• From Sumant: Stanley's Head of School, Sumant Bhat, blogs in The Weekly Bulldog most every Thursday during the school year; read his posts on everything from school culture and community and the importance of Stanley's mission to support joyful, lifelong learning at school and beyond. 

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  • Acknowledging all that 2020 has given us

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 12/17/2020

    In the last few weeks, I’ve been on several Zoom calls and webinars that have ended with the host sharing parting words that resembled some form of “Here’s to putting 2020 behind us!” Nine months of a pandemic has certainly defined this year and there has been plenty of stress, loss, uncertainty and challenge for so many, so I can certainly recognize the spirit of this sentiment. 

     

    Thank you for... Heading into the final two weeks of the 2020 calendar year, I know I will spend time reflecting and taking stock of the way this pandemic has pushed so many of us to our limits emotionally, physically and mentally. Taking time to acknowledge the hard personally helps me be able to better look ahead, though I know that is not the case for everyone. This break, I will also do my best to not overlook that which I have learned about my family, myself and especially Stanley. Below is a handful of takeaways for me from 2020. Some of these will resonate and others may not, but hopefully you will find time to reflect as well and craft a list of your own. 

     

    Learning new tricks and challenging assumptions: 
    There has been a proliferation of blogs and social media posts in the world about new talents and skills people have picked up in the pandemic while quarantining. Sadly, I’ve not become more handy around the house, much to my wife’s chagrin. My hope of learning the ukulele to try and assimilate into our ridiculously musically talented faculty at Stanley has been shelved. But I have certainly honed many other skills from making adjustments on the spot, learning names of children despite only seeing their eyes, and taking an inventor’s mindset about school operations in a pandemic, all the while challenging assumptions that we might have had about school. Remember when we worried if six-year-olds would wear masks all day or if you could have joyful in-person learning with all the restrictions and cohorting? Add not underestimating our Stanley kids and teachers to the list of my learned understandings of 2020. 

     

    And as for that inventive spirit, could anyone have really believed we could pull off a socially distant Halloween parade or a Covid-friendly middle school dance? 

     

    As a school leader, I’ve always put a premium on being a teaching and learning institution and the gains we have made around technological understandings alone would have been impossible to achieve so quickly. While terms like ‘Seesaw’ and ‘breakout rooms’ have become parts of our lexicon here at Stanley, we still are remaining true to our core philosophy and our deep love of childhood.

     

    Individual voice and choice matter

    Record turnouts in this election and a year where the spotlight has been put on social issues have made it clear that our individual voices matter. It’s a message we champion at Stanley and hope to send loud and clear to our kids starting in kindergarten. Even in the pandemic, choice remains a priority in our curriculum and programming, and as we look ahead to 2021, we know our individual choices impact our success as a community. Thank you for the thoughtful choices you make as a family to prioritize Stanley!

     

    Leading with curiosity and respect over judgment
    A shortage of time usually and overestimation of our understanding typically is responsible for eliciting snap judgments. And in 2020, I think a spotlight was placed on the complexity of our individual situations, which I’ve become even more sensitive to on a daily basis. It’s driven me to approach others’ beliefs, choices and situations with a sense of curiosity and respect, rather than leading with a desire to evaluate. It invariably has set up healthier conversations that build trust, and provided a more complete picture of others’ stories. I much prefer this to the alternative which reduces empathy and drives a wedge between us. It’s not always easy to do, but it sure is a powerful approach I hope to keep in the new year. 

     

    Getting by with a lot of help from my friends
    We’ve all had to lean on others, even if remotely, for support, connection, guidance and strength in one way or another. I never have pretended to be someone with all the answers, but I am resolved to always ask for help! It is why I am grateful to have the BEST team here at Stanley that to draw from every day. As a new head of school, I could not be more fortunate to be surrounded by so much thoughtful perspective, institutional knowledge about who we are, and an unrelenting desire to pitch in and help from teachers, administrators, parents and even students! Thank you to all of you for your willingness to support in any way you can. My gratitude also extends to two departing faculty and staff members after break, Maegan Rathmann and Stacey Toevs. Maegan's positivity and love of children will be sorely missed in the K-1-2 Room 1 classroom, and we will all miss the energy, dedication and thoughtfulness Stacey has put into the hundreds of Weekly Bulldogs, the website and communications she has sent out over the years. Cheers to her on her final Bulldog and to both of them on their adventures ahead!

