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Degrees and Certifications:
Joanna Hambidge, Head of British Primary Professional Development
Joanna's role is an outcome of realizing one of the pillars of our strategic plan to ensure our long-term commitment to the British Primary educational philosophy. She is working with faculty and staff on regular professional development, collaborating with faculty to articulate the key tenets of our philosophy and working on a multi-year project to craft a book. Stanley is devoted to nurturing British Primary teaching and learning, and Joanna's work is key to its ongoing application in our classrooms and beyond.
Living British Primary Blog
Social IdentitiesPosted by Stanley Communications on 5/24/2021 8:15:00 AM
Recently, Alex Meallet and a crew of K-1-2 children constructed a community arch in the middle of the Stanley campus. From the arch hangs ribbons and cards with words and drawings sharing the communities to which the children belong - the soccer team, the basketball team, the religious studies group, the book club, and of course, the Stanley community!
Our lives are influenced by the groups to which we belong. Some of these groups we can choose, others we belong to by birth or by the society in which we live. The Stanley faculty and staff have been exploring the concept of identity this year and recently have focused on how the groups to which we belong are often an integral part of our identity.
As a faculty and staff we have in particular focused on our social identity groups including our race/ethnicity, gender, social class/socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, (dis)abilities, religion/religious beliefs, language and age. Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education, “Our social identities refer to the signifiant group categorizations assigned to us by the society in which we grow up and live and which we share with many others.” Here is an overview of what we discovered and shared about our social identities and the implications for the learners in our classrooms:
Our Social Identities
- Some of our social identities we think about everyday and first thing when we step out the door in the morning. Other identities we do not think about very often.
- An identity that we ignore may be significant for someone else.
- The identities that are most significant and least significant for us may change over time.
- Some of our social identities are visible, some are not.
- Some of our social identities feel “normal” when that identity is shared by many people around us.
- Some of our identities give us privileges and can make life easier or give us access to opportunities or resources.
- Our social identities can play a role in how others see us and treat us.
- Social identities may bring a range of emotions depending on which identity we are thinking about; for example, some of our identities can give us confidence and some can cause anxiety and worry.
- Identities are simply identities. It's the value judgments we place on them and assumptions we make about them that affect us and others.
- When we recognize where we have insecurities or worries, or do not feel as confident, we may need support to lean in and own these identities. Our vulnerabilities can become our strengths.
- We can choose who we are now.
A central goal for Stanley faculty and staff is to create environments where learners of every age feel welcome and accepted for who they are as a unique individual, which includes all of their identities. With that goal in mind we asked, "How do we create school experiences and environments that facilitate our students seeing, understanding and valuing their social identities?”
Understand our own social identities
We bring who we are to our teaching. As Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education, “Understanding our own lives, and the social groups to which we belong, will strengthen our awareness of, sensitivity to, and empathy for the personal and social identity development of the children and families we serve.” As Brittany McKenna says, “If we haven’t done the work ourselves, identity work in the classroom lacks authenticity. We need to (figure out who we are) and keep figuring out where our blind spots are.”
Highlight all children and their families in the classroom
When children see themselves and their families reflected in their classroom, they feel affirmed. As Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education, “Messages of invisibility and visibility also communicate who matters and who does not. When children look at the books or posters in a classroom and find only two-parent families, they may learn that this is the ‘right’ kind of family and that all other kinds of families are wrong. When the dolls in the classroom are all White, or the pictures on the classroom walls show only White children, children may learn that White is ‘normal’ and other colors of human skin are ‘less than’ or bad.” We want all children to feel like they belong.
Support learners to feel positive about Social Identities
As teachers we work to be proactive so children feel involved and good about their lives and positive about their identities. Carolyn Hambidge says, “We need to let children be proud of who they are. Everyone is a marvel.” Katie Russell adds, “We convey respect for all beings. You are welcome here because you are a human being. You are part of life. You are essential to our world. You make it richer. Helping people feel seen and heard and like they aren’t alone with what they’re experiencing is key.”
Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education, “Some children need support to resist social messages of racial or cultural inferiority, which undercut their positive identity; others need guidance to develop a positive self-concept without absorbing social messages of superiority...Our goal is for each child to demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.”
Create a safe place where learners feel seen and heard
As Katie Russell shares, “We often have conversations about community and safe places at the beginning of the year – How do we make this a safe place for everyone to share? Revisiting these agreements often seems important as we discuss exploring identity. When we notice the atmosphere of safety has slipped we can recognize it, acknowledge it and move closer to safety again.
Part of growth is stretching and taking risks. It seems important to give learners language to express when they don’t feel safe, seen or heard so that they can influence the space directly, as well as return to a place of internal safety where they feel empowered to impact their experience and the world around them.
Awareness and communication are essential in navigating how to honor each others’ journey of exploring who we are and what it means to be human right now. And, communicating that not all actions and words are welcome here.
Withholding judgment is also important. Can I listen deeply, empathize, and be sensitive to others’ experiences and, at the same time, remember that I don’t have the full story, even for myself? I can serve best by being present and responding authentically.”
As Grace Reilly shares, “I’m thinking about hidden identities and how essential it is to provide inclusive spaces. We don’t always know who is in the room; someone’s identity may not be visible to us. We need to create space for all identities so students can fill that space. It’s important that all identities feel honored, valued and affirmed to allow students to share now or later.”
Kathy Mueller adds, “I think that goes with things like grouping – like boys and girls. Then someone who doesn’t think in a binary way is like, ‘I don’t want to go to one of these groups.’ Make groups in a cool authentic way, ‘Who likes hamburgers? Who likes hot dogs? Who likes veggie burgers?’ It is important to think in different ways, so that all learners feel safe and included.” And as Valentina Reilling adds, “The actions we take as teachers can be impactful for years to come. We’re creating spaces where students see us affirm all identities. They will do the same for others.”
As Sumant Bhat says, “As an educator I can accept who learners are at any given moment in their journeys. Be patient. It doesn’t mean the mirror isn’t impactful if we don’t see evidence at the moment. Our work or modeling might pay forward later, which is part of the journey at Stanley. A student might be more willing to share in second grade because of what happened in kindergarten.”
Model sharing and normalize what’s under the iceberg
Valentina Reiling says, “When I became a teacher, I became braver about looking at my identities and sharing them with students. I modeled the hard parts and vulnerabilities, which empowered them, as well as me, to talk about those hard things. My sharing gave them voice and space to share.”
Aya Schickel adds, “We can normalize challenges kids are feeling. For example, dyslexia. At first when I was teaching we didn’t talk about dyslexia. Now I talk about my brain glitches. When I share that my daughters have dyslexia, kids wake up. Now it’s like it's just a part of you – a part we work with. We can allow what’s under the water in the iceberg to be spoken about, which normalizes it. It allows the kids to talk about what’s there for them.”
Modeling can be complex. As Grace Reilly shares, “I’m thinking about sharing my identity as a teacher and wanting to be clear that my experience doesn’t make me an expert. How do I, with my authority in the room, share my voice without becoming the dominant, monolithic voice and story of my identities?” Valentina Reiling adds, “We are on journeys of identity – this idea that identity isn’t static or straightforward, that there can be conflict and celebration within identity. Maybe ‘identity is complicated’ is what we model and we value awareness of that complexity.”
