March 31, 2016

The Best Part of the Job!

I am lucky to work in a place full of passionate and talented people. All of our teachers and staff here at Friends’ are excited to be here and they give their all every day. Similar to most modern workplaces, everyone wears multiple hats.

Teachers are in classrooms every day making a difference. They also support our admissions process, serve on our Board or its committees, develop curriculum, market the school, and contribute to school life in countless other ways.  Our non-teaching staff do their day jobs, help in the parking lot and on the playground, serve on hiring committees, physically take care of our campus, interact with teachers to tell the stories of the school, and sometimes even clean up after a bathroom accident!

As head of school, I am directly involved with all departments and aspects of running the school.  Sometimes that means I spend a lot of time with budgets, strategic decision making, and other behind-the-scenes processes that are essential to the overall health and future of the school.

What I enjoy most, however, is spending time with our students and participating in their learning.  On Wednesday, several members of our administrative team, including Ann Reid, Meg Hansen, Melanie Leggett, and Jana Bledsoe, joined me at a wonderful author’s celebration in Beth Huennekens’ first grade class.

Beth’s students have been working hard over the last few weeks writing non-fiction teaching books and have recently published them, complete with illustrations, tables of contents, and dedication pages.

Book titles and topics ranged from dogs and mice, to stories based on The Descendants, SWAT teams, soccer, and mud. (Yes, mud!) The first graders read their books to parents too.

First grade teacher Beth Huennekens
I heard confident readers sharing their writing with pride.  They had all worked extremely hard and were clearly proud of their product.

Beth knows that, as important as the final books are, it is the process of writing that is most important. One of her many goals for her students is to guide them to proficiency in each domain of literacy – expressive and receptive oral language; reading with skill, fluency, and comprehension for information and pleasure; and writing effectively in a variety of genres with craft and mechanics. She knows that all of these literacy skills are developed in synchrony.  A skilled teacher like Beth uses events like this author celebration to give her students impetus and hone their literacy skills.

I got to learn about so many topics, through the eyes and the words of first graders.  One first grade girl was so passionate about her book, that she took Meg Hansen’s face in her hands as she explained her writing.  She was so ardent about Meg truly understanding her
writing.

Meg told me later, “It was good to step away from the business end of running the school and be so invested in the important work of why we are all here.”  Ann Reid described her interaction with students as  “the best part of my job!”

March 16, 2016

Springtime

This Sunday will be the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. As the sunlight becomes more prevalent, people, plants, and animals are beginning to emerge from their winter modes to step outside, bloom, and otherwise welcome the sunshine.

It’s the last morning of school before spring break.  For our preschool families, spring break has already started. 

Even though the weather forecast in Boulder calls for snow today, we can feel confident that the cold is only temporary.  The days are already longer. We’ve felt the warmth of the March sun on our faces this week, and we know that the days will get warmer from here on out.

Our third grade class at Cal-Wood last week
I love this time of year.  For students and teachers and I’m sure parents alike, we’re ready for a few days away from school, a time to recharge.  For some, a time to travel or to get in a few last runs on the slopes.  For others, a time to walk in the neighborhood and notice the crocuses already blooming and the tulips on their way.

This week we announced the end of an era, with Diane Bramble’s decision not to return to the classroom full-time next year. She will be moving into a part-time role after 27 years of giving her all to the children of Friends’ School. If you missed the announcement and Diane's letter, you may read them here.

Change. Different energy. Springtime. Part of who we are.

I wish all of our families, and all readers of this column, a delightful spring break. May you return to school refreshed, recharged, and ready for spring. 

March 10, 2016

Accomplishments Abound!

Girls Rising Ambassador Tori
A number of our students have enjoyed remarkable success in the last few weeks – and a police officer came calling.

Here’s the wrap:

Fifth grader Tori S. has been selected to be an ambassador for the Girl Rising Campaign, an organization that promotes awareness for over 60 million girls worldwide who do not have access to education.  The organization reviewed hundreds of applications, and wrote to Tori: “we believe your passion, outreach skills, and interest in girls' education makes you a great candidate. As an ambassador you will represent and build the Girl Rising campaign in your community by pushing others to think and act regarding girls' education and the barriers that girls face everywhere.”  Tori was inspired to apply after seeing the movies Girl Rising and Malala.

Ambassadors have to increase awareness of girls’ education and/or donate to the cause. Tori decided to take things a step further. She has pursued co-founding a business aptly named "Girl Collaborative" that will fund her efforts. The business will feature all natural fruit-based make-up products and cosmetic bags.  Tori and her mom Cinder are in the pre-production and package design stage and are excited to bring these products to the marketplace.  A percentage of the profits will directly fund the Girl Rising Campaign and other non-profits that fund girls’ education in the U.S. Tori doesn’t just want to fund tuition or buy school supplies, as important as they are.  She wants to build schools! Tori firmly believes in the power of educating girls.  She knows that she might end up funding the education of a girl who will find the cure for cancer.