     

    Understanding what matters most

    I think many of us have learned this year about the people, priorities and experiences that mean the most because of the inability to be around those people or engage in those experiences. More time with just my immediate family and young boys will be a gift I look back on and appreciate more every year they grow up. At the same time, I really am missing the connections to my friends and family in other cities. At Stanley, student-teacher relationships are the foundation of a strong and healthy learning environment, and they are what we doubled down on in our summer planning for this school year. As a new member of this community, the myriad ways in which our parents have stepped up their commitment to the school-home partnership by supporting teachers and their kids is so revealing about what makes Stanley such a special place. Thank you for showing me what matters most here!

     

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than ready to turn the page on 2020, but not without acknowledging all that it has given us, not just taken away. See you in 2021!

     

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  • Sparking feelings of optimism, hope and joy

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 12/3/2020

    Over Thanksgiving break, my wife and I took advantage of walking around our new neighborhood during a couple of nights. Besides being important opportunities for exercise and fresh air, we enjoyed seeing the variety of lights in windows, trees and rooftops boasting different colors and patterns. Of course, it invariably also regularly led to discussions between us about a need to up our own light decorating operations in the Bhat household, which seems to be an annual debate!

     

    Diwali sparklers I have to admit to a greater appreciation for lights this winter season, whether it is those that illuminate the neighborhood for strictly decorative purposes or those marking a variety of religious holidays that occur around this time of year. As a family, the mere act of lighting Diwali sparklers in my backyard with just my son in late November conjured feelings of optimism, hope and joy. In 2020, it has been difficult to see very far ahead in the veritable darkness we navigate daily in this pandemic, robbing us of normalcy in our lives that we all so crave and need.

     

    Though the real timetable for implementation of vaccines is still in flux and likely many months away from being fully accessible to all, I know the news of progress at least feels like a proverbial light at the end of this challenging tunnel we have been in since last March. It, too, brings both hope and optimism particularly for those of us who our constantly juggling our feelings about all those we care for and love or are considered more vulnerable.

     

    Every day I am at school, I feel that same sense of hope and optimism when I get to see the lightbulbs go off as students ask questions, tinker, explore and learn by doing. While there is plenty that is very challenging about operating school in a pandemic,  I am grateful for this grounding from our children and the reminders they are providing us to all do our best to prioritize Stanley so that it may continue to shine brightly in so many wonderful ways that inspire us all. 

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  • Food and Stories Feed Our Connections

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 11/19/2020

    Genetics has passed on many things to me from my parents. Culinary skills, though, are sadly not one of them despite my father, mother and sister’s remarkable talents. Unfortunately my years of dedication to preparing at-home meals from the likes of Blue Apron and Prefare have only moved the needle slightly on my range of skills in the kitchen. 

     

    Feast  During the past two Thursdays, I have found myself captivated while watching our family chefs in residence sharing favorite recipes from their own cultures and putting on a veritable cooking show. Though my evening schedule wrangling two young boys has made it hard to cook alongside, these nights have made for must-watch Zooms!

     

    I have loved so much about these reinventions of our Multicultural Feast event sponsored by our PMAC (Parent Multicultural Affairs Committee). In addition to the wonderful cross-section of families on the calls from kindergarten to eighth grade, there’s been something magical seeing entire Stanley families cooking together. First there was the spirit of learning something new with one another, even for those who are aces in the kitchen already! I’ll admit I got such a kick watching families asking one another for tips and tricks and helping one another with their dishes!

