Associate Head of SchoolBCD Admin2016-10-25T15:01:46-04:00
Associate Head of School
Teachers Teaching Teachers…Take Two!
We are at it again at BCD! Working together to grow and improve our practice, and having fun while doing it.
On Monday, October 2, we had a full day faculty in-service day. We spent the morning together and in teams looking intentionally into our social-emotional curriculum and program. We asked ourselves: What is our purpose? What is going well with our current approach? What needs our attention for improvement?
We also spent part of the morning gearing up for the kick off of our through-school service learning focus, which launched into the inquiry and identification phases in all grade levels (except B2) on Wednesday, October 4 (more on that soon!).
During the afternoon of our in-service day, we were fortunate to participate in a mock version of Arts Blocks, our signature arts program for Upper School students (grade 7-9) where they choose two art electives per term. They choose between music, visual arts, and performing arts options, each of which meets twice weekly throughout the term. Yesterday, the BCD faculty also participated in selecting and attending Arts Blocks of their choice.
Led by three of our multi-talented Arts Team faculty, the following Arts Blocks options were offered.
Faculty Vocal Ensemble with Charles Zotique (Music Teacher/Private Instrumental Music Program Coordinator)
Do you love to sing? Let your voice soar with Faculty Ensemble. In this class, we will build each musician’s current skill level in vocal technique, sight-reading, ensemble skills, and music theory. We will prepare fun and engaging musical presentations and prepare to share them with the community. We will also grow as an ensemble and foster a supportive environment for musical discovery. Give it a try! You’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish.
Create a mixed-media self-portrait that combines elements of photography, drawing, painting, and, of course, your own imagination! See examples of similar projects that Ms. Sicurella has done with children, youth, and adults in 20 different countries around the world and learn how this activity has helped people to discover parts of their own identity through the process. You will be amazed by your hidden artistic ability and by the version of you that will be created!
Have fun and get creative with your colleagues! Be prepared to move around and collaborate. Through engaging exercises, we will create a short performance composition. No matter your level of acting or an aversion to theatrical specimens, you’ll fit right on in. There’s no right or wrong, just what you want to bring to the table!
The workshop titles and photos speak for themselves. Creativity was in action. Risk taking was abundant. Teamwork was flowing. Fun was had by all. Once again, Berkshire Country Day School teachers shared their dynamic teaching skills with their colleagues. Back together at the close of the day, we reflected and we agreed how fortunate our students are to have such talented Arts teachers, and how truly inspiring the arts program is here at BCD. What a wonderful way to spend a day together becoming intentionally enriched and thoroughly inspired.
One of the key ingredients in any successful and cohesive community is being able to work well together, and to be able to have fun while doing it. The Berkshire Country Day School faculty did just that during our in-service week prior to the start of the new school year.
We came together, as we do every late August, to kick off the year. This year, rather than the administration (yours truly!) planning and leading all facets of the presentation portions of the faculty in-service days, we were fortunate to have some of our faculty plan and deliver important and intentional team building experiences and learning opportunities.
We engaged in a Break Out Boxchallenge. The Break Out Box, akin to the process of an Escape Room, is a cooperative problem-solving adventure. Led by veteran BCD Science Teacher, Susan Benner, we divided into four teams and set out together to solve a challenge. We did this by collaboratively figuring out clues, and making connections toward a solution, which then provided access to a locked coded box, which then provided access to the next clue in the sequence. Our winning team cracked into the final clue box, and what did they find there? Chocolate for all!
It was wonderful to see the determination, the communication, and the intelligence of the faculty on display. My favorite part, however, was the laughter in the room. Such a wonderful way to begin a new school year together!
The activity served the purpose of the obvious: team-building and morale-lifting. However, Susan was also taking the opportunity to share a new resource we have on campus, the Break Out Box itself, and to share that she and the 7th Grade would be available to plan Break Out Box adventures for any interested teachers at any grade level. Look for more news about the Break Out Box in action in the months ahead.
