (Joanna Hambidge, Stephanie Collins, Greg Chalfin), and Buffy Naake (Director of Operations), and I will also be involved in most matters.

     

    To return to a point I made earlier about our guidelines truly being for all of us, we have new and improved language in our handbook around what we expect of all adults in the community. Again, how we model interacting with one another and how we conduct ourselves will be critical in what we can expect of our children. Since our founding, we’ve talked about the experience at Stanley BPS as being driven in large part by the partnership between parents and school, and primarily with the teacher. The question I ask is, what can we all do to build the spirit of inquiry with one another, to seek each other’s help on behalf of supporting our children? How we communicate with one another matters -- a lot. Inevitably there will be concerns, questions and occasional conflict. What’s essential is not whether those concerns or conflicts happen -- they will -- but how we manage them.

     

    In the end, all of our policy work, and more importantly the extent to which those policies support the positive school culture of Stanley BPS, ensures that we’re able to live up to our vision of “a community of joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world.” Thank you for your partnership in realizing this vision at Stanley.

     

    All the best,

    Tim

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  • Personalism at Stanley

    Posted by Tim Barrier on 9/13/2018

    We look forward to sharing our program, and providing some insights into your children’s school experience, at our Back to School Nights this evening and next Thursday. Among the takeaways, I hope you get a sense for how we value and celebrate the uniqueness of each of our students. We take our mission to “value distinct contributions” seriously.

     

    Structure In a recent New York Times post, columnist David Brooks talks about the tendency in our culture to label and categorize people, based on such things as the way they vote, where they live, what they do for work, in a manner that discounts the rich complexity that actually makes up every person. We do this, he offers, because we all have busy lives, and it’s hard to take the time to really understand what makes someone who they are. He references people like Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King and Pope John Paul II who in one way or another reflected a “personalist” philosophy in their work. As Brooks describes it, “Personalism is a philosophic tendency built on the infinite uniqueness and depth of each person.” It assures the basic dignity and worth of every person, regardless of one’s success or status as defined by our achievement culture.  “Every human encounter is a meeting of equals,” he writes, “Doing community service isn’t about saving the poor; it’s a meeting of absolute equals as both seek to change and grow.” Personalism asks that, as much as we are able, we get to know a person’s stories and realize that “everybody is in a struggle you know nothing about.” (Which reminds me of a quote I seem to return to over and over- “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle”- source unclear).

     

    In addition to seeking to understand the wholeness of others, personalism calls on us to be “self-gifting,” to give yourself as a gift to people and causes you care about and to receive such gifts from others. To do so, you need to find time in a busy life, for being available takes intention.

     

    Brooks ends his piece with a critical look at the organizations that define how we live. “Personalism demands that we change the way we structure our institutions. A company that treats people as units to simply maximize shareholder return is showing contempt for its own workers. Schools that treat students as brains on a stick are not preparing them to leave whole lives.”

     

    We often talk about a “whole-child” focus at Stanley. Though we haven’t described that approach as “personalist,” it seems to fit well. We know, like Froebel knew many years ago,  that education is fundamentally a relationship between a teacher and a person being taught. Effective teaching is about all aspects of a child’s development and an embracing that the intellectual, creative, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of a young person are connected and all in need of nourishment. We continually ask ourselves as a teaching community at Stanley how a child’s day, week, and year at our school serves to recognize and honor all that makes up who the child is. It’s never done, nor is learning.

     

    All the best,

    Tim

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