     

    My hat is off to the Mirbabas and Pardo-Bauers family for hosting and engaging their kids, too! Not only did their kids get involved in cooking and giving background information on the dish or the country their family is from, but they did it with such enthusiasm! It was also joyful to see so many of the viewing families’ kids participating; they created a new micro-community during each of these evenings. The online feasts have inspired me to try and include my boys into my limited cooking endeavors (and buy a chef’s hat for for my four year old for the inevitable photo op).

     

    Many of you know how I love to talk about the iceberg metaphor when it comes to identity. The ways that the families on the call shared windows into their heritages with the community during their cooking lessons was so wonderful; it was fun to hear the stories that came out. I think we all were surprised with the unexpected connections made between families because of these shared insights and the warm environment created by everyone cooking together. 

     

    Thanksgiving is just a Thursday away, and we know it won’t quite be the same this year – a refrain we have heard all too often in 2020. But I do hope that you all are able to enjoy some rest and find ways to enjoy meaningful time together sharing stories, playing together, learning from and with one another and perhaps making a dish or two together. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving, and hope many of you will join our final cooking evening tonight with the Woody family; they’re cooking Sri Lankan Parippu and Kiribath with lentil curry and coconut rice. Follow along with the recipe found on our website or just gather at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom and watch it happen!

     

    Warmly,
    Sumant

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  • Listening to Learn

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 10/29/2020

    Next week brings election day, which in any year would be inevitably accompanied with plenty of wonder, speculation, debate and even anxiety. Throw in a pandemic, the social climate and the potential for a lack of clarity on outcome next Tuesday night, and it’s no surprise why those feelings are heightened for many as we approach November 3.

     

    Paper planes As I consider Stanley, so much of what we stand for every day can be drawn upon as we seek to support our children and one another during this election time. In particular, as we consider our dialogue, I find the values of treating others with respect, self-awareness and listening with the intent to learn, as being particularly relevant as we seek more healthy conversations.

     

    In reflecting on spaces I have been a part of where meaningful dialogue has transpired on polarizing topics, respect for those involved in the conversation has always been present, even amidst competing perspectives. Using ground rules is a common and effective practice to reassert that respect and create a safe space for both sides to be able to learn from the other’s perspective. In the absence of respect, it’s hard to even begin dialogue, and we end up with debate and not discourse.

     

    We have all seen examples of debates deteriorate into both sides competing to see who can speak louder and at the expense of the other. There’s really no faster way to shut down a productive conversation from happening with another of contrasting viewpoints than by leading with denigration of a particular candidate or perspective. This is true regardless of the merit of any subsequent points you might be ready to make. Moreover, reductive language reinforces the notion that there is no hope for meaningful dialogue. 

     

    If our goal is truly to try and help someone better understand a perspective we hold and believe in, we need to not shout louder or call names but rather listen more deeply so that we can learn and show that we see the other person. How we communicate is as important as what we communicate. We earn respect from others for our own opinions when we show our willingness to listen first and try and see things from a conflicting perspective. That does not mean we have to ultimately agree. It does mean we should make the effort to understand the other perspective and not stereotype it or overgeneralize someone’s views. Only then will there be trust that future conversations together offer any promise of value.

     

    As a general practice when we truly listen to learn from other perspectives, we are more capable of counteracting potential biases that we all naturally have as a result of our own experiences. Being aware of how our own experiences and the source of news we consume all speaks to self-awareness which is a key component of a Stanley education. It also helps us understand how we show up to conversations such as these.

     

    I tend to believe that especially when we have formed strong beliefs, changes only occur when we and others are invited (not coerced) to consider another perspective and have time and space to reflect on our own prior assumptions and thoughts. Anyone that has tried to resolve differences with a family member in a car ride or at the dinner table who shares an opposing viewpoint on politics can certainly relate to this notion. My suggestion is instead of viewing these discussions as showdowns or opportunities to win, recognize them as a space for reflection where closure will not be an expected outcome. Even though there’s no resolution to conversations, that doesn’t mean learning isn’t happening though!

     

    Listening to learn also makes us more informed when it is time to cast our vote and use our voice. As I shared a few weeks ago, the message to our children that their voice matters is so important and at the core of our daily practice. Our children need to know that their voice matters whether they are one of fifteen in a classroom or one in three hundred million in an election. 