Provide a myriad of ways for learners to share who they are
Valentina reflects, “Play and choice are all opportunities for kids to reveal themselves and show us who they are. We can create opportunities where it is a natural thing to share who we are and understand who we are. We want kids to experience glimpses of what it feels like to be seen as their authentic selves. To take that in. Sense it. This is who you are now. Stanley encourages authentic identity.” We work to normalize self-reflection by having learners constantly think about who they are in different ways. We invite students to lean in and share.
Use teachable moments
As Angie Martyn shares, “There are things that come up in casual conversations like at recess, lunch and play. You can hear what kids are talking about when you're on the playground or just having a conversation in those in-between moments and that can be when you hear things and you realize, okay, this could be affecting other children or the child they are talking to and you have to find a way to facilitate in the moment. It can be really tricky finding those safe, kind and creative ways to jump in and facilitate in those little moments. Those moments, I think, can often make a big difference. It can be the difference between causing harm and helping and anywhere in between.” As Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education, “Children’s questions, comments, and behaviors are a vital source of anti-bias curriculum. They spark teachable moments as well as longer-term projects.”
Valentina Reiling says, “First we might start with what students show us already about their perceived social identities and then facilitate ways for them to see and understand more. The identity piece is tender but read alouds and characters in books and movies are ways to access these places in a less vulnerable way, and to bring in realities and initiate conversations that aren’t about ourselves.” Kathy Mueller adds, “We can show different identities through stories. We can also cover ones that we might not have within our space but are important identities to have and to know.”
As Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education,“Teacher-initiated activities are also necessary, be they intentionally putting materials in the environment to broaden children’s awareness or planning specific learning experiences around issues or areas that matter to families and the community. Teacher-initiated activity opens up opportunities to uncover and help children explore ideas.”
As Louise Derman-Sparks writes in Anti-Bias Education, “Families and educators who understand the role of both personal and social identities in children’s development (as well as their own lives) are better prepared to support children’s healthy development and to teach children how to resist bias that may undermine any aspect of their ability to thrive.” At Stanley we begin in K-1-2 to talk about the groups to which we belong and our social identities. We also talk about what it means to be part of a community. Alex Meallet describes the K-1-2 children’s definition of a community: a group of people who care about each other and feel they belong together. At Stanley, our community values diversity of all kinds. We recognize that we are each unique and belong to different groups within and outside of Stanley. We strive to be a community where we can share of ourselves, feel safe and provide safety, and keep growing in understanding of ourselves and others.
What Do You Wonder?Posted by Stanley Communications on 4/8/2021 8:00:00 AM
When a fourth grader found frogs in the storm drain at the local park and brought the frogs into the classroom, the critters generated a lot of excitement and interest; the children asked more than 100 questions about the frogs! The teachers and students grouped the questions into categories and overarching questions, then discussed the most intriguing ideas and the ones that were most relevant. For example, What do frogs eat? How will we keep them alive? How and when might we release them back into the wild?
Inspired by our universe, and the beings and their creations within it, curiosity ignites. Questions tumble forth. How come…? Why? What if…? How? This past month, Stanley British Primary School’s faculty and staff focused on the importance of asking questions in our lives and in our classrooms and how we facilitate learners asking questions. Here is what we shared and uncovered combined with a few thoughts from some of our favorite educational writers and psychologists:
Why is asking questions in our lives and in our classrooms important?
Asking questions motivates us. Asking questions gives purpose to what we are experiencing. If it is a meaningful question, we will be excited to start investigating. It makes us alive! As Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher, says, “Questions are what guide my learning as an adult. They are what give my life meaning. I love the freedom to explore my own questions at whatever depth is right in that moment. Some questions are fleeting and some questions are a lifelong pursuit. But my questions really are guiding where I put my focus and energy.” Questions launch us into learning more. As Sumant Bhat says, “Questions can serve as invitations to exploration and learning. They can provide choice versus a singular approach.” A good question inspires us to learn more.
We ask questions to learn more about a person and connect. Through asking questions we deepen our understanding of each other and of what it means to be human. As Samantha Boggs, Director of Community Engagement, shares, “Sometimes I feel hesitant to ask someone a question because I feel like I should already know something about someone. But I think people like to be asked questions so I’m leaning into asking questions is okay. It's nice to hear the answer from that person.” Kathy Mueller, 7th grade language arts teacher, adds, “It’s an invitation. Our questions can invite someone into conversation.” Mona Akabari, front desk administrator and greeter, shares, “When you’re genuinely interested to know the person, the questions just keep flowing like a river.” Through asking questions we learn more about others. When we take the time to listen to their answers and their stories, we understand and connect with them, and we can learn more about ourselves, too!
Asking questions broadens our perspectives. Sydney Oswald, middle school Teaching Fellow, says, “Questioning can challenge assumptions and help us gain perspective.” Sumant Bhat adds, “Observation and questions are both tools to safeguard us against rushing to conclusions. They pump the breaks and avoid the trap of becoming an expert too quickly and oversimplifying something. They keep things divergent, allowing a broader understanding of something.” Grace Reilly, 8th grade science teacher, shares, “Asking questions is important because it’s how we are able to disrupt the systems that are in place and challenge what is going on in the world and all the systems of aggression that exist and why they exist.”
We ask questions to find out information and for clarification. When we do not understand, asking questions can illuminate the issue or situation. We ask questions to gain more facts and details, and to understand more fully. As Cris Tovani writes in Questioning for Learning in Educational Leadership, “Learners who ask questions are able to isolate their confusion. Questions force them to articulate what their confusion is instead of merely saying, ‘What? I don't get this!’ Learners can then work to repair their confusion by seeking more information.”
Questioning deepens understanding. Donna Meallet, middle school PE teacher, says, “Asking questions allows you to go deeper into the subject. It leads to deeper understanding.” As John Muir Laws explains in The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, “By asking a rich question, you engage your brain to explore more deeply and to focus on a chosen topic…Asking questions deepens your engagement with the subject and broadens your focus to stretch beyond what you already know. This helps develop your curiosity and your ability to seek out the edges of your understanding.” Ultimately, questioning allows us to grapple with complex situations.
Questioning is lifelong learning. Questioning is unending: “Now that you’ve learned this, what questions do you have?” There are more and more! Often the more we know about a topic, the more sophisticated and abundant our questions become. Questioning leads to learning, leads to more questioning; we are lifelong learners when we feel compelled to question. As Simone Bracket, Head of K-1-2 shares, “It feels like it lightens my load as an adult when I don’t feel like I need to know everything just in general in my life. Instead, when I can approach the world as though there’s always something more to learn and even something I know well there’s always something to round it out. So I never have to feel like I’m failing by not knowing everything. I can always ask questions and in doing so round out my world more. In doing so, I have more to impart and there’s always more to find out. That’s a more exciting way to view the world rather than, ‘You’ve reached this point and you should know everything and there’s nothing else to learn.’”
How do we facilitate learners asking questions?
Make time and space for questions. We provide opportunities for children to do what comes very naturally to them – wonder about the world around them and ask questions. As Harvey Daniels writes in The Curious Classroom:
- Actively and regularly solicit kids’ wonders
- Make time for children to pursue their questions
- Allow ourselves to be interrupted
As Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher says, “I feel like younger kids are really good at asking questions and if you gave them time, they would never stop. So take that time to honor those questions!” What are learners wondering about?
