organic-child

Organic Child

Grocery stores are dedicating more and more prime space in their establishments to organic produce, meats, and other items.  We see changed packaging and delivery methods to reflect a better respect for health and naturally clean living.  We see a great increase in farm cooperatives.  And, we can’t help but see blogs and posts dedicated to clean living, organic food, and free-range meats in every aspect of social media.   It was just announced that an organic or natural baby and child outfitter startup company is being sold for just over a billion dollars.  Clearly, American families, especially young parents, demand that their food and lifestyle be wholesome, fresh natural and organic products and services.Undoubtedly, these same parents are looking for the same high-quality and clean natural way of educating their most precious gift, their children.  These savvy parents read blogs and posts about their children’s learning styles, learning differences, methodologies, and everything they can in order to make the best choice for their son or daughter.  Rightfully so, these parents want their children’s instruction to match how they were designed.A flourishing school recognizes these trends in addition to ongoing educational research.  Another indicator of a flourishing school is to recognize the needs of the learner and constantly thrive to be more effective as a school system.Salem Christian School, a private Christian school in Eastern Pennsylvania, strives to be constantly improving and be a flourishing school.  This school is dedicating significant time and financial resources to being sure we are attending to our students’ intellectual, physical, and social need design.  Additionally, we recognize that there is a movement (we believe appropriately so) towards a natural and clean living that is more than just what we eat.Two of the action research projects at Salem Christian School are looking into how this research and trend impacts the school:The first Action Research Project asks the question, “How do we design a classroom experience, instruction, and free time to stimulate inquiry and active based learning?”  Mrs. Green, the first grade teacher is piloting this action research project.  Thus far there is attention being given to the second teacher in room, the classroom environment.  This means that the set-up, colors, and other aspects of the classroom make a difference in the child’s ability to learn.  It is fascinating to see how so many subtle and not so subtle things can make a difference in a child’s ability to learn.Developed through one of the school’s professional learning communities, the second action research project recognizes the child’s biological need for play and free-time in order to process what they have learned and spark the curiosity needed to learn more.   Research has shown that this “down-time” is necessary for humans to deepen the learning.  This action research is designed to facilitate this design.  This project asks, “How can we create a natural and authentic play experience that enhances the classroom experience, sparks curiosity, and engages students in a natural and “organic” play environment?”  The playground is being changed in order to provide a natural setting and environment in our attempt to provide an organic learning environment.


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Flourishing Schools (Part Three)

I have been writing lately about flourishing schools.  In my role as the Head of School, I try to use the research on flourishing schools to help me examine my role in addition to the school’s efficacy.  I have been using questions in the self-evaluation.  One such question a school should ask itself in determining its strength and value is, “Is there an extensive and adequate student activities program?” To answer this, we must first agree with the value of student activities and exactly what student activities encompasses.Student activities are anything that the student does in a school program outside of the classroom and the specific learning outcomes described in the curriculum maps.  This would include athletic and non-athletic activities such as, athletics, clubs, and other outlets for students to extend themselves beyond the classrooms lessons.The nagging question for any educational leader is, “Do they help the students achieve those important outcomes?”  Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Research only provides limited help. Because the nature, number, and quality of student activities varies greatly from school to school, the conclusions can only be made in regards to a particular school.   Conclusions and suggestions may be helpful for pro-grams in other schools, but do not necessarily apply.  However, even though they are not generalizable, they can give insight during a school’s self evaluation when answering the questions about a flourishing school. Thus, I use the research from other schools to glean as much insight that I can.Here are some pf the common applicable themes from the research:

  • student activities provide motivation and recognition for many students who do not find motivation or recognition in the classroom.
  • Student activities enhance the student/teacher school/home and many other relation-ships, all effecting the school climate.
  • Although some activities rated higher than others in the categories of thinking, communicating, and cooperating, there is a clear consensus that student activities do contribute to the achievement of the learning outcomes.
  • Cooperation is the most highly rated outcome in both athletic and nonathletic activities. Since cooperation is an important life skill and cooperative effort in academic disciplines is limited, student activities fill a critical void in this area.

Of course there are many more reasons the student activities (athletic and nonathletic) are important.  This is why Salem Christian School works at ensuring the student life component of our program is robust.  Almost every student at our school is engaged in some student activity. Subsequently, we have implemented a Director of Student Life.  He is responsible for student council, spelling bees, Math Olympics,  fine arts events, varied clubs,  and many other opportunities for students to become involved.   Of course, our Director of Athletics is responsible for Middle School and High School, Varsity and Junior Varsity, ACCAC and PIAA games.    I for one am looking forward to seeing what programs Mr. Ference will be bringing to the school in future years through his position as Student Life Director. Additionally, I am excited to here of the addition of a junior varsity boys basketball team.

We welcome people with the ability and passion to offer after-school clubs, student activities, and other ideas.  Beware, if you have a great idea, we may call on you to come alongside of the school to get it started!


