Advancing Teaching and Learning
Yesterday was one of the best days of the year. It was the first big break in the oppressive heat of the summer. And it was magical. I saw students and faculty walking around with bigger smiles, running, skipping, jumping—just really enjoying themselves. We also had our second Eucharist service here in Cade, and it was beautiful with participation from students and faculty, a wonderful homily from Mr. Fuller and the Eucharist being led by Father Laurent De Prins, a newly ordained priest whom I watched grow up at St. Barnabas. After the service, I spent the bulk of my day preparing our Annual Report to ISAS (Independent School Association of the Southwest), our accrediting association. While that may not sound like much fun to you, it is a deep dive into two basic requests: cite notable initiatives that advanced teaching and learning last year, and describe key areas of focus and program goals for this coming school year.
It is a reminder each year of just how much amazing work this school does for teaching and learning. At every level we made huge strides last year without any regard to COVID. Here are a few highlights. From implementing new programming on phonemic awareness in the lower school to revamping our Social Studies Conference in the Upper School, from the Board’s adoption of a diversity statement and our work on civil discourse to running a two-day mini conference on Building your Digital Toolbox for our faculty—it was a year filled with teaching and learning for everyone. This year we look forward to implementing a new math curriculum in the LS that fits our conceptual, experiential approach to math instruction. Just the process of exploring the new materials brought teachers from Kindergarten to 5th grade together to review their math standards and align expectations across the grade levels. With slightly more flexible COVID protocols, we have been able to be more proactive with our IDEA Lab, and we are getting ready to re-launch our enrichment clusters. In the middle school, a huge focus this year is interdisciplinary learning to help students develop an appreciation of the differences among disciplines and how to apply discipline-specific skills and rules to problem solving. This also builds capacity for evaluating different approaches and integrating potentially conflicting insights from alternative disciplines. Talk about critical thinking! We’ve revamped our senior English course into really interesting semester courses that play to our faculty’s expertise and strengths. We are also diving into an intentional reflection on grades and our grading system using data from previous years in a longitudinal study of grade distribution and standardized test score correlations. We are actively working with mental health professionals to help us respond to the increasingly complex set of student wellness challenges using the latest research and training for our faculty. Lastly, while doing all of this, we are simultaneously rebuilding much of the community spirit that COVID isolation stole from us over the past 18 months. All of this makes my head spin a little, and it is at the same time very exciting.
So here’s to the arrival of Fall, and all the amazing work ahead. It makes me proud to watch our school live out its mission of scholarship and honor every day. Areté!
Paul Baker, PhD