     

    I say all of this recognizing that at the end of the day, engaging in these conversations can be exhausting and draining. There will be times when we are already on edge for something else unrelated to the topic at hand or the other person’s perspective. This is once again where self-awareness comes into play in understanding whether we are even in a space to engage in the dialogue and reinforces the importance of self-care for ourselves to be able to care for those around us. 

     

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  • Taking time for ourselves

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 10/22/2020

    Over the fall break, I was reminded of several things throughout the long weekend. My wife was on call, and I had lots of time with my two boys alone. Within an hour they were in their PJ Masks Halloween costumes playing in my closet together, reminding me of how much fun Halloween is with little kids (and that I was long overdue in ordering my matching family costume). In this same weekend, I also watched a virtual funeral service and heard stories, felt pain and loss, and was reminded that not everyone experienced this break as rest and relaxation. 

     

    Art w Aspen For the first time in a very long time, I went for both a run and a hike by myself while my boys were at daycare. I’m not a long-distance or avid runner by any stretch, and my hike in Golden in the remnants of fall colors was not particularly long. I’m also a decided extrovert according to Myers-Briggs, but quiet alone time is hard to come by with two young kids! After completing each of these excursions on Monday and Tuesday, I did feel a needed sense of renewal that reminded me of the guidance given on airplanes – when traveling with kids, we should place the oxygen mask on ourselves before attending to others. To be good caretakers of others, we must attend to ourselves.

     

    But doing that is really hard. Time is our most precious resource, and the endless pulls on it from a physical, emotional and mental standpoint lead to exhaustion. I am sure we have all had times in the last seven months when because of all that’s going on in our personal and professional lives and the world, we have not been at our best as a parent, friend, significant other or co-worker in part because of that exhaustion. Yes, breaks like this past weekend can have the potential to offer the relief, but more frequent self-care is essential to keep us going.

     

    As I shared earlier, the reality is: We don’t know what unexpected experiences a future break might bring, and we need to think about running a marathon, not a sprint. Rather than succumbing to the daily obstacles that keep us from self-care, I recommend seizing even the snippets of time we get when we have them. For me, I’ve discovered that after the kids go to bed, I am consistently staring down a long list of follow-up or next-day prep. I’ve learned from experience there’s no chance that self-care happens at the end of that time because it gets too late; so, I’ve taken to doing the self-care before. Sometimes it’s stepping outside and calling a friend or family member for ten minutes. Other days it is going for a fifteen- or even five-minute walk around the block for some fresh air before starting the work.

     

    At school, if a meeting runs late, and I find that a thirty minute window I had scheduled to visit classes shrinks to ten, I still try and run out and interact with kids rather than just wait in my office for the next meeting. The laughter I share with a student, the window into a child’s story I get from glancing at their writing or listening in on a conversation, or the couple of baskets I get to shoot with them brings me joy that makes me stronger throughout the day. Moreover I leave school remembering why I have chosen to work with kids every day. At home, or at school, I never regret the seizing of these moments, and always regret when I realize I miss them. I am sure we all know that when we get in the habit of not seizing those moments, that becomes a routine as well and weeks can go by without doing anything for ourselves or that fills our cups. We have to remember it takes not just a toll on us, but on those around us.

     

    When life isn’t as busy or stressful, it’s no secret that it is much easier to find time to do things that bring us joy. But it’s when times are stressful and busy that we need to prioritize it even more and take advantage of whatever time we can, so that we can be at our best for ourselves, and for those we love and care about.

     

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  • Gratitude for Our Alumni

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 10/8/2020

    By definition, I am an alumnus of several institutions, but it’s no secret to those that know me that I swell up with pride when I have the opportunity to talk about my experiences as a student at Williams College for my undergraduate education and at Teachers College at Columbia for graduate school. 

    leap In a year where it’s not always easy to anticipate what’s around the corner, I’ll admit, I had no idea how quickly alumni of Stanley would leave an impression on me. Immediately after being announced as the next head of school at Stanley, I learned that alumni value making new members feel welcome as I received emails and LinkedIn messages wishing me well at a place that left an indelible mark on them.