Also during our in-service week, we were fortunate to be guided in a presentation by 5th Grade teacher Dr. Jilly Lederman that focused on “growth mindset”(video link), an educational philosophy developed first by Dr. Carol Dweck of Standford University. Growth mindsets stand in contrast to a fixed mindset of which Dweck says, “In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits.” Dweck posits that in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. “Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” shares Dweck.
In addition to presenting on current research in the growth mindset field, Jilly facilitated explorations into classroom-discussion techniques and shared specific activities that can be used to nurture students’ positive growth mindset in the classroom. Jilly also shared some model lesson plans, as well as approaches to assessment that aim to provide students with opportunities to show mastery over time. Dweck refers to this concept of “mastery over time” as the “Power of Yet” , which underscores that, although a student, or any of us for that matter, may not have achieved a certain grade or ability as of YET, there is a path into the future of possibility if we believe it is possible.
The crux of the message from Jilly’s presentation? Learning is positively impacted when we change how we speak about and present challenges to students, and how we support them in facing these challenges every day. Jilly’s presentation excited her colleagues, got them to reflect, and sent them away with a window into the idea, “Mistakes grow your brain.” They do not define a student.
Thanks to both Susan and Jilly for getting our new year off to a fun, inspiring, and reflective start!
This summer, the village that is BCD demonstrated their community spirit by caring for our new garden beds, originally planted by Berkshire Country Day School students late last spring. The garden-care calendar for Summer 2017 was divided into weekly increments, and we were delighted, fortunate, proud, and so grateful to have various BCD families sign up, committing to show up to water, weed, harvest as needed, and occasionally replant portions of the garden. Our garden was attended to every single week this summer!
Thanks for establishing the BCD gardens go directly to parents, Cynthia Pansing and Arlin Wasserman (parents of Orli, current Grade 4) whose generous contributions toward the garden made it possible. Early in the 2016-2017 school year, Cynthia brought the idea of new gardens to my attention. She then enlisted the support and talents of Chris Wellens of the Berkshire Botanical Garden. Together, the three of us spent time together, imagining and planning for the foundations of the garden beds, the planting process, garden care, and the hopes for the harvest.
The students and teachers in 2016-2017’s Fourth Grade, First/Second vertical class, and our Preschool were the crew who worked to prepare and plant our garden in late April of 2017. The students took part in the spreading of soil in the beds, planting seeds, watering the beds, and looking after the gardens in the early weeks before summer. They planted kale, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini, as well as dill, mint, and basil. The same grade levels will continue to care for the garden through the end of the season.
The current garden is essentially a revival of a similarly great project that happened in prior years at BCD. Our new garden addresses some of the challenges of the previous garden, such as it not being on a central path where eyes were on it regularly and the lack of regular care it needed during the summer months.
Thank you again to Cynthia and Arlin, to Chris from the BBG, to the teachers and maintenance crew of Dan and Chris for their interest and time, to the children who planted the garden, and to the families, children and parents who helped demonstrate that the garden is a wonderful metaphor, as well as a literal example, of how working together can truly make things flourish.
Stop by and see the BCD gardens, located behind Albright Hall outside of the preschool classroom windows!
I wanted to share the letter below (which was sent to all BCD families back in early August) here on the BCD website as my first official blog post.
Tomorrow, we welcome back the BCD teachers for our annual, pre-school orientation days. I am so excited to have them all back here as we intentionally prepare for the year ahead, offering your children an incredible education among our vibrant community. With their impending arrival and the arrival of you and your children next week, there has literally been a shift in the energy here on campus. The excitement is palpable!
Some important dates to note: (details on all events will be forthcoming)
September 6th, First Day of School!
September 14th, Middle School and Upper School Back to School Night
September 16th, High Spirits: Welcome Back to School evening (adults only)
September 21st, PreSchool and Lower School Back to School Night
See you all very soon! Looking forward to a fantastic year ahead. Delighted to be here and to be a part of all things BCD!