Create a safe place. Learners need to feel like they can trust their teacher and peers in order to share and question. As Katie Russell says, “I’m thinking about teaching as hosting a gathering and facilitating conversations and experiences. Teachers are facilitators who create safe environments where students can take risks, find their edge and stretch and grow. Questions help guide their journey and reflection helps students transfer their experiences to other settings.” Learners need to feel that asking questions is the norm in the classroom.
Provide rich curricula and materials, so that questions are generated. Questions are not formulated in a vacuum, or in nothingness. As Grace Reilly, 8th grade science teacher, says, “I have found that it is important if you’re aiming for the student to create questions that they may have to have something very rich to create questions about, whether it’s a picture, or a story, or an artwork, or a fact. Whatever it is that you’re looking at needs to be very rich and have many questions that are able to be made about it so there are many possibilities for students.” Learners need to feel inspired and interested in the curriculum and world around them in order to have something about which to ask questions.
Help learners see connections. Grace Reilly reflects, “We work in my class having students develop the skills to ask higher level thinking questions. For me questions are all about connections you’re able to make and wondering and pondering and troubling those connections. So helping them as a class come up with a list of different things you could connect what you’re talking about, can help get at the root of those questions and then they can go from there and how to build those connections and make questions between them.” Valentina Reiling adds, “When we observe, we hold our new understanding against our old understanding and the place where those two meet is a place of questioning.”
Let their questions provide the framework for learning. When learners pursue the questions that they have generated and are excited about pursuing, there is an energy and focus in the classroom. As Jacky Marino and Devin Burkhart, former 3-4-5 teachers, share, “As we launched our biography research unit, it was one of those days when the lesson flowed. My, oh my, was there a load of connecting, questioning and synthesizing that took place. The kids were eager, and learning potential reached its peak! We started with a mini lesson centered around researchers and asked, ‘What is the job of a researcher?’ and ‘How does a researcher start researching?’ From these questions, we discussed the spark of all research which is...CURIOSITY! What then comes from curiosity? QUESTIONS! The kids came up with lists and lists of questions to guide their research and to give them purpose while synthesizing information in their books.”
As John Muir Laws writes in Observation and Intentional Curiosity, “A question provides structure within which to organize observations and related thoughts, and it prompts you to look for other details that are germane.” Leslie Maniotes writes in Guided Inquiry Design, “Identifying an important focused question is essential for personal learning and deep understanding to take place in the inquiry process. For students, a meaningful question is, what do I care about and want to learn about?”
Design lessons that have questions as the objective. As Sydney Oswold, 6th grade Teaching Fellow, says, “Asking questions is a skill that you can practice. I ask students to come up with an open-ended question. I say the question can’t be answered by a single word, a number, or ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and that if you asked three different people the question you would get a different answer from each person. Learners need modeling and practice asking questions.” Susan Engel in The Hungry Mind writes, “Question asking can become the goal of an educational activity, rather than a happy by-product. Teachers can develop activities that invite or require students to figure out what they want to know and then seek answers.” When launching curriculum units, teachers can ask what questions learners have about the concept being uncovered.
Create a place to honor their questions. Valentina Reiling shares, “Design a place to hold their questions and put them and use them to continue the lesson or unit. I think that is going to empower them to keep asking questions too – when their questions facilitate the learning that’s going to happen.” And Harvey Daniels in The Curious Classroom writes, “Create a keeping place for kids’ questions, return to it often, and keep it fresh.”
Model asking questions. We model asking questions and embrace our own natural curiosity - I wonder how…? I wonder why…? I wonder if…? Katie Russell says, “Consistent modeling of genuine questions seems like a powerful way to inspire others to ask genuine questions – modeling uncertainty, not knowing...Asking questions is contagious. Especially with consistent questions that apply to various situations like ‘Why do you think that?’ and ‘How did you do that?’ Eventually students will internalize the questions and ponder them on their own, and perhaps, ask others the same or similar questions. Hearing the same question for three years in the same class, and nine years at Stanley, helps those questions become a habit of mind for students.” And as Harvey Daniels says in The Curious Classroom, “Be open to being amazed!”
Teach about the different types of questions. Not all questions are the same. We not only allow questions to surface, but also teach children how to ask really good ones. We model and explicitly teach children about the different types of questions, the questions that are related to different depths/levels of thinking. Is it a basic question, getting at facts and recall? Who was it that…? How many…? Or are the questions accessing higher levels of thinking, delving deeper and perhaps having more than one answer? Do you agree with...? What are the pros and cons of...? How many ways can you...? What would happen if? Can you create a …to do…?
As 8th grade language arts teacher David Marais writes, “Eighth graders were beginning their study of the Holocaust and its lessons, based on curriculum from Facing History and Ourselves. To help prepare for the work ahead, students learned about asking various levels of questions. Eighth graders used Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street as an example text. They discussed the first level, Factual Questions, focusing on information that could be gleaned directly from the story – who, what, when, where.
Next, students practiced asking Inferential Questions about the text, such as, ‘Why does the author feel scared of other neighborhoods?’ These questions draw on context and background knowledge and rarely have definitive answers.
The final category, Universal Questions, requires students to think about the big issues we face in our world, such as ‘Why do people in the world today still stereotype and judge others?’ With an understanding of all three kinds of questions, eighth graders set forth to critically analyze the complex and challenging material – and it prepares them to do the same for the world around them.”
Valentina Reiling shares, “I think in some ways learners need to go through the process of starting with basic questions and kind of grounding them in the context and then, from the basic, more simple, questions, the questions can grow deeper and deeper.”
Create opportunities to share questions. Share questions at the beginning of class, during class, and to wrap up a lesson. Share questions at the beginning of a unit of study, during a unit of study, and at the end of a unit of study. And as Harvey Daniels writes in The Curious Classroom, “Create sharing opportunities within and beyond the class.” -
After observing the frogs that a student found in a storm drain, and generating a list of more than 100 questions about the critters, we discussed how to investigate and find answers to our questions. We had to figure out what kind of frogs we had and what they would eat, and if and when we could release them back into the wild. We accessed books in the library and online resources, and we called the local amphibian expert at the local zoo, who was very helpful, and told us that we would have to wait until the spring to release our temporary class pets back into the storm drain. We fed our frogs crickets and observed and enjoyed them in the classroom for several months. We eventually even got to observe tadpoles! From observing this new phase of a frog’s life, we generated many more questions! As we notice, it is often in the next moment that we ask questions, search for answers and strive to make sense of the world.
What do you wonder?
As Cris Tovani writes in Educational Leadership, “If you must be the question asker, I challenge you to pose this single, simple, beautiful question to your students—no matter the content, no matter the learning goal — ‘What are you wondering?’"
What Do You Notice?Posted by Stanley Communications on 3/11/2021 8:30:00 AM
“What do you notice?” is a question that is heard in our classrooms across grade levels and across curriculum areas. What do you notice about these math patterns? What do you notice about how the artist has created this painting? What do you notice about how the writer has started this short story? What do you notice about how the axlerod grew? What do you notice about how we interacted?