    There is also a desire I’ve found from our alumni to pay it forward. This summer at our new faculty and staff orientation, I found myself joining Stanley at a time with a new cohort that was 25 percent alumni, including a division head. I can’t imagine this kind of thing happening in my own K-8 schools, but along with the other many alumni who have returned to Stanley to teach or work, there is a clear feeling of paying forward the joyful experience and unique learning experience they enjoyed to future students.

     

    In the last few weeks, Head of Middle School Greg Chalfin has coordinated 8th-grade high school preview nights where alumni of Stanley have hosted forty-five minute calls to share their experiences transitioning to schools ranging from East High School to Colorado Academy. I’ve sat on these calls with a big grin on my face, marveling at how articulate, self-aware and thoughtful our alumni are as they talk about their experience, fielding questions from parents on their own. When I’ve chatted with these alumni before parents hop on the Zoom calls, each time they speak to how eager they are to give back and help students whose shoes they were in just a few years earlier. Yet another surprise for me has been how many parents I have met who attended Stanley and are now returning as parents to share the gift of a Stanley education with their own kids. It has been a kick talking with these alumni parents and then seeing their class photos on the walls of our halls!

    With alumni I have met, a love of the student-teacher relationship, an appreciation for the school’s commitment to social-emotional learning when they were students, and even some longing for going back and savoring their time have been themes. They have been impressive in their recognition of both the challenges they overcame in our community growing up and the myriad successes they had. I cannot wait to get to know even more of our alumni and hear more of these stories.

    Though I do love hearing all these commonalities of experiences, it is actually the uniqueness of each of these former students’ journeys during and beyond their time at Stanley that has resonated with me most. In my conversations with alumni, I have observed an individuality and wide difference in paths pursued. This has reinforced to me the impact of Stanley’s philosophy of following the child and nurturing passions and interests. Moreover, it’s been giving me a whole new appreciation, as I walk our halls and catch glimpses of the few but formative moments that I realize will shape the graduates we are all so proud of at Stanley.

     

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  • The power of choice

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 10/1/2020

    I am a big believer that what you make time for reflects what you value. Already in my first six weeks at Stanley, it is loud and clear that choice matters here, and I’m appreciative of how it is intentionally and meaningfully built into our students’ experiences and schedules. Walking around campus and engaging with students during their choice time has been a highlight for me. The agency and engagement at play is a joy to be around, though it makes it near impossible to leave the classroom sometimes! 

     

    Choice That choice matters shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us adults. Who among us doesn’t appreciate opportunities to choose, even when it’s between two not-so-great options? There’s research on how choice and autonomy impact both motivation and satisfaction. As I reflect on choice at Stanley, I see countless other benefits for our students beyond the engagement and joy that it so clearly brings them in their days.

     

    When we make time for our kids to have choice, they learn at an early age that the adults around them are willing to put trust in them as decisionmakers. Providing time for choice empowers students to have more agency as individuals. At a time when it feels there are many things out of our control, nurturing agency in our students is incredibly critical for their wellness. I see choice being meaningful for our students as we try to instill in them that their voices matter when they make choices in voting and elections.

     

    When children encounter challenges, knowing they have choices in how they can respond or navigate a problem is powerful. I’ve found choice allows students to pursue passions and interests more and to build connections with others who share common interests. The other day, I really enjoyed watching 3-4-5 students take materials and create a makeshift gondola, tinkering with angles, weight and design as a team. 

     

    There’s a video I really like (click here) from an ad firm in Amsterdam about the importance of time for creativity. When you give students time to choose how they explore, they are able to go beyond their first idea to iterate, discover and invariably produce more creative outcomes. As I think about my own experiences teaching, I know it is tempting to want to move things along quickly, but providing the space for some messiness and tinkering can have powerful effects on what is learned and produced.