Flourishing Schools (Part One)

Flourishing Schools (Part Two)

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Flourishing Schools (Part Two)

This week I would like to delve into the first question that Mr. Curran proposes a school should ask in order to determine its effectiveness.   The question is ,”Does your school have a principal who is an active leader?” Any school, including Salem Christian School, has several leaders to whom this question applies.  Of course because of my role and position,  I have impact. But, the other leaders of the school have significant impact as well.

Just a reminder that last week I presented the research on effective schools.  Curran (1983) asked, “Does your school have:

  1. … a principal who is an active leader?
  2. …a positive school climate?
  3. …agreeable and workable discipline procedures and policies?
  4. …teachers who have high expectations for students?
  5. …parents who are involved in the educational process?
  6. …productive methods of evaluating curriculum?
  7. …effective methods of evaluating teacher performance?
  8. …consequential methods of determining and evaluating student growth?
  9. …a realistic philosophy of education?
  10. …an extensive and adequate student activities program?
  11. …significant student services?

Undoubtedly, it is impossible to express everything SCS has been doing.  Additionally, it is not to say that Salem Christian School has reached the pinnacle in any area.  Further research indicates that a school always has to be working towards improvement in every area.  Essentially, it is the process as much as it is the ends (Fullan, 2001).

The leadership team at Salem Christian School includes the Head of School, Mr. Stanton; Assistant to the Head of School, Mrs. Beres; Director of Athletics, Mr. Krage; Student Life Director, Mr. Ference; Director of Information Technology, Mr. Lewis; and Learning Support Coordinator, Mrs. Reinhard.  Together, this team is instrumental in leading this school forward.

Curran (1983), Hallinger, Wang and Chen (2013) provide a great description of what an active leader resembles.   Minimally, the school family-students, teachers, parents, and community members should know who the Head of School and other school leaders are.  An exemplary school must have a school leader that is visible.  This visibility is crucial in order to determine the school family’s needs and seek the appropriate methods of providing for those needs. The school leader must be knowledgeable in school affairs, especially in the areas of school curriculum, teacher performance, and student growth.

Leadership is the ultimate necessity for any successful group, organization, or endeavor. Leadership may be regarded as a series of functions that: build and maintain the group, get the job done, help the group feel comfortable and at ease, help to set and clearly define goals.  (Curran, 1983; Hallinger, Wang, and Chen, 2013)

In an effort to better answer this question , the Coffee and Conversation time has been implemented every fourth Thursday of the month.  We want to chat about the school.  We want to hear thoughts.  It strengthens our ability to lead the school in addition to strengthening the home-school partnership.  Every parent is invited to join me at 8:45 in the cafeteria for our next Cofeee (tea) and Conversation time on Thursday, October 27, 2016.

One of the delights of Salem Christian School is the conversations that are taking place.  Yesterday we spent an hour or so discussing how we can be better at ensuring our students are meeting our expected outcomes.  Today, I have had several conversations about academic and student life growth.  Almost every day through my walk-throughs I am able to see the instruction and learning taking place in the classrooms.  And, I get the privilege of writing a blog that describes excellent schools and shares about SCS.

I see each of the directors meeting with students, discipling students, and helping them reach their academic, future, and spiritual goals. It is a pleasure to work with people that enjoy seeing students flourish and achieve beyond what they thought they could.


Flourishing Schools (Part One)

Flourishing Schools (Part Three)

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Flourishing Schools (Part One)

Lately the Salem Christian School governance, administration, faculty, and staff have been discussing the indicators of a flourishing school.  The School Committee (school governance) has been systematically evaluating SCS and how this school matches the rubric of a flourishing school rather than just an effective school.  The administration and directors are reading a book on school change and have been having significant discussion on how we can most effective lead the areas of school that are under our responsibility.  The faculty has been researching aspects of the school that they are passionate about seeing get stronger.  It is exciting to see this continued self-examination blossom into programmatic growth.

Curran (1983), a leading researcher of effective schools, based upon his research as well as the wide body of research available has provided some questions a school could use in self-examination.  We are using asking these questions as we continue to look for areas to improve.  The answers testify to what an excellent school that SCS is.

The questions Curran (1983) asks, “Does your school have:

  1. … a principal who is an active leader?
  2. …a positive school climate?
  3. …agreeable and workable discipline procedures and policies?
  4. …teachers who have high expectations for students?
  5. ..parents who are involved in the educational process?
  6. …productive methods of evaluating curriculum?
  7. …effective methods of evaluating teacher performance?
  8. …consequential methods of determining and evaluating student growth?
  9. …a realistic philosophy of education?
  10. …an extensive and adequate student activities program?
  11. …significant student services?

 

Curran and the others research and write from a secular worldview.  Therefore, they are not expecting or infusing the spiritual component into the mix.  However, as believers, we know that this is an important ingredient in an excellent and flourishing school.

 

I look forward to expounding on each of these questions in future weekly blogs.  It provides an opportunity for self-reflection.  Additionally, the helps us to see what an exceptional program we have here at Salem Christian School.

 

Curran, T. J. (1983). Characteristics of the Effective School–A Starting Point for Self-Evaluation. NASSP Bulletin, 67(465), 71-73. doi:10.1177/019263658306746514


Flourishing Schools (Part Two)

Flourishing Schools (Part Three)

 

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