Last month the faculty and staff delved into a discussion of the importance of observation in our lives and in our classrooms. We shared ideas on what observation is, why it is important, how we observe, and how we create curricula and classroom environments where learners focus on observation. Here are some of our thoughts and the thoughts of some of our favorite educators, psychologists, and writers.
What is observation?
Observation is the action or process of looking at something carefully, noticing and becoming aware. As Mona Akabari says, “Observation is giving up everything else for that moment.” And as Valentina Reiling adds, “Observation is being fully present with something or someone. It is non-judgmental or critical. It is active passivity -- being open, allowing something else to influence or affect us. It is quiet yet alert.” Observation relies on one or more of our senses and is a key way in which we learn about the world around us.
Why is observation important in our classrooms and lives?
- We are alive when we observe. We are focused on the present.
- We see the World. The ordinary can become extraordinary. And we can develop care and reverence for our world.
- Observation provides evidence and is at the heart of scientific thinking.
- Observation connects us to wonder, curiosity and inquiry.
- We connect with others by articulating the details of what we notice.
- Observation can be absorbing, calming, even meditative.
- Observing ties to our authenticity, what we are drawn to, what we chose to take time to observe.
How do we immerse ourselves in observation?
Open up all of our senses. Listen, taste, touch, smell, see what is in front of you.
As Rachel Carson writes in The Sense of Wonder, “For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I know I would never see it again?”
Take Time. In our fast paced lives, slow down and give yourself permission to notice.
As John Moffit writes:
To Look at Any Thing
To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say
“I have seen spring in these
Woods,” will not do—you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the silences between
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.
- John Moffitt
Be Present. Allow yourself to be absorbed, to focus.
As Valentina Reling says, “Observation is a commitment to presence - being present in the moment for what it is - finding truth in the present.”
Notice. Have new eyes. Inspect what you are looking at.
As John Muir Laws writes in The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, “Do not filter anything out: Look at structure, behavior, color, interactions. Change your perspective: look up close or far away and see what else you can observe. If you find yourself running out of observations, challenge yourself to discover something new, or just say ‘I notice…’ until an idea pops out. Pay attention to what surprises you. This gives you insight into ways that the world is different than you had thought.”
Be open. See what it is, not what you expect to see. Try to remain neutral. Look, listen and really see from an open place, an open mind and heart.
As Lisa Delpit writes, “Consciously or not, we often see exactly what we expect to see. How we feel in the moment strongly influences what we see. If we are tired or cold or just had a disagreement with a friend, these experiences color our perceptions...our values and beliefs rush in as we interpret and judge a situation.”
Refrain from jumping to conclusions. Try to focus on the here and now, and not on the past or the future.
As Rachel Naomi Remen writes in My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, “Paying attention is no simple matter. It requires us not to be distracted by expectations, past experiences, labels, and masks. It also asks that we not jump to early conclusions and that we remain open to surprise. Wisdom comes most easily to those who have the courage to embrace life without judgment and are willing to not know, sometimes for a long time.”
Make connections. Ask what it reminds you of.
As John Muir Laws writes in Observation and Intentional Curiosity, “Allow yourself to be uninhibited in this step. Say anything that comes to mind: the object may have jarred your memory, reminding you of an experience you’ve had or a piece of information you already know, or the way it looks physically might remind you of something. Try looking at individual parts of the object, then back up and examine it as a whole...Saying what you are reminded of connects what you observe in the moment to what you already know. Children often say, ‘It looks like…’ when they encounter something they have never seen before.”
Ask questions. By asking questions, we look more closely.
As John Muir Laws reminds us in Observation and Intentional Curiosity, “Asking questions deepens your engagement with the subject and broadens your focus to stretch beyond what you already know. This helps develop your curiosity and your ability to seek out the edges of your understanding.”
Draw. Drawing makes you look at the world more closely. It helps you to see what you're looking at more clearly.
As Frederick Frank writes in The Zen of Seeing, “I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle: the branching of a tree, the structure of a dandelion’s seed puff…I discover that among the Ten Thousand Things there is no ordinary thing. All that is, is worthy of being seen, of being drawn.”
Journal. Journaling can enhance observation.
As Hannah Hinchman writes, “I think the journal itself has taught me to revere the ordinary.” And as Georgia Heard writes in A Place for Wonder, “We found that displaying journals near the class pets around the room became an outlet for children to write down their observations and to share their ideas and questions about these living creatures. The journals also helped sharpen observation skills.”
Describe not tell. When we describe something for someone else to see, who is not present to see the person or the object, we have to observe closely and use language that captures what it is that we are observing.
As Amy Ludwig Vanderwater writes in Poets Are Teachers, “Writers of every genre rely on observation to strengthen their texts. By looking deeply and describing carefully, writers welcome readers to try a dissection at the lab, watch the kitten sleeping in a square of sun, or rummage through Great-Grandma’s quilt drawer. Writers are awake to buildings and animals, textures and sounds, all around-watching, sketching, and writing these alive for readers.” As Natalie Lloyd writes, “I like The Eiffel Tower because it looks like steel and lace.”
Learn from others’ observations. Others may have had observations and ideas that you have not thought of; they may expand your horizons and give you new ideas as to how you see what you are observing.
As Wynne Harlan writes in Taking the Plunge, “Two people observing the same formation of clouds in the sky may observe quite different things about them.”
Be an observer
Pause. Look around you. Focus on a person or an object for a few minutes: Be present, notice, open up your senses, take time, and be open. Try making connections, asking questions, drawing, journaling, and saying anything that comes to mind. What impact does this experience have on you? Notice, and ask your child what they notice. Over spring break, your family might like to use observation journals where you can draw, ask questions, make notes. We would love to hear about your experiences!
Bulldog UniquenessPosted by Joanna Hambidge on 2/11/2021
As I walk through the hallways at Stanley, I am always struck by the variety of the artwork. No two displays, no two drawings, no two paintings...are the same. Each one is different, a reflection of the unique learner who created the piece.
One of the sentences in our school’s vision, mission, and values statement reads, “We recognize that each child is unique and significant; therefore, we respect and build positive relationships with children and encourage them to know themselves.” This past month the faculty and staff have been uncovering and exploring what it means to be unique and how we create school experiences and environments that facilitate our students seeing and valuing their uniqueness. Here’s some of the thinking that people shared:
My initial thoughts about uniqueness entailed standing out, being different from others. Then I thought “isn’t everyone completely different from everyone else?” Uniqueness is being you.
- Brittany McKenna
Uniqueness is embracing all my quirkiness and being proud that these things are what makes me, me. - Donna Meallet
There is only one me in all the universe! Only one me! Mind boggling! We’re all so different the way we look, the way we think, the way we move. - Mona Akbari
To be unique is to be one of a kind. We each have our own emotions, reactions, strengths, challenges, talents, desires, repulsions, relationships, interests, wishes, hopes, our own stories. - Aya Schickel
Uniqueness can be small differences in each of us that we don’t see right away. Uniqueness is thinking for oneself and being able to act on it. To be authentic to who you are. - Angie Martyn
To me, uniqueness is connected to self-confidence, self-assurance. To be truly unique, you need to be aware of who you are and proud and confident in it. Able to showcase it. If you are able to do that, share what other people in the community don’t have, it builds community. Self-confidence and self-assurance is vital in being truly unique.