     

    For a school that believes in learning by doing, letting students have choice in their school day builds skills and a muscle that they will need to exercise daily well beyond their years at Stanley and throughout their life.

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  • Ways we live the Stanley mission and values

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 9/24/2020

    One of the many reasons I was drawn to Stanley was because of its foundational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, but also its recognition that it is, and always will be, a work in progress. Being inclusive is not an end destination nor a setting on a switch, but rather a commitment to daily intentional practice, to listening, to creating spaces and making adjustments. It is about training and building the toolboxes of our students, faculty/staff, board and parents so that as a community we build capacity to support ourselves, our community and the community at large. 

     

    Video from Sumant Throughout the year, I am sure you will hear updates from our school community and me about our efforts to continue to grow as a community in this area. In July, we communicated about some of our plans for the year, so consider this a first check-in.

      

    • During our staff retreat, we held spaces for our social justice faculty/staff book clubs and held a rescheduled training from last spring with an outside facilitator from Teaching Tolerance over Zoom for the K-1-2, 3-4-5 and middle school teachers on their anti-bias and social justice standards. The training was run by Sarah Wicht, who has an impressive background in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work. Implementing this curriculum takes time and is an iterative process, and we have already seen teachers finding ways to incorporate these standards in their classrooms K-8. We are finding ways at the divisional level to learn from and with one another.

    • Non-teaching staff also engaged in training in the form of a workshop on bias as part of their all-staff work in August before the start of school focusing on where bias comes from, what it looks like and ways to counteract it.

    • Our faculty/staff Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC) will begin hosting virtual spaces in October for our affinity and alliance groups: 3-4-5 and middle school students of color (SOCA), parents of students of color, faculty/staff of color, MS Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), and the faculty/staff white anti-racist allies group already underway. MAC has been working hard to launch these spaces and will share updates to our community in the weeks to come.

    • At the board level, our trustees have already engaged in two trainings around DEI this year, focusing on the importance of windows and mirrors and anti-bias. The board has committed to ongoing training and conversations throughout the year and in the future as well.

    • This year the Stanley Board of Trustees’ School Culture, Inclusion and Equity Committee (SCIE) will be focusing its energy on more strategic work and dashboarding while a separate Parent MAC group will focus more on parent engagement, education and events. This will include reinventing important experiences like the Multicultural Feast! This group is led by parents Sofia Cruz and Sarah Weyls, and you can expect to hear more from them as well throughout the year. 


    Thank you for your partnership in supporting our students and one another in our respective journeys. I’m proud to be at a school where we’re all committed to being lifelong learners and will continue to reflect on our learning and practice as we live out our mission and values.

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  • Looking for what's below the surface

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 9/10/2020

    Though it was 19 years ago, I vividly remember sitting in the common room in my college dorm at Williams watching in disbelief as the horrific events of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, unfolded before me on the television. Every year on that date, I am transported back to that time and the people I was with in the room – several of whom had family connections or people they knew who worked in D.C./Virginia, New York City and even in the World Trade Center towers. While I did not personally suffer any losses within my own families, I have friends in that room who did, and the memory invariably brings a weight to the day every year for me.  

     

    Though I realize that none of our current Stanley students were born during the events of 9/11, I am sure that there are several of your families who have connections to those affected by the attacks on 9/11. I send you and your loved ones all positive thoughts and care as you navigate the day. For many, I can imagine Friday may bring with it a weight that may have impacts at different times. That does not mean there won’t be lots of laughter, joy, and normalcy for those individuals, but it does mean that it can play a role in the way that we show up in our lives. 

     

    Community building The other day I was in a sixth-grade class doing an activity involving team collaboration and decision-making, and in the debrief we talked about icebergs. I shared how we only see about 10 percent of an iceberg and how the rest is concealed below the surface. The implication being that when we are working with others, we might not always be aware of aspects that shape their opinions and perspective.  

