Archives for category: Education Reform

kim spears picThe beginning of the school year has always been an exciting time for me.  My family likes to tell the story of my older sister’s first day of kindergarten.  My parents made sure to get me a backpack and lunchbox so that I didn’t feel left out. Teaching allows me to enjoy that “back-to-school” feeling over and over again.

When most people think about starting school, they imagine teachers giving hours of lectures about rules and regulations. To be honest, we spend a fair amount of time setting high expectations for the year, but that’s certainly not all.

At City Neighbors, we embrace the fact that much of the students are reuniting for the first time in months. September is a very social time during which students have the opportunity to share about their summers, play team building games, create art together, focus on social and emotional learning, and transition back into school routines. There is special time set aside for making new connections and strengthening old ones. Some teachers and students are getting to know one another for the first time and other teachers and students are getting to know one another in new and deeper ways.

Something that I hear from a lot of parents is, “Whenever I ask my child about their day, they say ‘It was good’ or ‘It was fine.’” My colleagues and I usually laugh and feel the need to fill everyone in on all of the acting, singing, painting, dancing, reading, and writing that happens all over the building. There are many great articles online about questions that families can ask their children after school. Here is a list of ten conversation starters from Scholastic.com:

  1. Tell me about the best part of your day.
  2. What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  3. Did any of your classmates do anything funny?
  4. Tell me about what you read in class.
  5. Who did you play with today? What did you play?
  6. Do you think math [or any subject] is too easy or too hard?
  7. What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
  8. What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?
  9. Who do you sit with at lunch?
  10. Can you show me something you learned [or did] today at school?

Going back to school can bring up many different emotions for different people, but teachers and staff work together to help students start strong. The beauty of a new year is a chance to start fresh and set new goals. It’s been a long time since I was that toddler standing in the front yard, clutching my school supplies.  But I’ve managed to hold onto that same feeling of joy and anticipation. It is my deep hope that the City Neighbors community will continue to be a place that sparks that same joy in the students who walk through our doors.

~Kim Spears, 4th and 5th Grade Literacy and Social Studies Teacher, City Neighbors Charter School~

Registration is now open for the 7th Annual Progressive Education Summit on Saturday, January 27th.  The Summit is our annual conference with over 40 workshops, 3 master classes, a delicious lunch, and this year a resource fair and ignite talks.

Why come to the Summit? There are so many reasons! Just to get us started, here are the top three reasons to come to the Summit this year:

#1
Because you are an educator who wants to keep learning. You see children as powerful, capable, and worthy of the deepest respect, and you are determined to continually hone your skills, build your network and create for yourself an environment of learning, growth and well being.

#2.
Because you love to hear from inspirational people. Keynote Ron Ritchhart is an important thought leader and you enjoy hearing from people in the field. You will come away with new ideas, new practices, new connections.  You want to be around folks who know how to put theory into practice and believe things like this:

“A culture of thinking produces the feelings, energy, and even joy that can propel learning forward and motivate us to do what at times can be hard and challenging mental work.”

― Ron Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools

#3.
You know that in the midst of the winter days it will be wonderful to gather at the Summit.  You will be at City Neighbors with hundreds of educators, non profits, parents, students, and more…and feel the warmth of being with so many people who care passionately about teaching and learning. We need each other.

Do you have more reasons you would like to add?  Please add your comments below.

Register Here!

More about the Summit on the City Neighbors Foundation Website.

See you there!

– The City Neighbors Summit Team

Dr. Shyla Rao, Principal, City Neighbors Hamilton

This year at City Neighbors Hamilton (our 2nd City Neighbors school, K-8 est. 2009) we welcome Dr. Shyla Rao as our new school leader.  Already Dr. Shyla (as the kids call her) is deep in the work of getting to know the students, connecting and supporting her teachers, and focusing on the health and well-being of the community. She has entered into our fast-paced environment right in stride – literally! On a recent Sunday, Dr. Shyla offered a walk around Lake Montebello for any parents and students who wanted to connect. It was a beautiful day. Dr. Shyla said it led to some great conversations, fresh air, and the fun of being out in the community together.

Here’s another fun detail about Dr. Shyla: Every week, she sends out a faculty bulletin to her staff that includes all the nuts and bolts, a calendar for the week, meetings, notes, and of course a quick message.  I asked her if I could share the message from Week 1.  She calls her bulletin: “What’s Good?… For Staff. The idea of taking good care of yourself – straight from Dr. Shyla Rao.” Here’s the first message of the school year:

Faculty Bulletin   September 5-8

Welcome to a brand new school year!  Let’s all begin this year with hope, optimism, and focused attention on our learners.  Let’s make decisions based upon what’s best for the students, and remind each other to maintain a work-life balance for ourselves.

“What are you doing? You ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”

“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it will go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically.  “I’m too busy sawing!”

Covey, Stephen R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Please take time to sharpen your saw.  I hold true to my Sacred Saturdays (no work, no email, no work texts) every weekend, except for the first and last of each semester. What do you hold sacred for yourself?

-Shyla

How wonderful to start the journey of a new school year, and a new leader, with such an inspiring message of well-being and mindfulness. As much as our students need these messages, so do our teachers and school leaders. We all need to take care of each other. And, as Dr. Shyla is demonstrating, we can have fun doing it!

 

 

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