- Grace Reilly
When we are able to be authentic in who we are, the fullness of our uniqueness can show through. - Valentina Reiling
Pause for a moment. What makes you unique? Who are you? What do you like? What do you believe? What do you have? What can you do? What are your stories? What makes you, you?
When asked the question, “Who are you?” here is what the faculty and staff shared:
I am me...
I am a seeker.
I am a friend.
I am an artist, creator, and designer.
I am curious, I am a puzzler, I am strong willed.
I’m 100 tabs open.
I am resilient and resourceful.
I can be emotional.
I am a carer and problem solver.
I am an educator.
I like yoga and dance.
I like to walk, read, and eat dinner with my family.
I like playing and being outdoors.
I like a sense of simplicity and groundedness.
I like different conversations I have all day – children take them in different directions.
I like feeling connected to others.
I like the night sky.
I like life.
I can cook.
I can write.
I can learn from my mistakes and others.
I can teach.
I have many friends.
I have a small family.
I have a variety of me-s.
I have a family filled with complicated relationships.
I have joy in my heart.
I believe in growth.
I believe if you can be kind to others, others will be kind to you.
I believe flexibility is the key to happiness in life.
I believe the components of my identity that are important to me now won’t necessarily be important to me in the future.
I believe everyone can learn.
I believe I can grow and support growth in others.
At several Back-to-School Nights through the decades, Carolyn, the founder of the school, read this quote by Pablo Casals, “Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”
A favorite quote of Carolyn’s is Froebel’s “Watch the child, he will show you what to do.” (Froebel wrote in the 1700s, so today the pronoun he would be changed to be more inclusive). Carolyn said that this quote embodies the essence of Stanley and is why we are different from other schools. We truly see each learner, and value the learner and their uniqueness.
As we navigate life’s journey and educate your child, together with your support, we strive to see your child and all of their uniqueness and to help your child to see themselves. We strive to create a safe place in which they can share their stories and who they are becoming. We strive to design a curriculum and respond to teachable moments to engage and expand your child’s horizons and support them to be all they can be. We strive to be authentic with them and build a relationship with them and communicate with them that they are unique and significant, and so is the classmate sitting next to them. We strive to build a community that honors how we discover our uniqueness in relationship to others and how we are stronger and more joyful together.
As Stanley teachers, we reflect upon our own uniqueness and try to bring our authentic selves to school. We hope that you will, too. May you honor who you are, and support your child to do the same.
CuriosityPosted by Joanna Hambidge on 1/14/2021
As I walked past a K-1-2 classroom this fall, several children excitedly shared with me their experiment outside their classroom door in which they had placed an array of food to see what squirrels would eat. They also shared their “squirrel” notebooks in which they were gathering information about squirrels. In addition to finding out about what squirrels eat, the children wanted to know where squirrels live, how far they can jump, if they are attracted to shiny things, if they are rodents.. I could feel the children’s enthusiasm, energy, and interest in their studies. The interest had grown from their observations and wonder at the squirrels chattering and climbing trees outside their classroom. These K-1-2 students were curious, and their curiosity was motivating them to learn. As Susan Engel writes in her book The Hungry Mind (P.8) “When something in our environment tweaks our curiosity, we try to satisfy the feeling by seeking information.”
In December the faculty and staff delved into discussions and research on the importance of curiosity in our classrooms and in our lives. Here’s what we uncovered and shared:
Curiosity is an overwhelming desire to understand.
- Grace Reilly
Curiosity is a desire to know more; to take the shovel and dig in.
- Mona Akbari
Curiosity is finding out more about something that intrigues you.
- Carolyn Hambidge
Curiosity propels us to explore and it is the force behind cognitive development
Curiosity ignites us to ask questions and wonder; it fuels our thinking. As Sumant Bhat says, “With curiosity, it’s like an itch that we need to scratch. When we are curious about something, we can’t focus on other things. There’s this draw to action, exploration, and investigation. We need to address it. We need to engage with it.” When we are curious, we are motivated, excited, and connected. As Grace Reilly, 8th grade science teacher, says, “When we are curious, we are fully invested with nonstop questions.” We are motivated to learn!
Curiosity is the beginning of a process of discovery and learning. Wendy Ostroff in her book From Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms (p. 1-5) explains why, “Curiosity has been hailed as the major impetus behind cognitive development, education and scientific discovery. It is the drive that brings learners to knowledge.. When we are curious, our brain’s surge in dopamine causes us to take and remember the entire landscape of experience and information more deeply. This is because the dopamine makes the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with long-term memory function better.” And Susan Engel in her book The Curious Mind (p.178) writes, “When people want to learn more, they learn. Inciting children’s curiosity is the best way to ensure that they will absorb and retain information...when people’s interest in information is piqued, their memory for that information is enhanced. In other words, learning feels good when the material satisfies curiosity, and such learning tends to last.”
How do we at Stanley create “curious” classrooms?
We create a safe place to be curious and explore
The space we create lets curiosity into our classrooms. Grace Reilly says, “You need a place where learners can feel safe and able to be wrong and vulnerable to show that they care about something and that they have a question and want to learn about it. It is a vulnerable place to announce that you care about something.” Kathy Mueller adds, “We create safe spaces for kids to be curious, to maybe mispeak or not fully understand something to ask those questions. We spend a lot of time talking about respect and having safe space for curiosity to really run its course.” We build a space in which wonder and curiosity enter our classrooms and learners feel safe pursuing it.
We value curiosity
We show we value something by spending time and focus on it. Susan Engel in her book The Hungry Mind (p.186-193) writes, “Curiosity takes time to unfold, and even longer to bear fruit. In order to help children build on their curiosity, teachers have to be willing to spend time doing so.” Kathy Mueller, says, “When you’re gifted time - protected time - curiosity can run free and do what it needs to do. We need to have protected time for curiosity to run its course.” In our schools mission statement, it states that we value discovery and that we encourage curiosity. We value curiosity across all curriculum areas! Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher, says, “I feel like Stanley classrooms are communities of curiosity!”
We bring interesting and meaningful materials and curricula into our classrooms
As Stanley teachers, we bring in things that are meaningful and interesting for learners to have curiosity about. As Susan Engel writes in The Hungry Mind (p.182-190), “Children need access to books with good language and complex character, fish tanks, terrariums, complex machines and gadgets, and conversations about the unseen and unseeable...Fill classrooms with the kinds of complexity that invite inquiry. Teachers should provide children with interesting materials, seductive details, and desirable difficulty. Instead of presenting children with material that has been made as straight forward and digested as possible, teachers should make sure their students encounter objects, texts, environments, and ideas that will draw them in and pique their curiosity...Encourage discussion... Some of the discussions can be planned (a daily debate about a newspaper article, regular roundtable discussions about the books the students are reading)...Have a sharp ear for the stray comment by a child that can be developed into something more.” Grace Reilly shares, “I think a lot about ill-structured problems, problems without one clear or right solution. In eighth grade we talk about genetics at the end of the year. We have a debate about genetically modifying humans with Crispr technology and whether that should be allowed or not. And it’s a debate that is happening in real time. It’s a technology that is just coming up. People are just learning how to use it. The students get so invested. because you can’t just google it. You can’t just find an answer to it. When they have the motivation to figure out an answer that is not readily accessible to them, I think that builds curiosity.” Valentina Reiling summarizes by saying, “You need community and relationships, but you also need problems and conflict; change; curiosity sometimes comes from conflict and disruption of things. You need change and diversity brought into the environment but you also need opportunity for repetition.”