Here I am! After months of waiting for this day, I have finally landed in my new role as Associate Head of School here at Berkshire Country Day School. I have been spending my summer learning, asking questions, reading documents and curriculum overviews, meeting with teachers and generally getting acclimated to all parts of the school. My brain is lit up with enthusiasm regarding all that is ahead as I slowly but surely become part of all that is BCD!
It is so great to be here, steeped in the pieces and parts that make up BCD; however, a school is nothing but a skeleton without the flesh and blood (literally) that make it what it is, and is the reason why we are all here.
I am so looking forward to the return of the teachers, parents and…mostly, the students!
Currently, as usual, there are the various camps in session here on the campus. I have loved hearing the children’s voices on the playground and have had the pleasure to overhear some wonderful conversations from 5-year olds sitting beneath my window, unaware of my vantage point for innocent eavesdropping. I arrive each morning to hear music pouring out from inside our campus buildings as the BUTI young adults practice their instruments with passion and commitment. This is all fabulous, and welcoming and heart-warming but…I don’t know these students, which only enhances my longing for the start of the new school year and to welcoming all of the Berkshire Country Day students, Pre-Kindergarten through 9th grade, back to the campus to make it come alive. The people are the heart and soul of any institution and like a fated fairytale, I am longing to meet the main characters.
I also look forward to forging relationships with you, the parents and families of the BCD students, as we partner to ensure that your child(ren) is seen and heard as him/herself and as we continue to be a powerful recipe in supporting each unique student into continuing to grow to be his/her best self.
As some of you may know, I have the Berkshires in my roots. As a child, I lived with my family in Sheffield, first as a second home owner, and then swept up in the magic of life here in the Berkshires, we became full-time residents for my high school years. Coming back to the area is familiar and wonderful, and also a new beginning, full of lots to learn, to explore, and to become accustomed to after many years as a city girl. I am delighted to wear the hypothetical BCD-badge as I make new local connections and navigate my new beginning here in the Berkshires.
I welcome you to contact me to set up a time to meet and to begin our connection. Or, if you prefer to enjoy the rest of your summer, and to settle into the new school year and then meet with me in due time, my invitation has no “sell by” date; it is an ongoing and sincere one that will remain open to you throughout the year ahead.
Next week, Monday through Friday, we will be testing students in grades 3-8. Like many leading independent schools, BCD uses the CTP4 (Comprehensive Testing Program, version 4) distributed by the Educational Research Bureau (ERB). You are likely to hear students and teachers refer to these simply as “the ERB’s.”
While we value the information these tests provide us about our students and our school, it’s important that we remember any standardized test is merely a snapshot – where a child is on one particular day at one particular time – and not an indication of his/her overall intelligence or chances for success.
Parents often have questions about standardizing testing. What are they? What do they measure? What kind of questions do they ask? How much time do they take? I’ve created the presentation below to try to address some of these questions and to provide general information about the CTP4 tests. Whether your child will be taking the “ERB’s” this year or not, it may be helpful for you to gain more information about this one small piece of the school’s comprehensive assessment and evaluation processes.
click the image to access presentation in Google Slides
There is no way to study for the ERB’s nor do you and your child need to prepare in any way. The most important thing you can do for your children next week is see that they get a good night’s sleep each night, have a good breakfast each morning, and arrive at school by 8:00 AM. Encourage them to do their best but DO NOT indicate to them that this is REALLY important. We hope students will put forth their best effort, but we do not want to put undo pressure on the children regarding these tests.
ERB will make the test results available to us in about 4-6 weeks. At that time, I’ll be arranging for another parent information session to explain the scoring process, the score reports, and how we can read and use the information they provide. Of course, you are welcome to come in and talk to me about the ERB CTP4 any time between now and then as well!