For those of you who missed Parent Night, I have dedicated this post to sharing the comments I made during the opening presentation in the Lower School Gym.

Lower School Parent Night

August 25, 2011

Thank you, Vic and Doreen for your remarks and for getting us even more excited about what lies ahead for Ravenscroft this year. And thank you, for being able to join us tonight and taking the time to partner with us in your child’s education. Your involvement and support of our work here at school is critical to our success.

With preparations beginning for the celebration of Ravenscroft’s 150th anniversary in 2012-2013 and the launching of our new strategic initiatives this year, it certainly promises to be quite a busy year filled with lots of joy and forward progress. It’s not surprising to me that we find ourselves honoring Ravenscroft’s history and past traditions at the same time as we look toward the future and the opportunities ahead of us. There are a lot of conversations occurring across the globe right now about the need to transform education, and the concept of fusing the best aspects of traditional schooling with the ideas and possibilities generated by a new generation of teachers and learners is at the heart of those conversations.

Doreen Kelly recently shared a great article by Peter Cobb, last year’s commencement speaker, who said, “We must reach across traditional constraints and use both new and old resources in configurations that open up our understanding of the nature of classrooms and role of the teacher.  The “reaching across” – both metaphorically and literally – is key.” I love his term “reaching across” and think it illustrates the position our Lower School finds itself as we enter the 2011-2012 school year.

There is no question that our Lower School is a special place that has proven success of effectively preparing children for their journeys in Middle School, Upper School, and beyond, but it is imperative that we challenge the way we have always done things and not rely on our past success. We are faced with a world that is rapidly changing due environmental factors, changes in the global economy, advances in technology, and the vast amount of information easily accessible.  This is requiring us to reposition ourselves as learners and gain a whole new understanding of teaching and learning in the face of this rapid change.

As author Ian Jukes has said, “We must ensure we are preparing students for their futures and not our past or even our present.”  And that is why, despite our past success, we must ask questions about what we are teaching and how we are teaching and determine if what we are currently doing is truly best for this new generation of learners.

We know the experiences children have in their pre-K through fifth grade years are critical for their emotional, social, physical, and intellectual development, and therefore, we know it is essential that we are building a strong foundation in all these areas. Traditionally, that foundation has largely consisted of what many of us refer to as the three R’s—reading, writing, and arithmetic. But as we talk about 21st century skills and rethink what students will need to be successful, we now need to include the four C’s ‒ creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. This year we will be working to fuse the traditional three R’s with the 4 C’s.  Our goal in Lower School is to leverage what technology has to offer in order to create a learning environment that meets the needs of this new generation of learners while still providing them with the solid foundation we have traditionally done. I don’t want you to think we are radically changing the way we do things in Lower School because there are many tried and true aspects of traditional schooling that will continue to be a large part of the Ravenscroft experience. But I am saying we are looking to improve and make forward progress in areas where we have gained new insight from current research.

Increasing and improving our use of technology will be a huge focus this year in Lower School, but our number one priority will continue to be about building and strengthening relationships.  Let’s face it, the three traditional R’s should really be four with the fourth being relationships.  You chose to send your children to Ravenscroft for its tradition of a strong academic program, but if you are anything like me, what matters most in your child’s education is that they are known and cared for. My daughter’s daycare can teach her the ABC’s and 123’s, but if they don’t know what makes her smile and what makes her cry, that’s when we are going to have concerns and worries as parents. I promise you, your child’s teacher will take the time to get know your child as an individual and will work hard to best meet his or her needs.  This goes for parents, too.  Our community is a large one, but I want you to know we are interested in your lives, as much as we are in your children’s lives.  As I said when I started speaking, your partnership and support is critical to not only your child’s success, but also the School’s success.

I look forward to serving you and your children this year and hope that you will feel comfortable “walking your talk” with me throughout the year.  My door is always open; however, I hope to be in classrooms spending time with students and teachers more than my office. I know you are anxious to go meet the teachers who are going to take care of your precious little ones this year, so let me give you the logistics for the rest of the night.

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