We weave students’ interests into our curriculum
At Stanley, we create curricula and learning experiences that propel learners to investigate; we also, whenever possible, honor learners’ own interests and questions, their curiosities. Carolyn Hambidge says, “Children do need to find their interests. They’ve got to have room in the class, in the space to really explore and find their interests so they can be curious.” And as Kathy Mueller says, “You can create environments of curiosity but until there is this fire within a learner, that space is kind of empty. Learners need the passion, the interest, the motivation. Give learners choice. Here are all these possibilities, what are you fascinated by? What book, character, storyline draws you in? We give choice within structure. Choice within the space we create.” At Stanley we recognize the importance of diving into learning because there is a burning fire within us to find out, and to know and to understand more.
We are open to the unexpected
Flexibility and openness are essential in the fostering of curiosity - a willingness to let curiosity lead. We might have a plan but then curiosity leads us in a different direction. Sumant Bhat says, “There’s an open-mindedness component to creating a “curious classroom,” an understanding that there might be multiple explanations to things.” Susan Engel in The Hungry Mind (p.178) writes, “Another key ingredient to the curious classroom is openness to serendipity, the unexpected insight or accidental data. Rather than disciplining children to learn, why not create the conditions in which children actually are hungry for knowledge?” In order for curiosity to permeate our classrooms, we embrace the unexpected places exploration and learning might lead.
We engage with learners and their curiosity
As the adults in our children’s lives, we can either nurture or stunt curiosity. Sumant says, “We can’t be evaluative or dismissive of things that children bring to us because we could send the message that curiosity isn’t important.” Valentina adds, “One of the conditions needed to foster curiosity is a way for the curiosity to be held or mirrored somehow - usually by a teacher or mentor or peer. Someone to validate the curiosity, to join in with the curiosity or even challenge and extend the curiosity...Teachers must be curious about their students’ thinking to encourage curiosity! “Why do you think that?” “How did you know/do that?” Curiosity is ignited in the classroom when students get the message from their teachers that they value their thinking, the process of learning.
We model curiosity
Curiosity is contagious. Angie Martyn, K-8 dance teacher, shares, “To inspire learners to be curious, we model curiosity, wonder about things, ask questions. This morning at Morning Meeting the teacher asked, “What did you have for breakfast?” Then she followed up with more questions, digging for details. “What kind of cereal? What was on your toast? The teacher was authentically curious.” As the adults in our children’s lives we share our own curiosity and model being curious.
We facilitate access to resources that respond to curiosity
In a “curious” classroom, we not only plan and model curiosity, and are open and flexible, we support learners in answering their questions. Valentina Reiling says, “We have resources available (people, books, photographs, diagrams, conversations, etc) to refer to that become trusted sources and also inspiration for even deeper curiosity. Susan Engel in the The Hungry Mind (p. 191) writes, “A teacher who invites students to ask questions without helping them seek accurate answers or acquiring a robust body of knowledge would leave the educational task half done….So to cultivate students’ curiosity, teachers need to give them both time to seek answers and guidance about various routes to getting answers, such as looking things up in reliable sources or testing hypotheses.” When we are curious, we want to find out answers; we want to know more; we learn naturally.
For several weeks as I walked by the outside of the K-1-2 squirrel classroom, I observed the children observing the squirrels. Two weeks into the study, I saw the children weaving sticks together and placing leaves on top of the structure and placing it in the cross section of the branches of a tree. The children had researched how squirrels build their homes and they were attempting to help build them for them! I am sure these children will never forget how squirrels build their homes and what squirrels eat and how they climb. Their wonder and curiosity for squirrels had propelled them into learning and a deep understanding of the animals outside their classroom door.
As Carolyn Hambidge shares, “ With curiosity there is a deep, wonderful interest with questions and connections and caring. A desire to find out more and care about it.” At Stanley we value learning, understanding and caring. I hope that you can find time to honor and interact with your children’s curiosity and even discover and explore your own.
Wonder – Making Time Stand StillPosted by Joanna Hambidge on 12/10/2020
When I was on lunch recess duty in November, a child yelled “Hawks! Hawks! Hawks!” and pointed to the sky. Three huge birds glided across the Colorado blueness. The sun illuminated the slight red on their shoulders and wings. I realized that all of the cohorts of children on the playground were pointing and staring and stopping to watch the birds. The three birds soared and turned, soared again, turned and soared again. We were all entranced in a moment of wonder. Time stood still as we reveled in awe at the beauty.
This past month the Stanley faculty and staff have been exploring the concept of wonder and the role it plays in our lives and in our classrooms. The word ‘wonder’ comes from the Indo-European root meaning simply to smile or to laugh. Anything wonderful is something to smile in the presence of. The faculty and staff articulated many wonder-ful words to describe wonder:
inhaling of breath, astonishment
a marvel, a gem
inspiring, mesmerizing, magical
revelry in the moment
A thrill of the heart
joyful, warm, glow
soul touching, meaningful
As a group of faculty and staff we talked about the impact that wonder has on us. We shared that with wonder, we experience a sense of time slowing and even a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. We talked about how wonder is physical and visceral and how we want to hold on to wonder. Objects and scenes that inspire wonder, prompt a desire to keep them. Collect them. Paint them. Write about them. We want to preserve the moment of wonder, the memory. Wonder also inspires connection to others and makes us want to share.
Pause for a moment. When have you and do you experience wonder?
Here are some objects, scenes, and interactions that have inspired wonder for the Stanley faculty and staff:
The depth and breadth of the ocean
The vastness of the canyons
The red of the maple leaf
The spiral of the snail shell
The colors and structures within a cell
Pine needles coated in ice sparkling in the winter sun
Patterns and pendulums
Hearing music, seeing dance
Stories of different times and places
Sydney Oswald, Middle School Fellow, shared, “I see wonder in moving from small to large and seeing it all come together; pieces coming together to create a whole. A sum greater than the parts like puzzles or groups of people.” Aya Schickel, K-5 Spanish teacher, shared about the wonder she feels for the joy at Stanley, “For years walking into Stanley I have experienced wonder at the joy that I can physically feel... I am in wonder and awe at the thoughtfulness and kindness of the teachers at Stanley. My sense of wonder at the people at Stanley has allowed me to grow into a kinder, more thoughtful person. My sense of wonder at the people at Stanley has transformed me over the years.”
As a faculty and staff we talked about how people can inspire wonder in us. Brenda Duncan, former K-1-2 teacher and teacher advisor, shared, “When I connect with the natural world, I think of my father who always carried a sense of wonder in him. He loved to garden and he would call me to look at the brussels sprouts and how they grow, alternating up the stalk.” We talked about how children often inspire wonder in us. Brittany McKenna, 6-8 teacher, shared, “I love being with my kids to experience wonder with them. I love being able to see through my children’s eyes. It helps remind me there is so much to wonder about in small things. So much to wonder about in the most ordinary things.” And Julie Miles, K-1-2 teacher, shared, “When I remember to slow down and look at everything through the eyes of a child almost everything can be viewed with wonder - a marble, a block. It reminds me to appreciate the feeling of wonder. It’s why I like teaching. I want children to remember me as someone who stops and looks with wonder. Kids can find wonder in almost anything. I love seeing what children put together with a variety of materials – it’s an everyday wonder to me.”