Fourth grader Cameron K. won the Barnes and Noble Boulder Regional Spelling Bee at Boulder High School, for the second year in a row! Cameron and fifty other students from local private and public schools competed to be Boulder’s representative for the Scripps National Spelling
Spelling Champion Cameron
Bee, which will take place in Washington, DC in May. Cameron won after ten rounds – his championship words were “triceratops” and “mordantly.” We are very proud that Cameron will be making his second trip to Washington as a Friends’ School student. The Daily Camera’s story on Cameron can be found here.

The Rocky Mountain Pi-rates have been featured a few times over the years in this blog.  A new incarnation of the team (fifth graders Quinn K., Allison H., Charlotte C. and Friends' alumni Jack Kiefer, Cameron Hoeffler and James Commonswon the VEX IQ Robotics Colorado State Championships.

Colorado State Champion Pi-Rates
Competing as a Middle School Team, they took home “Programming Skills Champion," “Teamwork Champion” and the “STEM Research Award," making them double-qualified to advance to the VEX IQ World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky in April.

The team is already a three-time VEX IQ World Champions, having won the "World Champion - Elementary Excellence Award" in 2013 and the "World Champion - Programming Champion Award" in 2014 and the "Think Award" in 2015. Congratulations to their coaches, Friends’ parents Jason Kiefer, Carol Hoeffler, and Tim Commons.

Officer Jeremy McGee
Finally, our elementary school welcomed a special visitor last week, our local School Resource Officer, Jeremy McGee from the Boulder PD.  Officer McGee discussed various topics, including bicycle safety and talking to strangers.  He patiently answered dozens of questions, which focused for the most part on his uniform and equipment and whether he had chased ‘bad guys’. He will be stopping by campus regularly from now on, to wander through the hall and classroom, and say hello, in another step we are taking towards making sure our school is as safe as it can be. We did learn that Officer McGee had an ocelot growing up, and he was extremely impressed by our very own Thank You Song. More photos of this event can be found on our Facebook page.

Enjoy your weekend. 

March 3, 2016

Greatness Today and Greatness Tomorrow: A Visit from Reverend James Lawson


I missed an important moment last week.  A very important event in which our upper elementary classes participated. A conversation that rendered students speechless and made teachers cry.

Friends' School was honored to host civil rights leader Reverend James Lawson. Reverend Lawson was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and is the grandfather of our very own 2nd grader James. I was saddened not to be in attendance, but heard all about it from many members of our community.

Rev. Lawson spoke to the students and staff about his lifelong work on the tactics of nonviolent direct action and his work during the Civil Rights Movement.  He emphasized King’s commitment to non-violence and recanted the tale of one moment that changed his life forever.

When young Jimmy Lawson was eight years old, he grew frustrated with a friend and hit him. His mother asked him, “What good did that do?” He reflected upon his mother’s words and, at that moment understanding that his actions did not do any good, swore never again to strike out to hit someone else.

He brought impactful messages to the children. He talked about three special words that we should all hold dear: love, compassion, and truth.

He discussed his work in the civil rights movement and told our students that leaders like him have left some of the work for them to do.  We’re still working on civil rights, particularly the rights of women and the LGBT community. He pointed out that women still only earn 83 cents to every dollar that men earn.

Lawson shared stories of his friendship with Dr. King, which lasted from 1955-1968 when King was assassinated. They worked side by side towards a more just society, but also enjoyed singing,  swimming, and playing basketball together. King’s and Lawson’s dedication to non-violence made them a lot of enemies. In his words, it was this different viewpoint that made some people angry and led to King’s death.

He assured his audience, our students, that they are the change that needs to happen and told them that one of them could be America’s next great president. We come from the whole world”, he told them. “You represent our greatness today and the greatness tomorrow. Stay cool and do not allow your life to imitate the mistreatment, so you have the power in your life. You can decide that's the way I'm going to live your life.”

Ahead of the visit, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders studied the PBS film "A Force More Powerful" which featured Rev. Lawson's work on the civil rights movement.

You can read more about Reverend Lawson here: http://www.pbs.org/…/amer…/freedomriders/people/james-lawson

Following his talk, many of students lined up to shake the hand that had shaken the hand of Dr. Martin Luther King.


We are very grateful for Reverend Lawson’s presence at our school.