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Archive for June, 2012

A Statement of Purpose, A Draft

Learning Machine

Learning through Senses

I have been taking time this summer to reflect on our school’s purpose statement. Below is a draft that came out a brain storming session.  Reading it makes me so excited to be a part of Evergreen!

Children are learning machines, naturally.  Their minds are absorbent; they thirst for knowledge and understanding.

 At Evergreen School, by using proven Montessori methods, we free children to learn the natural way.  Senses come alive: touch, movement, language, sight, sound and music are part of their everyday experience. Our students have choice in their work and a sense of control of their lives. The result? Children experience a stress-free classroom, develop a greater ability to concentrate and an increased sense of independence and self-sufficiency.

I would like to hear your thoughts and reflections.  Comments are welcomed…

A Learning Machine

A Learning Machine

Learning through the senses, a key part of Evergreen’s approach to learning.

Having It All and the Stress of Parenting

Pinecones at Evergreen

Evergreen Campers

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s headline-grabbing Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” has set off a national conversation on the state of gender equality today.  Most revealing is data she shares from Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson that shows “that women today are less happy than their predecessors were in 1972.”

According to Slaughter, the culture of work is placing unrealistic demands on women who are at the top of their professions even though technological advancements and progressive policies could make all employees more productive and less likely to burn out.

I am sympathetic to Slaughter’s position.  My wife and I often feel the acute stress trying to balance our professional lives and family lives with our teenage children.  Who isn’t familiar with these daily dilemmas?

At Evergreen School, we try to relieve some of the stresses our parents feel. Three examples: (1) we schedule many school events in evenings or on weekends so that most parents can attend; (2) we assign a grown up to each child whose parent cannot attend an event; and (3) we prioritize our communications so that busy parents do not need to parse wordy documents to find the need-to-know details.

Even so, I occasionally speak with exhausted parents burdened with guilt. They missed an important event or birthday, a bedtime story or a school performance.  Recently, a mother was utterly distraught because she missed a newsletter announcement about a minor last-day-of-school parade. Parents– including me– spend evenings running after camp medical forms or baking allergen-free organic birthday muffins.  I try to give parents permission to not be perfect. But as high achieving professionals and parents, we want to do it all really well– and make it look effortless, too.  Accept that its impossible.

As a school, we can’t take away the fundamental tension between work and family—but Evergreen parents can be relieved knowing that their children spend their days in a loving place, with experienced, gentle, master teachers.  We play a vital role partnering with parents to provide a stable emotional foundation for our children.  Here its a place of learning and love. Anne-Marie Slaughter may be right that women still can’t have it all, but our children know they are cared for at school and at home.

Evergreen School’s Gourmet Chef’s Camp

June 19, 2012 2 comments

Evergreen School's Gourmet Chef's Camp

Camp opened yesterday. This year we are offering new programs in cooking and science. I am posting this picture purely for aesthetic reasons– the intensity of color stimulates my tastebuds. Is your mouth watering yet? There are a few more steps before this becomes carrot muffins…

An Extraordinary Class: A Celebration of Our Elementary

June 4, 2012 2 comments
Baltimore Harbor Trip

Baltimore Harbor Trip

Welcome to the first Elementary Celebration.  We are here for several reasons. We are here because I learned at Thanksgiving that elementary families bring awesome food to potlucks. We are also here to (1) recognize the extraordinary growth that has taken place this year, (2) to celebrate the remarkable closeness of elementary, (3) to say goodbye to departing students and families, and most of all, (4) to remind ourselves that no matter where our paths lead, the time we have spent together at Evergreen has touched us all.

Everyone knows that I am the newcomer.  But from the beginning I recognized that Elementary is magical.  It is unlike any classroom I’ve ever seen.  When I arrived, I wasn’t used to students working independently. I wasn’t used to children helping each other. I wasn’t used to being served guacamole from special family recipes and given handmade paper Valentines. I wasn’t used to children taking care of their room, their dishes, recycling. I wasn’t used to children caring about people from other cultures. I wasn’t used to presentations in office buildings and jewelry sales at markets.  I wasn’t used to children sobbing and sobbing when a classmate departed midway through the year. But I learned: in Evergreen elementary, that’s normal stuff.

Poor me. I wasn’t used to Evergreen parents. The kind that shares their talent including the Day of the Dead, Impressionism, robotics teams, afternoon music classes, trip chaperones, that Thanksgiving lunch I mentioned, mending fences, planting grasses and installing pergolas, collecting boxtops, leading PAC and the For’Ever Fund. The two auction chairs came from elementary. And the other two auction chairs did, too.  Deck chairs and the co-chairs.  (I’ll give you a minute to figure that out.) There was even a parent band at winter festival—I can’t thank our elementary parents enough for their support, leadership, creativity and dedication.

And finally I wasn’t used to teachers like Mrs. Hatziyannis and Ms. Lourdes.  I came with a lot of preconceived notions. Teachers don’t drive the bus.  Here at Evergreen they do. They don’t customize a curriculum for each child.  Here they do.  Teachers aren’t auctioneers.  They don’t organize symposia or wopelas. They don’t haul huge hollow logs to playgrounds.  But of course, these two do. I want to thank them for all they have done for these children and for the school.  (What a pair!)

To our ten elementary students, I say, congratulations on a great year.  You have each grown so much.  Just look at your school picture on the back of the program… taken in October!

To our departing students, I say, remember your extraordinary time here.  I can’t tell you how much we will miss you. May your next destination be as it is here: as special, as magical, as loving.  May you always carry the light of Evergreen inside you– and let it shine to everyone you meet.  Make us, your parents and yourselves proud.

Learning about Antarctica

Learning about Antarctica

Isn’t it great when parents share their passions and expertise with children?

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