As faculty and staff, we are grateful for the wonder that our students share and bring to us. As faculty and staff, we try to honor the importance of wonder and keep the focus on the marvels of the world at the forefront of what we do. Rachel Carson in her book the Sense of Wonder says, “Once our emotions have been aroused - a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love, then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning.”
At Stanley we try to enrapture students with birds on the playground, with thought-provoking texts, with awesome experiments, with interesting materials, and with breath-taking kindness! At Stanley, we plan our lessons and units to inspire, to engage, to draw students in, to spark interest; so that they want to be involved with the subject matter and to continue to pursue learning. As Steven Wolk in “School as Inquiry,” Phi Delta Kappan (October 2008) writes, “Most children are not going to be an Einstein or a Thoreau, but they can live like them, in awe of our existence, filled with questions, and excited to observe and understand the world. Thoreau and Einstein followed two very different paths, but their inquiry about the world required common habits of mind. To them, the world was something to study, to explore, to wonder about. They had passion; their inquiry was not pulled by a test, it was pushed from within. That passion and wonder is what sent Shakespeare to the stage, Darwin to the Galapagos, and Jane Goodall to the chimpanzees. And it should be what drives our schools.”
At Stanley, we plan for open-ended projects and provide choice; so that learners can access and enter the learning in different ways, ways that appeal to them and ignite their fascination and curiosity. We have students share their interests, their passions, and weave what is meaningful to them into our learning. Find what brings them wonder! As Stanley teachers, we share our wonder. Our excitement and interests can be contagious! We model what it looks like to be interested and mesmerized.
At Stanley, we take children into nature and bring the natural world into the classroom. Kathy Mueller, 6-7-8 teacher, reflects, “ When I think of the trips in middle school, the purpose of them is being together, seeing something beautiful, slowing down, and being in that space. Every trip there are always hundreds of moments of wonder! Watching kids who have never walked in Moab and seeing the Arches for the first time and watching their faces when they see it. Sometimes, with the wonder there is a little fear – overwhelmed sometimes. The outdoor experiences are such a gift.” We slow down; so that we can see and experience moments of wonder.
As Stanley teachers, we reflect on and put words to our thinking and feeling. As Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher says, “It feels important for us to give voice for our students (and ourselves) to how the layers of discovery (wonder, curiosity, etc.) are felt in our bodies and through our senses, the physical experience.” As Stanley teachers, we create a safe space. Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher and teacher advisor shares, “A sense of safety and trust is necessary to feel and embrace wonder and share wonder. A willingness to be vulnerable, feel moved by something outside oneself and connect to the feeling of awe and wonder. A sense that I will be accepted if I share my wonder.” Grace Reilly, 6-7-8 teacher, adds, “If you are afraid of being wrong, it is a hindrance to your ability to wonder authentically...The community building piece is an important part of creating a space where you can wonder and ask questions and be struck by things.”
The day before Thanksgiving break I encountered a teacher and a group of five students returning from the playground. “Joanna, there’s an owl in the tree by the gym! Come and see!” The children reversed direction and bounded towards the gym. They pointed up to a very tall tree and there on a branch was the biggest owl that I had ever seen! While we were looking up, the owl launched his huge body into the air and glided over the main building without moving his wings. We all stood in wonder until the owl disappeared...and then there was a cascading of questions. How could he fly without moving his wings? How big do owls get? Is it hard to fly when you are that big? Are owls nocturnal? Why was the owl out in the middle of the day? Why are there owls and hawks on our playground? Is it because there are so many bunny rabbits? Wonder stretched out. Then... a tumbling of questions and observations, a leaning in to understand. Wonder often leads to curiosity. As a faculty and staff we are exploring and sharing about curiosity during the month of December.
Wonder can be the take-your-breath-away moments. It can also appear in the everyday if you look for it, and slow down enough to appreciate and see it. We can actively find more wonder in our lives. David McCord, an American Poet, writes, “One of my teachers told me, ‘Never let a day go by without looking on three beautiful things.’ I try to live up to that and find it isn’t difficult. The sky in all weathers is, for me, the first of these three things.”
May you and your children experience many moments of wonder during this winter time!
The Stories of Our LivesPosted by Joanna Hambidge on 11/11/2020
You see a person. They are a person in the distance. When we hear someone’s story, it builds life into that person. For just that moment in time, we were able to look through the window and see a part of them. —Donna Meallet, 6-7-8 advisor & physical education teacher
This year the faculty and staff have the option of delving into two British Primary concepts: Discovery and Identity. For our focus on identity, we started by sharing stories of our lives. As our School Librarian Allan Cutler pointed out, "We are our stories." Together, we shared stories of our names, of special objects and of important photos. We heard about spiders, angels and Vikings! (You can hear a name story from our own Head of School Sumant Bhat as told in an article that appeared in one of my favorite educational journals Teaching Tolerance.)
After sharing these stories, the faculty and staff delved into why and how we tell our stories. Their thoughts and words were so inspiring that I wanted to share several of them with you. We found ourselves exchanging ideas and surfacing a number of important themes:
- Connection: By sharing our stories and hearing others’, we develop a sense of connection. "When you share a story about yourself, you are vulnerable. and through vulnerability, you connect with others." —Brenda Duncan, former K-1-2 teacher & teacher advisor
- Compassion: As the receiver of the story, we have a responsibility to listen so that the storyteller will want to share again. "It is a privilege to hear others’ stories and through telling our stories we become “a community of humans.” —Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher
- Understanding: We learn from hearing others’ stories. "We don’t live in a vacuum. My experiences are my own experiences, but we understand our own experiences better in relationship to other people’s experiences. Hearing others’ stories, helps me see connections and differences between my life and others’ lives and helps me to process my own stories — which I can’t do if I am processing only my own life experiences." —Grace Reilly, 6-7-8 advisor & science teacher"
- Self-discovery: We learn about ourselves from sharing our own stories. "Through sharing our stories and connecting them together, we make sense of our lives and understand ourselves better." —Carolyn Hambidge, founding head of Stanley (or as one child said, “She found Stanley.”)
- Creativity: We can construct our own stories. "We tell ourselves stories to make sense of our worlds, to deal with fear, to protect ourselves. I believe we are more than our stories. I want to give others the space and freedom to discover their authentic identities, not feel locked into stories about themselves. I’m thinking that stories can help make sense of experiences, and we can all grow through and beyond them." —Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher & teacher advisor
- Generosity: At Stanley we tell stories often and in different ways. "Morning Share builds a community. The children tell a small story of what is happening in their lives — such a gift for the storyteller and class! This “share” experience is creating skills, helping them learn to tell a concise story, to look at the audience, to stand in front of the audience. Stanley children are remarkable at being brave and speaking in front of people. It all starts in kindergarten!" —Aya Schickel, K-5 Spanish teacher
- Courage: It takes bravery to share. "Sharing our stories brings courage and bravery to us. There is a saying in Iran, “One flower can bring spring.” By seeing that flower you are also reminded that you can bloom and grow. Then another one sees it and blooms and grows. Just one starts this whole process of growth for others. When we share and listen to others, we realize that if they can do it, then I can also do it. Yes, one flower can lead the whole spring." —Mona Akbari, front desk & administrative coordinator
Tell your own stories. This upcoming winter — in person, on Zoom, on the phone — share your stories! One of the stories I shared at the faculty and staff gathering was about how the name “Hambidge” is derived from Old English in the seventh century from Somerset in England. “Ham” means Homestead and “bidge” is an abbreviation for bridge. “The Homestead by the bridge.” I think this is a nice metaphor for our school, as our front gathering place at school is called the Hambidge Commons (after Stanley’s founding head of school).
