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The Talking Head

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reflecting on Classroom Cultures

Over the past few months I’ve been reading and reflecting about classroom cultures. I remember my own classrooms as a boy, with strict rules, rows of desks, silent students raising hands, teachers front and center delivering their knowledge to us. Perhaps your experiences as a student were similar. I learned well in that environment, and many of you did too. But, many students struggled in those kinds of classrooms, and some failed. “School isn’t for everyone,” some people would say.

We know a lot more about how the brain works now. Our classrooms and learning environments are much more purposefully focused on optimizing conditions so that all students can learn. So many students—boys in particular—can’t sit still for long periods. Girls start strong in school, but need more confidence builders as they grow older. Clear expectations, careful use of language, adult role models (for reading, problem solving, collaborating, etc.), classroom routines that provide a focus on engagement in learning even in busy, noisy spaces, and the interactions between learners and between learners and teachers are all critical conditions in our learning spaces now.

We don’t accept the notion any longer that “school isn’t for everyone.” At ICS we believe that if we’re purposeful and flexible, we can create environments, opportunities and structures that support ALL our learners.

ICS teachers think about all these things, and try to make them a reality in their planning and in the spaces they work in. We don’t always hit the mark for every child, but when I visit classrooms and watch teachers and students interact, I know that we’re getting there.

I know we’re making progress when I watch teachers collaborate and challenge their own practices to try to make purposeful, engaged learning happen in every room, for every child.

I love to watch young students running in the morning to their classrooms. I’m supposed to stop them, tell them that running on our walkways can cause an accident. But, I see the joy in their faces as they run to class. I know they’re excited about the day ahead, and that they’re going to be with caring teachers and TAs, in purposeful learning environments where all students can find success. School can be for everyone, if we want it to be.

Annual Fund Progress

Last year we launched our first Annual Fund campaign for two priority projects. 135 families and individuals contributed, and we built our Robotics lab and Makerspace, and brought in a literacy consultant to work with all elementary teachers and teaching assistants.

Building on that success, we launched our second Annual Fund a few weeks ago. This year our target is $35,000, which will support four priority projects:

  1. High Tech science equipment for the Middle and High School
  2. Sensory Center equipment for the Elementary School
  3. Flexible, portable staging equipment for student performances for all divisions, and
  4. Two large globes for our libraries.

The Annual Fund is supported by the ICS Board and leadership team as well as ICS teachers, teaching assistants and many parents in the community. So far we have raised $9,882, which is 28% of our target. Our thanks go out to the members of the ICS community who have participated already.

I encourage everyone to support the ICS Annual Fund. You can find donation forms at our main Reception or included with this newsletter. Your participation matters!