August 31, 2016

Why Friends’ School is Bringing Rosalind Wiseman to You

Rosalind Wiseman
All of us at Friends’ are so happy to have all of our students and their families back in school this week. We love the sound of joyful play emanating throughout the preschool building and playground on our South Campus.

Back to school— joyful as it is—is also a time of transition. And transition to school, like any change, can bring up all kinds of feelings for children and parents alike.

For some of our students, this month brings a big change: for the three-year old it means entering a school setting for the very first time; Kindergarteners are finding their place in the “big kid school”; for the sixth grader it’s a time to begin middle school on a new campus at the other end of town; and even for children who are continuing on with the same teacher (such as our 1st, 3rd and 5th graders), there will be new classmates, new routines, and new expectations.

Best-selling author Rosalind Wiseman recently wrote on her blog, Parents are naturally preoccupied about getting everything ready. We run around filling out the right permission forms, buying all the things on the school supply list, and figuring out our child’s class schedule. But for our kids all of those things are usually way down the list of priorities. Instead, much more important to them is their social lives. Even kids who generally like school and have friends worry if their friendships changed over the summer.”

Wiseman is a dynamic speaker whose personal mission is to help communities shift the way we think about children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. She is a teacher, thought leader, author, and speaker on bullying, ethical leadership, and media literacy. You might know her as the author of the best seller Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World. Queen Bees and Wannabes, now in its third edition, is the groundbreaking, best-selling book that was the basis for the movie Mean Girls. Rosalind’s latest book, Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World was published in September 2013.

We are very excited that Rosalind will be speaking at our very own Friends’ School event on September 20th, at Unity of Boulder Church. She will discuss bullying, parenting, ethical leadership and the use of social media in her talk “Creating Cultures of Dignity.”

Her message will ring true in our community of parents and educators who have chosen a school like ours, where we believe in the importance of social and emotional learning.

Friends’ social and emotional curriculum helps students learn self-awareness and self-regulation, which in turn facilitate their interactions with and understanding of others. This begins with knowing our own emotions and needs and how to express and manage them appropriately. It includes recognizing and responding to the needs and emotions of others through empathy, gratitude, compassion, and the intentional teaching of kindness. Ultimately, having effective strategies for listening and speaking with one another develops a person’s ability to problem solve in all kinds of situations, often leading to inspired conclusions and stronger interpersonal relationships. Friends’ students learn this every day.
Lou Bendrick, who recently joined our school as our Director of Development, and who is also a parent at Friends’, recently shared this note with me, that she wrote to our fifth-grade teacher Leigh Houser:

“I wanted you to know that I was on recess duty today. Watching the older boys (your 5th graders) be so gentle with Blake and River playing football brought tears to my eyes! They let the boys make a touchdown ....It was so lovely.”

Blake is a first grader at our school, River is in Kindergarten. Lou explained that the 5th graders made a point of passing the ball to the younger children. Then the bigger boys allowed the younger boys to run between them for the touchdown.

That is “recognizing and responding to the needs and emotions of others through empathy, gratitude, compassion, and the intentional teaching of kindness.”

Powerful stuff.

I look forward to seeing you on September  20th when Rosalind can help us all continue to create a powerful Culture of Dignity. You will receive your invitation next week. This event is free and open to the public, so please bring your friends and neighbors. 

August 25, 2016

A New Journey

Ribbon cutting on the very first day of Friends' Middle School
Welcome back to school.  We are so glad you are here for our 2016-17 school year! 

We have many new families at Friends’ this year, in every grade from our youngest three year old classes, to our very first middle school class, and we warmly welcome you all to this very special community. We are thrilled to have our elementary and middle school students on each campus and we look forward to having our preschoolers begin next week.

Each week, in this space, I share with you this blog.  It will contain stories of what is going on around school, reflections on general trends in education, anecdotes about different people in our school community, or news of school developments.  My intention is to make it a useful and informative resource for you, occasionally amusing, and perhaps even poignant sometimes.  I hope you enjoy.

As wonderful as the start of the school year has been, we were not expecting the delayed start of school that happened on Wednesday with police activity in the neighborhood. Thank you all for your understanding and flexibility as we made the best decision for the safety of our students and community.

Friends’ School always puts the safety of our people first.  Our staff undergoes rigorous safety training twice a year and we invest annually in safety upgrades to our campuses.  In a September blog, I will update you on all that we do to make our campuses as safe as possible and the latest changes.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about school safety, please do not hesitate to connect with me or your program director.

First day of Kindergarten
We have a new administrative structure this year as we evolve to support each program in our growing community in the best way we can.  Caroline Holland is our new Director of Preschool, Associate Head Mandy Stepanovsky takes on an additional role as Director of Elementary School, and Shelby Pawlina, in her 22nd year at Friends’, is our Director of Middle School. Each of them work closely with me, and with each other, to support the students, parents and teachers in their respective programs.  You will hear more from each of them at your program’s Back To School Night that are all coming up in early September.

As I look back on these first three days of school, I have loved hearing the laughter in the buildings, seeing children greeting old friends, and witnessing the warmth and smiles as new friends are made.

In a letter that Kindergarten teacher Beth Huennekens sent out to her parents this week, she wrote; the random acts of kindness, communication skills, boundless energy, and contagious curiosity has set this group apart.”

At our brand new North Campus, Shelby let 6th grade parents know: “I witnessed a conversation about cell phone use at middle school. Through their discussion, students came to the same conclusions that are in our family handbook without ever mentioning any preexisting “rules”. Voice, choice, and respectful listening…I wish I had this one on video. I’m sure it won’t be the last time! In the gaga pit today, students negotiated rule changes, and demonstrated honest sportsmanship. This class really cares about one another. You would be hard pressed to know who the new students are in the group. Kudos to all these great people! Already, what I have been dreaming about is coming to fruition! We are in for a great year!”
Language Arts teacher Diane Bramble and music
teacher Maria Burbano at our elementary
school gathering this week

And in a letter to our teachers and staff from Friends’ Community Board Chair Elizabeth Henna, I read: “At the new family picnic for elementary families last night, I visited with a dad who was setting foot on Friends’ campus for the first time the night before his oldest child starts kindergarten today. It was wonderful to see his excitement and hear how impressed he already is with our welcoming campus and people. I know that while the kids and their parents are beginning their school year now, each of you has been working hard over the past weeks and months to prepare for this time. I want you to know that I and other trustees deeply appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work required to launch a new school year, especially when that year includes a new program, new facilities, new staff, and new responsibilities.”

I get the fortunate privilege of working with all of these individuals, and all of you, each and every day as we team together to educate and raise the most important people in the world: the next generation. 

Thank you for entrusting us with the journey.