I hope our school is a “home” for all of us, where we feel safe to share and learn about ourselves and others. And we do have a bridge — by the dragon on the playground! The bridge has two hand-carved pillars. On top of one pillar is a flying horse and on top of the other is an eagle. Last week when I was on recess duty, a second grader was climbing up one of the carved wooden pillars of the bridge. When I pointed out the large cracks appearing on the pillars, the second grader quickly climbed down to stand on the handrails of the bridge. He rubbed his hands gently over the wings of the flying horse and said, “There must be a story…”.
Discovery in British Primary LearningPosted by Joanna Hambidge on 10/15/2020
Last week as I walked across campus, a teacher arranged buckets of bubble solution and colorful pipe cleaners on the deck outside the classroom. Soon seven children immersed their hands and different shaped pipe cleaner creations into the different buckets. When I passed by again forty minutes later, I could hear sounds of excitement – WOW! Look at this!” I paused for a few minutes and watched the children.
One child had bent pipe cleaners into a square and was trying to make a rectangular bubble. Two boys were working on bouncing bubbles and noticing how the sunlight was reflecting on the surface. They then went on to see if they could put bubbles inside of bubbles or even objects inside of bubbles. Three children were working together to create the biggest bubble possible – twisting multiple pipe cleaners together into a huge circle, then each holding a part of the circle as they dipped it into the bubble solution. Then, ever so carefully, they orchestrated standing up in unison and running together to release the ginormous bubble. As these experiments ensued, the children occasionally smiled in my direction, but were so engaged in their discoveries that they hardly noticed me perched on the edge of their classroom deck.
This moment of exploration reminded me of another moment I had shared this past week with faculty and staff. This year the faculty and staff have the option of deep diving into two key British Primary concepts – Discovery and Identity. The group exploring Discovery met this past week and experienced being Discoverers themselves. They each received a bag of materials – pipe cleaners, cups, yarn and beads – and explored. The end creations were all different: dachshunds, aspen trees, octopus on sandcastles, an African-American girl with beads in her hair, a windchime, a welcome sign... Faculty and staff described moments of being lost in the act of discovery and creation, moments of losing track of time, moments of the outside world disappearing. These descriptions reminded me of the children exploring bubbles with their whole beings, absorbed in their discoveries.
While the teachers and children were exploring different materials, there were many similarities.
- They were absorbed in what they were doing.
- They appreciated the time to explore and create. The children were engaged with the bubble experimentation for well over an hour! The teachers reflected on how it was nice to have the bag of materials at home and to not feel rushed as they discovered and created.
- They were each pursuing different interests.
- They were demonstrating flexibility and curiosity, a willingness to experiment with the materials and ask questions “What if? What else?”
Eleanor Duckworth, in her article “The Having of Wonderful Ideas,” shares how in her research: “The having of wonderful ideas is the essence of intellectual development... Wonderful ideas do not spring out of nothing. They build on a foundation of other ideas... Schools and teachers can provide materials and questions in ways that suggest things to be done with them; and children, in the doing, cannot help being inventive... Familiarize children with a few phenomena in such a way as to catch their interest, to let them raise and answer their own questions, to have them realize that their ideas are significant – so that they have the interest, the ability, and the self-confidence to go on by themselves.”
If we want our children to discover and create, we need to honor and spark their curiosity and give them the time to engage. Time to wonder. Time to observe. Time to ask questions. Time to investigate. Time to share. Time to create. I am grateful that in the classrooms and in the outside spaces at Stanley, I so often observe children, and teachers, absorbed in the process of discovery and creation.
Where does Stanley’s joy come from?Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 9/17/2020
In my thirty years of working at Stanley, I have never experienced the joy that emanated from our campus at the beginning of this school year! Last week while a cohort of sixteen sixth graders ate a socially distanced lunch together in the middle of the Witter field, a hum of jovial banter and laughter mixed with the now-fresh Colorado air. After fifteen minutes of eating and talking, spontaneously eight of the sixth graders stood up and broke out into a dance. Most of the cohort then began singing “Sweet Caroline,” which was popular when I was in Middle School! As the cohort transitioned into playing football, they continued to sing “Sweet Caroline” throughout the duration of recess.
Our school’s vision statement reads, “We envision a community of joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world.” Why is the word joy in the first sentence describing what is important at our school? K-1-2 teacher Julie Miles shared with me that joy is why she chose Stanley for her children and joy is why she chooses to work at the school. Throughout the years, as visitors move through our classrooms and hallways, they often remark that there is a positive energy, that the children seem happy, and that people are smiling. I do know that it is not always this way! I have experienced tears on the playground! But what is joy? Where does joy come from? Can we do anything to spread joy?
At our August retreat before school started, the faculty and staff focused on joy and shared what brings each of us joy. I shared that loving my children, walking through meadows with wildflowers, singing and creating classrooms where children love learning are some of the things that bring me joy. Pause for a minute… What brings you joy?
Stanley faculty and staff discovered that although what brings each of us joy is different, there are common themes. We decided that we experience joy when we connect to what is meaningful, when we engage with our passions and interests, when we love/care for others, when we immerse ourselves in nature, meaningful places and experiences. We also realized that we can have agency, that we can facilitate and support ourselves and others to experience joy. Here are some of our ideas for creating joy at our school and in our lives:
- Bring our authentic selves. Be brave. Share our passions. Be open-minded.
- Build intentional relationships. Listen. Connect. Joy in being heard! And loved! Take the moments with each person. Ask people, “What brings you joy?” We are all unique.
- Emphasize community. Take time for connections. Collaborate and play games.
- Provide opportunities for pursuing interests and passions. Differentiate. Joy looks different for different people. Give Choice. Play music. Dance and move. Be outside!
- Explore and Discover. Wonder. Play. Honor Curiosity. Provide new experiences. What will they discover? Discovery on their own time!
- Take time. Slow down. Get lost in the moment. Flow of time disappears!
- Provide space and time for creativity. Engage. Realize visions. Gain confidence. Feel successful.
- Find joy in the little moments. Be Mindful. Be positive. Joy of here and now!
While I watched the sixth graders at lunch and recess, I knew they were experiencing joy. They were expressing themselves through dancing and singing; they were connecting to each other and feeling part of a community; they were getting lost in the moment; they were reveling in being outside in the Colorado sunshine after two days of rain and snow. At Stanley we believe in the importance of recess and all that goes into making a joyful community in which to learn and grow. Maya Angelou writes, “We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” May you experience joy, love and connection this fall, and all year.