     

    Over the course of the year, I know there will be days for all of us where our personal experiences, our stories and lives outside of Stanley, will impact how we show up to school and the way we think and learn in both positive and challenging ways. Many times these impacts may be known or visible to others, and other times they will not. While we don’t always see the iceberg beneath the surface, I do believe as a small community with such strong relationships, being aware that “the other 90 percent” exists for all of us – and by being a good listener – allows us to be empathetic and supportive of each other. Even with facial coverings and physical distancing, I’m grateful for our investment in community and connection; it gives us strength and the ability to support one another each and every day.

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  • Staying Connected

    Posted by Sumant Bhat on 9/3/2020

    29 cohorts. 12 acres. Add in masks, physical distance and five months away from teachers and friends and classrooms, and it’s no surprise why prioritizing connection was a focus of our return to school. After all, it’s no secret that when a child feels known and appreciated, they are more setup to thrive in their journey as a learner. This emphasis on connection is also reflected in the commitment to staffing two teachers per cohort (and four per classroom K-5) – shrinking our student-teacher ratios according to what we know our kids need most after being away from school.

    Drumming with Koffi We’ve been struck by the ways students have quickly built relationships – benefitting from having the time to really go beyond the surface and know one another in their intimate cohorts. But what about the peer-to-peer connections outside of cohorts? We know our students understandably miss being connected to the broader community even though they do realize our health and safety is most important right now.

    I can’t speak enough to the creativity that has been showcased by our teachers to allow students outside of cohorts to be able to connect one another in a safe and healthy way. In middle school, cohorts have been writing pen-pal letters to one another. With eleven acres of outdoor space at Stanley, we’re able to celebrate a birthday by having two cohorts from a K-5 classroom outside – still separated – but “together,” under the same sunshine.

    We’ve also learned a lot about the power of Zoom from the spring and after running a whole school virtual assembly Friday. I’ve seen teachers this week take a little bit of time during choice time to run a Zoom call with the other half of the classroom for students to say hello to one another. The other day I was in a 3-4-5 classroom in the cafeteria that was playing a remix of the classic Stanley blanket game. Instead of having students in different cohorts on opposite sides of a blanket and then dropping it to see who can say the other’s name first, teachers set up a Zoom call in each room, covered the camera with their thumbs and then removed it so the kids could see each other.

    And then, there were other great connection points when cohorts within a classroom shared the ground rules and values they brainstormed with each other over Zoom to compare and enhance their own lists. Yes, it’s not the same as before, but I wouldn’t underestimate these small acts for helping us stay connected as a community.

    We’re only in the first two weeks, and I’m so impressed with how we’re thinking about this important issue of staying connected. We’re committed to sharing photos and videos to provide windows to you all. Conversations and planning are already underway around how to reimagine different community events from the Halloween Parade to the Multicultural Feast to keep us engaged in safe and happy ways. While it does take lots of time and effort from teachers, staff and volunteers, community is core to Stanley and always worth the effort – this includes the virtual back-to-school nights we’ve been having this week! So, do be on the lookout for new ways for us to stay connected with you all this year!

    Enjoy the long weekend,
    Sumant

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Sumant Bhat, Head of School

Fully embracing Stanley’s mission of joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world, Sumant is excited to build, expand and deepen his relationships at Stanley and understands the importance of cultivating community both within the school and beyond. Before joining Stanley, Sumant was the head of middle school at St Anne’s Episcopal School, a pre-K-8 school in Denver serving more than 400 students.

His resume includes 17 years of experience as a dean, teacher, advisor, coach and mentor. Sumant has had extensive professional development opportunities throughout his career including the 2009-10 NAIS E.E. Ford Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads. Sumant’s interests include international travel, Major League Baseball, hiking and skiing with his family, and breakfast dates with his sons.

"It is humbling to follow the extraordinary leadership and vision of both Tim Barrier and Carolyn Hambidge," said Sumant, after accepting the position as next head of school in January 2020. "They have made the school what it is today: A community that deeply loves kids and is committed to nurturing a joyful environment for children to learn and explore each and every day. The school’s commitment to student-centered classrooms, socio-emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion not only resonates with my beliefs about what is best for kids, but it clearly creates an environment where all community members feel welcome and a strong sense of belonging."